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Double Take: The fairy bush in Co Clare that moved a motorway

“Never shift a fairy bush.”
Apr 24th 2019, 5:30 PM 10,307 3

fb1 The fairy bush (behind the road sign). Source: Google Maps

TO THE SIDE of the Newmarket-on-Fergus bypass in Latoon, Co Clare, is a nondescript green bush. 

Even if passers-by were to move slowly, nothing about the bush would make it stand out from the dozens (if not hundreds) of shrubs along the dual carriageway. 

However, the story behind the hedge made international headlines in 1999 when plans for a new motorway required its destruction. News of this prompted Eddie Lenihan, a renowned Irish storyteller (or seanchaí), who has been collecting stories for 43 years, to fight for its preservation. The hedge, in fact, is a fairy bush – and its removal would “create trouble.”

Lenihan learned about the bush’s history through a farmer who told him he once saw “lumps of green stuff with the consistency of liver” around it, indicating “that there had been fairy battles around the bush the night before.”

fb3 The fairy bush (behind the road sign). Source: Google Maps

“The bush was significant for them and it was a meeting point for Munster fairies to battle with Connaught fairies,” he tells TheJournal.ie.

Lenihan was passing the bush one evening on the way home from teaching in Limerick when he saw machinery and road workers beside it. “I knew nothing about the road being built, and asked them what would happen to the bush,” he says.

After being told that the bush would be destroyed, Lenihan wrote to the Clare Champion and Clare FM about the consequences that its removal would bring. 

“I told them not to move the bush and there would be serious consequences if they did. People would be killed on the motorway,” he says.

fb4 Source: Google Maps

Lenihan went on to write a letter which was published in the Irish Times and picked up by a New York Times correspondent: “It went what you would call ‘viral.’”

“That’s when the fun started,” he says. “People from the BBC, CNN, French and Swedish news channels and publications came over. By that stage, they couldn’t demolish the bush.” 

Today, the bush still stands along the bypass, with its worldwide coverage leading it to be somewhat of a tourist attraction.

“If you move or destroy a fairy fort or Celtic ringfort, you’ll be in trouble and you’re creating trouble. Never shift a fairy bush,” he says. “It belongs where it is and nowhere else.” 

More Double Take: The handmade stone sign in Donegal that helped WWII pilots find their way

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Amy Mulvaney

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