Fairy trees

I’m in Ireland this week. My husband is here for work and I tagged along. Now this is actually my third time here in the area of Galway so I’ve come to feel pretty comfortable here. I can even give people directions if it’s to one of the major sights. I’ve heard many a fairy tale in three trips and I heard a story yesterday that I just had to share.

The Irish believe in fairies and fairy trees. A fairy tree is a hawthorn tree, of which there are two varieties: white or flowering hawthorns, and black, which do not flower. To determine if a hawthorn tree is a fairy tree, you must break off a branch and strip away the bark. If there is a pink stripe along the grain of wood, then it is a fairy tree. If it is, beware! Do no harm to the tree! However, legend has it that if you are ill, you can ask the fairy tree to heal your sickness and tie a bit of your clothing to the tree. By the time the cloth has disintegrated on the tree, your illness will have disappeared. (I imagine this would be waste of time for something minor like a cold!)

The story goes like this. The Irish highway department was recently building a new motorway from Dublin to Galway and as they were digging the road bed, they came across a hawthorn tree. Every time the bulldozing machine got near to the tree, the motor would conk out. They brought in the mechanic and he could find nothing wrong. Nevertheless they did some maintenance to the machine, filled it with petrol and oil, changed the battery, and so forth. Once again they started to dig in the area of the tree and once again it conked out. This happened over and over until finally they brought in a whole new machine from a different part of the road project. What do you think happened? Yep, the machine conked out!

The next step was to cut the tree down, so they brought in a man with a chainsaw to cut the tree down but as soon as he put the saw to the tree, the chain broke. The same thing happened with a second saw. Finally, they tried using hand saws to cut down the tree but when the men got close to the tree with their saws, they were thrown back from the tree! So if you’re traveling from Galway back to Dublin, you’ll find a slight right bend in the road. And if you look to the left of the road, you’ll see the fairy tree. That’s right, they moved the whole motorway around the fairy tree! Only in Ireland!

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