Showing posts with label Clooningan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clooningan. Show all posts

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fairy Forts and Leprechauns- The Cookes of Clooningan

Former home of Michael Cooke and family, Clooningan, Sligo, Ireland
     No, I haven't lost my mind. I have scored yet another find in my family history. You are looking at the house in which my grandmother, Catherine Marie Cooke was born in March 1878. It would have had different windows and a thatch roof, but this is the family home. How did I find this? Well, I joined a website called Ireland Reaching Out. I can highly recommend this site as I've had hits for both the Fitzgerald and Cooke sides of the family. The one that yielded this photo was from Ciaran, who, it turns out, is a rather close cousin still living in the area. More on all that later. He sent me a whole series of photos of the Cooke property including this one. This property was sold out of the family, but some of the surrounding land is still occupied and farmed by family.
     The photos that intrigued me were labeled as a "high circle" or "fairy fort" which still exists on the property. What is a fairy fort? Well, I had to find out. A ráth or fairy fort is the remains of a stone age or early Christian period ring fort which was built as a defensive enclosure.  A high clay bank was built up in a large ring, surrounded by a ditch and topped with a wooden stockade enclosing wood-framed dwellings. In western Ireland, where stone was more plentiful, the surround would be of stone as you see here.
Ringfort in Donegal
The ringfort on the Cooke property was most likely of the wooden variety. You often see pictures of the surviving trees or large hedges that surrounded them. Here's the view up the hill on the Cooke property where you can see the ring of trees.

And here's the view at the fairy fort itself.
You can see that a line of trees has been deliberately planted, but it's hard to tell much. I went to Google Earth to get a better look.

You can see the fairy fort at the tip of the red arrow and the Michael Cooke home just below it along the road to the right.
     The next part is where a strong dose of Irish imagination figures in. The Irish folklore holds that fairy forts were imbued with Druid magic and with the Tuatha Dé Danann and were entry points into the fairy world. (The Tuatha Dé Danann were the ancient pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland) Altering a ringfort in any way would bring terrible fortune on that person. (Even cutting the whitethorn brush around them) There are also numerous tales of supernatural experiences happening at these ringforts. Another story associated with a ringfort is that this is the place where a leprechaun hides his gold. Clearly my relatives never benefited from the help of a leprechaun!
     I'm not a big fan of the American celebration of St. Patrick's Day, but this tidbit seemed too good to pass up. Many American-born Irish know so little about true Irish culture or language or folklore.  I also realized just this morning that today would be my grandmother's birthday. She was born on March 4, 1878. So Happy Birthday Katie. I'm thinking of you.