Daniel O’Leary and Mistaken Identity

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irish piper

Editor’s Note: Daniel O’Leary was a noted piper. Here is a delightful fairy story concerning him.

An idea generally prevails among the people of the southern districts, that O’Leary, in some midnight excursion by the border of a haunted stream or ancient rath, had overheard the witching song of the coelshee or fairy music, and thence was enabled to pour into his strain an almost articulate voice of melody, which every other performer would vainly seek to rival. Indeed, from the incomparable sweetness of his music, it is not strange that an opinion of his supernatural power over his chanter should be rife among a people superstitious and deeply sensitive to the impression of sweet sounds. He himself relates, with much graphic effect, how under the shade of a hawthorn in a secluded dell by the broad Blackwater, as he was playing that truly delightful air, the ‘Humors of Glen,’ a peasant stole upon him, attracted by what he conceived to be fairy music; and how, deceived by the piper’s strange appearance, he mistook him for a cluhiricaun, and had him fast clutched by the throttle and loudly demanding the ‘Sporran-na-Schilling’ [1] till the piper who, maugre his deformity of body [he was a hunchback], can deal a tremendous blow, felled the superstitious wight to the earth with a single application of his clenched fist (anon, ‘Daniel’ 1862].

[1] The Sporran-na-Schilling was the purse of the leprechaun or cluhricaun that contained one shilling and when spent was magically replenished. If you caught a leprechaun/cluhricaun you had to threaten him to give you the treasure without once taking your eyes off the little man.

I owe this story to the kindness of Haunted Ohio Books.

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