Sunday, 25 August 2013


I know I have mentioned changelings before but I came across another account which chilled me.
I am at present writing a tentative article for The Somerset Life magazine, about the local folklore and I was going to include a paragraph about changelings but I have decided to leave it out because it is too upsetting.
Well anyway I am sure you are made of sterner stuff! so here goes...

This chilling account is from Ireland, 1862.
Bridget Peters, a decent-looking woman, was indicted for having caused the death of Mary Anne Kelly, by administering large quantities of fox-glove… It appeared that the deceased was a child almost six years of age, and had been delicate almost from its birth, being affected with a softening of the brain and partial paralysis… The prisoner is what is called a ‘Fairy Doctor’ and the mother of Mary Anne Kelly having consulted her, she promised to recover her, or not charge anything unless her skill was successful. The consequence was that this unlicensed general practitioner made up some mysterious, preparations in a cauldron, which acts very peculiarly on the nervous system, and vervani, which is regarded as a very wonderful medicine by those who are superstitious. But the prisoner, after examining the child, very significantly nodded her head, and told Mrs Kelly that it was not her child but a ‘changeling’ and that something must be done to recover the missing girl, who was with the fairies; accordingly after every dose of the doctress, she had the deceased stripped Mary Maher, the servant in the family, and carried out naked on a shovel and laid on a dunghill, the poor patient calling out mamma, and in a state of great alarm. The shock of such an exposure and this while under the depressing influence of foxglove, caused a great shock to the system and on the morning of the 4th of September, another dose having been administered, the poor victim of this superstition died, although the prisoner concealed the fact until evening, pretending that she was in a sound sleep and getting well.
There was another case in the mid 1800's where a father was accused of mistreating his son, making him live outside in a shed from the age of 16 months. The father's excuse was that he was a changeling, the court accepted this reason and the case against him was dismissed!

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