Editor’s Note: This narrative was taken down verbatim from the lips of a poor cottager in the county Limerick, by Miss Maria Dickson, 22nd April, 1825.
Biddy Purcell was as clean and as clever a girl as you would see in any of the seven parishes. She was just eighteen when she was whipped away from us, as some say; and I’ll tell you how it was. Biddy Purcell and myself, that’s her sister, and more girls with us, went one day, ’twas Sunday too, after hearing mass, to pick rushes in the bog that’s under the old castle. Well, just as we were coming through Carrig gate, a small child, just like one of them little craythurs you see out there, came behind her, and gave her a little bit of a tip with a kippen [a switch] a between the two shoulders. Just then she got a pain in the small of her back, and out through her heart, as if she was struck [fairy struck]; we only made game of her, and began to laugh; for sure that much wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone a Christian. Well, when we got to the bog, some went here, and more there, everywhere, up and down, for ’twas a good big place, and Biddy was in one corner, with not one along with her, or near her, only just herself. She had picked a good bundle of rushes, and while she was tying them in her apron, up came an old woman to her, and a very curious old woman she was. Not one of the neighbours could tell who she was from poor Biddy’s account, nor ever saw or heard tell of the likes of her before or since. So she looks at the rushes, and, ‘Biddy Purcell’, says she, ‘give me some of them rushes.’ Biddy was afeard of her life; but for all that she told her the bog was big enough, and there was plenty more rushes, and to go pick for herself, and not be bothering other people. The word wasn’t out of her mouth, when the old woman got as mad as fire, and gave her such a slash across the knees and feet with a little whip that was in her hand, that Biddy was most kilt with the pain. That night Biddy took sick, and what with pains in her heart and out through her knees, she was n’t able to sit nor lie, and had to be kept up standing on the floor, and you’d hear the screeching and bawling of her as far, ay, and farther than Mungret. Well, our heart was broke with her, and we didn’t know what in the wide world to do, for she was always telling us, that if we had all the money belonging to the master, and to lose it by her, ’twould not do, she knew all along what ailed her; but she wasn’t let tell till a couple of hours before she died, and then she told us she saw a whole heap of fairies, and they riding upon horses under Carrig, and every one of them had girls behind them all to one, and he told her he was waiting for her, and would come for her at such a day, and such an hour, and sure enough ’twas at that day and hour she died. She was just five days sick, and, as I said before, our heart was fairly broke to see the poor craythur, she was so bad. Well, we hear tell of a man that was good to bring back people (so they said), and we went to him. He gave us a bottle full of green herbs, and desired us to boil them on the fire, and if they kept green she was our own, but if they turned yellow, she was gone, the good people had her from us. He bid us to give her the water they were boiled in to drink. When we came home we boiled the herbs, and they turned as yellow as gold in the pot before our eyes. We gave her the water to drink, and five minutes after she took it she died, or whatsomever thing we had in her place died: any how ’twas just like herself, and talked to us just the same as if ’twas our own sister we had there before us. People says she’s down ’long wi’ them [i.e. the fairies] in the old fort; some says she’ll come back, and more says she won’t, and indeed, faix, there’s no knowing for sartain which to believe, or which way it is. Crofton-Croker, I, 68-71