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The Lucky Fairy Lamb

by Bernadette Weyde

Those red caps remind me that red, and even blue, was preferred by the small Manx fairies to green in their attire, and this is especially true of the fairy animals, which copied their masters in wearing crimson headgear.

Mr Roeder has reported a fairy dog thus ornamented, and I am inclined to think I was wrong in suggesting that the “red hat” observed on a fairy pig near Peel was in reality a pair of red ears. Possessors of red hair of a certain shade were favoured by the fairies, and their own hair was often seen to be of that colour when they took human shape.

The lucky fairy lamb which occasionally appeared among the flocks to the advantage of flockmasters had a fleece which was wholly or partly red. One day, about 25 or 30 years ago, Mrs. S., who lived at the top of Close Clarke, Malew, went as usual to look after her sheep, which happened to be in the steep brook-side field containing Chibber y Wirra, the holy well of Saint Mary. Running amongst them she saw a strange lamb wearing a little red saddle and having a red bridle about its head and face. She incautiously stretched out her hand to lay hold of it, but it sprang from her and vanished. If she had touched it, she said afterwards, she would have had a “poor arm” – withered or paralyzed arm.

She was not an habitual seer and this unique experience remained an indelible impression until her dying hour. She then spoke of seeing lambs around her, and a little lamb in particular which was playing about and underneath her bed. Whether this was the fairy lamb again or was a vision resulting from her lifelong affection for her flock, I cannot say. She died in a physical condition which is commonly understood to be the result of ‘buitcheyagh‘ – bewitching.

The luck brought by the Manx fairy lamb is understood to have operated chiefly on the health and fertility of the sheep; but the saddle and bridle in the foregoing instance strongly suggest that the fairies rode it.

It may be suggested that the material basis of the Manx fairy-lamb superstition is to be found in an occasional throw-back to the ancient reddish-brown Loaghtyn breed of sheep. But there is more in it than that.

(source: artwork by Robert Bly; text A Second Manx Scrapbook by WW Gill, 1932)

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