Fairy bush survives the motorway planners

A "Sacred" fairy bush in Co Clare will not after all have to be destroyed in the building of a new bypass motorway, much to the…

A "Sacred" fairy bush in Co Clare will not after all have to be destroyed in the building of a new bypass motorway, much to the relief of those who attach superstitious beliefs to such features of the Irish landscape.

There had even been a warning from a folklorist of a curse on the new roadway and of motoring fatalities if the fairy bush was to fall victim to the £100 million plan to bypass Newmarket-on-Fergus and Ennis.

One of the State's best known folklorists and story-tellers, Eddie Lenihan, had warned that the destruction of the fairy thorn bush or "sceach" at Latoon outside Newmarket-on-Fergus to facilitate the bypass plans could result in misfortune and in some cases death for those travelling the proposed new road. According to Mr Lenihan, the bush is a marker in a fairy path and was the rendezvous point for Kerry fairies on their way to do battle with the Connacht fairies. Under the bush, Mr Lenihan claims, the Kerry fairies would regroup and consult on what might be the best tactics in battle. He said their white blood has been seen on a number of occasions on the surrounding grass.

He warned of terrible consequences if the fairy bush was destroyed, saying that the site in 10 to 15 years' time may have a higher than usual casualty list, including fatalities. He said: "It is sacred ground, it doesn't revert to being a normal place."


During the last couple of months, the council has been carrying out archaeological works on lands surrounding the bush as part of preparatory work for the Newmarket bypass. However, the bush has remained untouched.

Yesterday, the county engineer, Mr Tom Carey, confirmed that after surveying the fairy thorn bush in the detailed plans and drawings prepared, the council has found that it would now be able to incorporate the "sceach" into the proposed bypass.

"We have surveyed it and we do find that it is in a location where it is possible to work around it."

He said the fairy bush would be incorporated into the landscaping of the bypass, adding it would not be affected by earth-moving. He explained that prior to surveying the bush into the detailed plans, nobody could say precisely where it existed on the plans.

Last night, Mr Lenihan said he was very glad at the outcome. "I didn't think there would be any need from every point of view that it should be cut down. I'm happy people have seen sense."

He said the fairy thorn bush could now be used to enhance Clare's tourist potential. Despite the late reprieve for the "sceach", Mr Lenihan was unable to stop the council clearing trees at a ring-fort as part of the bypass plans. He had warned that this might bring unfortunate consequences.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times