Tag Archives: Leprechaun

The Gateshead Gnomes, and more Little People

Liverpool and the leafy parks and graveyards in its suburbs was not the only place to be involved in the Great English Fairy Flap of 1964.

In June 1964, strange things started happening in Gateshead, a very ordinary, humdrum town in the north east of England. It is a suburb of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where polar bears and walruses (or should that be “walri” ?) roam regularly in colder winters. Look for the orange arrows:

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At ten past four in the afternoon of June 2nd 1964, four boys were playing together in Leam Lane Estate, Gateshead. This looks a fairly desolate site, right on the shores of the freezing, windswept North Sea:

leam laneee

Looking at the map, though, as it does have one or two of the features that would link it with Celtic fairy sites, and indeed, with the old idea of dimensional portals out of which ghosts, goblins, UFOs and lots of other exciting beings may emerge:

leam lane

First of all, it is (or was then)  heath covered waste land with gorse and bracken, the very landscape beloved of fairies in Cornwall. It also has a very ancient Roman road, which would have been built directly over a Celtic track. Indeed, the reason that Roman roads across Western Europe are so unbelievably straight, is that Celtic tracks were. Quite a link, therefore, with times long, long ago.

Another indicator of pathways into other dimensions is the presence of any natural water, such as streams, and, for me, what clinches the deal, a natural spring. (that is what the blue “spr” stands for, at the centre bottom of the map). You can’t tell from this map. but I have looked at some larger scale ones, and the area also has a couple of cemeteries, absolutely classic places for crossing over into other realities.

Back to those four boys who were playing together at ten past four on that early June afternoon. They reported having sighted:

“a silver domed object about the size of a table, with portholes around the top and three legs. It was seen falling like a leaf through the sky making a low buzzing noise descending approximately 120 yards away from where they were standing.”

Here is the closest the Internet has to offer. It is in actual fact, the new Smart Car:

ufo-progress19

At half past five in the evening, another, fifth boy, Mark Smith, aged 14, decided to walk down to the farm to collect some straw for his rabbits. When he arrived, he saw a group of around ten children, standing about twenty yards away from a haystack. This was followed by the startling sight of:

“around six or eight tiny human beings on top of the stack: they were about two and a half feet tall and dressed in bright green suits. They appeared to be digging into the haystack, as if searching for something. Their hands seemed like lighted electric light bulbs.”

Alpha-7-CLOSE-2

Mark went home and told his parents what he had seen and decided to make his way back to the scene, but he was stopped by the farmer. Mark says that he was told by another child that:

“she had seen a circular silvery object take off from the ground with a spinning motion giving off an orange glow.”

flpalmharborpark8jan13_

On June 6th, 1964 several members of the local UFO Organisation visited the locality concerned and spent some considerable time speaking to many of the residents and children about the matter.

One child who admitted having seen “the little green men” told them:

“the leader of the little men was dressed in black and carried a baton with pink stripes.”

Another girl claimed:

“He was sitting on the roof of the barn watching us.”

Another girl told them that she had seen ‘him’ riding on the back of a cow whilst others claimed the whole thing was a hoax. The farmer who owns the land said

“All the claims are a load of nonsense. If anything has landed I would’ve known about it. I have a dog kept in the yard, he would warned me if anybody had been prowling around the farm.”

And that was not the end of it. Three months or so later…

It was claimed that a “Leprechaun” had been sighted in Tamar Street East in Belfast on or about September 10th 1964.

leprechaun

In fact, this particular Little Green Man was later identified as six-year-old Billy Knowles.

A-Little-Boy-Wearing-A-Green-Robin-Hood-Costume

He was playing at Robin Hood, dressed in his nice new costume:

robin-hood-costume

He was playing in a derelict house, something Belfast was not short of at the time:

Dumurray-Blaze-1_-Lewis

Poor little Billy was soon chased away by police who were frightened for his safety.

Too late!!!

The hint of a real life Leprechaun, and a real life pot of gold, triggered off the local people’s imaginations. Vast numbers of them descended into the streets causing massive disorder. Ironically the crowds that gathered there included not just children, but many adults. The incident, which involved the police and the fire service in some numbers, also attracted the presence of David Bleakley, the Labour MP for Victoria, who handed over a hastily written petition to Belfast Corporation, demanding action to keep the crowds and children away from the embankment and the many derelict houses there. One senior police officer was quoted as saying:

“A grown man, cold stone sober, insisted to me that he had seen a leprechaun.“

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Leprechauns in Liverpool

The fact that a small group of children in Nottingham claim to have seen gnomes in leafy Wollaton Park seems incredible, almost ludicrous, in the cold light of day, but it is by no means an isolated incident.

I have spoken in the past of so-called “UFO flaps”, when many sightings occur in just one small area. An example would be the Nottingham UFO flap of July 1967. Similar events occurred nationally in 1964, although this time it involved gnomes, pixies, leprechauns, fairies and their ilk rather than extraterrestrial spacecraft:

ufo-progress19

What was particularly bizarre though, was that the little people, who were seen in three separate places in England during the course of the year, were not closely linked with one particular city, but occurred independently hundreds of miles from each other.

And these widely separated events cannot possibly have been interlinked, because communication in those days was so limited and so private. Just letters or postcards. Telephones were a lot less frequent than you might imagine. You read only national newspapers or your own local paper. Local newspapers from distant cities were more or less unobtainable. The only television was national television… not really a medium for gnomes and fairies!

It sometimes seems that goblins and their ilk are part of our natural landscape and seem to pop out into our world on a rare but fairly regular basis. I presume that this is why nowadays a lot of modern folklorists tend to equate widespread ancient belief in gnomes and their various friends with our current widespread modern belief in space aliens, little green men and tales of abduction.

gnome-alone-trailer

It is this process of flitting between dimensions which remains the same over thousands of years, even if those who do it may have slightly differently coloured clothes and a vastly changed appearance.

And their activites are the same too. After all, how much difference is there between fairies who hold people hostage in their fairy realm and our modern tales of UFOs and extra-terrestrial kidnap?

Back to the simpler stuff.

On June 30th 1964, children saw varying numbers of “little men” in Jubilee Park, Liverpool. Here is the entrance to the park. No Leprechauns in sight yet:

jub park

Nobody knows exactly what the children saw. The little men had “white hats”, and were all seen to be enthusiastically throwing clods of earth at each other.
It took the children very little time indeed to put two and two together, and within minutes they had made a “Positive I.D.” and decided that the little men were, in fact, leprechauns.

chaun

Don’t just a few of the Leprechaun Community look really menacing? It spoils it for the rest.

The following day, July 1st 1964, all the local newspapers claimed that thousands of children had started a hunt, following reports that little green men or leprechauns had been seen near the Bowling Green in Jubilee Park on Jubilee Drive in Liverpool. This was in the Edgeline district in the eastern suburbs of the city. A huge orange arrow has been fired right into the middle of the Bowling Green. No Leprechauns were injured:

jubillee drive

Very soon, Members of the Police Community had to be called in to control the crowds:

volume

A nine year old boy told a reporter that he had seen little men in white hats, throwing stones and mud at each other on the Bowling Green. Another local boy, fourteen year-old David Wilson, claimed to have seen several small green creatures about two feet high running around a haystack on a farm near to the Edgeline Estate:

green alien

A little girl said:

“I was one of the school children that saw those leprechauns. I attended Brae Street School and we all saw them popping in and out of a window overlooking the school yard. There were about four of them, all tiny, dressed like a school book idea of a typical gnome and they sat swinging their legs on the window ledge getting in and out. What they were I don’t know. I only know what they looked like. I’d love to know the truth!!!”

Another child said:

“I remember the siege of St Mary’s Church when the police and Father Rose (or Father Spain) appealed for calm. I was one of the huge crowd of children shouting out “there they are”.
Someone said they had crossed the road into St Mary’s Infants School and were now hiding in the lockers (small cube-like cupboards). I never slept for days, and have had a fear of these type of cupboards to this day, which is still tested as my grandchildren’s nursery school use something similar.”

Nobody ever found the leprechaun who was sitting quietly smoking his pipe:

leprechaun

A further witness said:

“I certainly remember the leprechauns, and I actually saw a few of them on Kensington Fields, close to the library, but my parents and other adults tried to convince me that I”d been seeing things. This would be one afternoon in early July 1964, around 4.30pm, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was ten at the time and on my way to play football with my mates and saw these little (I’d say just a few inches tall) men dressed in red and black, standing in the grass, looking at me. I’m sure one of them had some type of hat on. I panicked and ran all the way home. My mum said there had been reports of leprechauns and little men on Jubilee Drive and Edge Lane the day before. That same evening crowds turned up on Jubilee Drive, and I remember a girl with a jam jar that she was going to put the leprechauns in!”

The Bowling Green was so crowded that the police attenpted to clear the park and to guard it from the bands of children who were tearing up plants and turf in the search for the little creatures.

Rimrose-Valley-Country

A rather bewildered Park Constable James Nolan had to wear a crash helmet to protect himself from the children throwing stones. At the time of the incident Constable Nolan was one of some fifty City and Parks Police Officers who patrolled the city on blue coloured Vespa scooters with a fixed radio mounted on it – in those days it was state of the art in police communications.

A local woman said to reporters at the time:

“This all started on Tuesday, how I just don’t know, but the sooner it ends the better. Stones have been thrown on the Bowling Green, and for the second night running no one has been able to play. The kids just won’t go away. Some swear they have seen leprechauns. The story has gone round and now we are being besieged by Leprechaun Hunters.”

Here is the Bowling Green in more recent times:

bowling-green liver

Such was the desperation of the children’s search that the police had to set up a temporary first aid shelter to treat at least a dozen children who suffered from cuts and bruises. The evening newspapers described the strange visitors as “little green men in white hats, with rhinestones and hurling tiny clubs of earth at each other.”

Thousands of children organised an extensive hunt for them, tearing up plants and turf, scaling surrounding walls, and searching empty houses well beyond the boundaries of Jubilee Park. Eddie McArdle  recalled:

“I remember the story well as I have a scar as a constant reminder of the event. We, the kids from St Marie’s, Kirkby, went en masse into the church and as we hunted the little people, some bright spark shouted that they were coming out after us. Panic ensued and as we all fled quicker than we entered. A boy who is sadly no longer with us swung the church gate in his haste to escape, and I was hit on the forehead by the metal cross on it. The lad, Danny Callahan, didn’t even know he had injured me as he was well up the street and along Elric Walk where I lived. I had to have my head stitched by Dr Cole. As far as I know I was the only person injured by the little visitors. “

Life was getting no easier for Park Constable Nolan, who called in the City Police. Constables in cars and on motorcycles arrived.

untitled

They again attempted to clear the hundreds of youngsters from the bowling greens, which were the alleged playground of the Leprechauns. But the youngsters still thronged there, toddlers to teenagers. They crowded onto the top of the covered reservoir for a better view of the bowling green. Tolerant policemen tried to get the youngsters to leave, but the children would not accept that there were no Leprechauns. Only at 10.00pm was the park finally cleared of children.

Over the next few days, thousands of kids visited not just Jubilee Park, but nearly all of the parks in the City. Some of the Leprechauns still managed to look a bit “iffy”:

Leprechaun_1_leprechaun

The Little People were seen in Abercromby Park, in Stanley Park, in Newsham Park, and in Sefton Park, where a 13-year-old girl said she even grabbed one little man but he slithered from her grasp and fled laughing.

In Kirkby it took almost a fortnight for the clergy and the police to clear more than two hundred children from the graves and tombs of St Chad’s Church where it was believed fairies were living. Certainly, witnesses had repeatedly seen elfin figures dancing in the moonlight and, a sure sign of the supernatural, a crop circle had appeared. A month or more afterwards trolls were repeatedly seen  outside St Mary’s Church in Northwood.

But then gradually reports became fewer and fewer and further and further in between, until the City returned slowly but surely to its humdrum normality.

I would have been unable to tell this long forgotten, and rather peculiar story, were it not for the very many places where it can be read in all of its very many different variations. Some of the links are all here in this short paragraph.

I found the story originally in one of a series of absolutely marvellous books by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. This particular one is ““Haunted Skies: The Encyclopedia of British UFOs Volume 2 1960-1965”.  I would recommend these books most strongly:

volume

 

 

 

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The School Leprechaun

After reading all about gnomes, elves, pixies, fairies and such like, it should come as no surprise to hear that Wollaton is not the only place around Nottingham to have played host to fairies in recent times. Marjorie Johnson, the lady who saw fairies in her garden in Carlton was to become very famous in fairy circles. She wrote this best selling book:

fairy book

Here is a link to an account of fairies she saw in Nottingham, in Carlton to be more precise.

Belief in fairies persists still, even in our own time. When we went once to an isolated farm at Constantine in Cornwall, the farmer clearly believed that the huge ruined megalith in his bottom field was the home to fairy folk. He had seen their fairy lights on more than one occasion.

It is in Iceland that gnomes and fairies are taken most seriously. Over a half of Icelanders believe that these tiny entities are, at the very least, “possible”. They are thought to be from another dimension, usually making their homes inside huge boulders and outcrops of rock.

Known as huldufólk these beings are not regarded as trivial. Roads can be redirected on their behalf.

This report by Journeyman starts off in almost comic fashion, but does make some quite serious points:

This film by Torsten Scholl, aka “hatcast” has even more serious points to make:

This account by Richard Williams aka “rockuvages” is of the moment when the huldufólk seem to pop out of their own dimension:

Nowadays, we tend to see fairies and their like as something lovely and wonderful. This attitude has only come about since Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Before that, fairies were considered by those who had regular contact with them to be malevolent beings who, if they were in any way annoyed, would readily kidnap adults, willingly do harm to them and, most of all, steal their babies, replacing them with changelings. This is why nowadays a lot of modern folklorists tend to equate ancient beliefs in fairies, with our current fondness for space aliens and little green men, who have continued in modern times to carry out all of these evil deeds:

green alien

Tales of fairies invariably involve abduction and poor innocent people forced to remain in Fairy Land, sometimes for ever. What difference is there between malevolent fairies holding people hostage in their realm and our modern tales of extra-terrestrial kidnap?

Other parallels are there. Some types of fairies, such as leprechauns and goblins, have green as their favourite colour, just as some aliens are literally “little green men”. Only medical experiments seem to be absent from the connections between the two groups, perhaps because in sixteenth and seventeenth century Ireland or Cornwall, there was no health care available and advanced medicine was not a subject on anybody’s mind. Only ointments and magic potions were on offer back then, and these simple remedies do figure from time to time in the more ancient tales of fairies.

Here is something more modern, a tractor beam, although some would argue that those fairy lights, leading innocent people out onto the marsh to drown or be abducted, did pretty much the same job:

uftgyu
This modern cartoon by “grackle” sums up best our ancient knowledge of fairies, who were by no means the magnanimous and well intentioned Peter Pan heroes of Walt Disney’s world.

Certainly, the Cornish and the Irish, for example, seem to view “piskies” or “the little people” as, at best, potentially tricky and at worst possibly, evil, and similar figures are met with in every human culture across the globe.

In North America, there are Ishigaq (Inuits), Jogahoh (Iroquois), Nimerigar (Shoshone) and the Yunwi Tsundi (Cherokee). In Hawaii, there are the Menehune, and for the Maoris, the Patupaiarehe. In Europe, there is a host of names such as the Brownies, the Kobolds in Germany, GoblinsGremlins, Pixies, Leprechauns and the Swedish “Di sma undar jordi”, who are clearly almost identical with the huldufólk of Iceland:

307228-mythical-creatures-troll

Let’s finish with a quite extraordinary piece of film.

All over the world, of course, as well as “the little people”  there are the enormously large people. In Nepal, the “yeti”, in North America, “Bigfoot”, in Western Europe “the Wildman” or “Wodewose”. In Iraq, he was represented by “Enkidu” the companion of Gilgamesh. In Israel, he was “Goliath” whom David slew:

golithyuj

In Australia, the enormously large person is called the “Yowie” and he is very fierce indeed.

The huge Yowie, though, has a tiny equivalent. To the white man he is “Brown Jack” but to the blackfella he is the “Junjudee”. He is tiny and here is a purported film of one:

Any film by TheRusty222 is well worth watching. He tries to film Yowies but most of all, he ventures deep into the realm of the thickest parts of the Australian bush, an environment of staggering beauty if you ever watch one of his films.
Talking of “Little People”, a few weeks ago, I bought a postcard of the High School taken in 1927. I was intrigued to see what is obviously the “School Leprechaun” busy guarding the front of the school:

lep[rechaun 1

You can see his right hand, his jacket of Irish Green, his little fawn breeches and his lovely top hat. Here he is, slightly enlarged:

lep[rechaun 2

Do you see his mutton chop whiskers? And what about little Pumpkin Head, next to him, with his tiny hat and his little legs and boots?

Both photographs, courtesy of the Pareidolia Brothers.

 

 

 

 

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