Irish Lives

Clairvoyant who cured with magic: BIDDY EARLY (c1798-1874), clairvoyant and healer, was born in Faha, near Kilanena, Co Clare…

Clairvoyant who cured with magic:BIDDY EARLY (c1798-1874), clairvoyant and healer, was born in Faha, near Kilanena, Co Clare, as Bridget Connors (or O'Connor); the name Early, by which she was known, was her mother's maiden name. Little is known about her despite the notoriety she achieved. Accounts of her teens refer to her working as a servant for a Limerick landlord named Sheehy or renting from him; she foretold his murder, and when it came to pass she gained a reputation as a clairvoyant.

She subsequently settled in Kilbarron, Co Clare, where she lived for most of her life. Over many years she assisted thousands of people who looked for cures from sickness, disability or possession by fairies. Stories abound of her also healing sick animals. Aided by her herbal medicines and famous “dark bottle”, which served a similar purpose to a crystal ball, she is said to have taken no financial payment for her work, but accepted food and alcohol. This could account for the fact that several of her husbands (it is not known for certain how many times she married) died from alcohol abuse, which she was, ironically, unable to cure. She had at least one son, and possibly a daughter.

Early’s fame – and in particular the belief that she was in league with the fairies – inevitably attracted the attention of the local Catholic clergy. She regularly came into conflict with them and, according to tradition, used her occult powers to humiliate them on occasion. Accused of witchcraft in 1865 she stood trial at Ennis court, but as many witnesses were unwilling to give evidence against her she was not convicted.

In 1869 she got married for the last time, to Thomas Meaney, a young man who died the following year. She died in poverty in April 1874 at her home in Kilbarron.