last winter, Gordon Murphy, the president of the venerable
Green Goat badminton and rugby club outside Galway, made
a startling catch, and it wasn't on the sporting green,
either. He may be the first man in history to capture, in
excellent condition, a sheery from the local bogs, a notorious
haunt for these Will O' the Wisps.
perhaps more amazing than the discovery itself is the how
behind it. Mr Murphy's fairy was found tangled in the club's
own badminton net, which the gardener had neglected to take
down the night before.
was about ready to find me cane and give that lad a really
good thrashing," says Murphy as he meditatively strolls
the grounds of his club, "when I saw something in the
net what was movin' about. Thought it was a bird or some
such, struggling to get free and messing with me net. But
it had a bit of a faint aura about it, so I was intrigued."
looked closer and sure enough, he recognized the glowing
thing for what it was, a captive marshlight. So he did what
any man would do in his situation, he got a Mason jar and
came back to stash his trophy clean away. "I'd never
heard of a marshlight granting wishes," admits Murphy,
"but then again I never heard of no one catching one
neither. So I took me chances and got the jar. My reason
told me that if this puck wouldn't give me no fortune I'd
strangle him anyways on account of me dead brother, what
was led straight into the bog by one of 'em tein sidhe,"
says Murphy, invoking his native tongue.
get the fairy into the jar, Murphy took the sputtering thing
by its gossamer wings and started unwinding a string from
the net that was wound about its leg. Unfortunately, he
was not to be rewarded for his efforts. Not directly at
thing spat in me face and flew off," says Murphy over
warmed whisky inside the clubhouse's well-appointed study.
"It was a strange, sparkling, enchanting kind of bogie
but it was a bogie nonetheless. And a bogie's bogie at that.
I scraped it off me face with the lid and gobbed it into
the jar. I keep it on this slide here, to show those what's
that he draws a small box down from off his study shelf,
and opening it, produces two thin pieces of glass. True
as blue skies, there lies a glittering smear of a gobber
smashed between the panes.
may be the only specimen of its kind," he says with
glowing pride. "True marshlight snot. I should frame
it, but I'd like it appraised first, for insurance reasons,
you know." Murphy would certainly be the first to claim
ownership of actual fairy mucus, different by definition
than ectoplasm. The Oxford Theosophical Society contacted
Murphy regarding the specimen the same day his story ran
in the local paper, requesting to borrow it for microscopic
study and compare it to the ectoplasm held on file at their
university library, but Murphy has ignored their requests.
"They can shove it up their arses, which is more than
likely what they'd do, too. Those buggers. I don't put me
trust in Theosophists any further than I can fling 'em."
instead puts his trust in the Overland Mallet Club, and
has twice visited Prof Marcus White at his Inverness residence,
where studies linked the snot sample to a particular strain
of sheerie living in a region further north from Galway.
Agreeing that a marshlight has never before been captured,
White declined to give his personal appraisal of the specimen.
(Lloyd's of London, incidentally, has quoted Murphy a figure
upwards of £2.000), saying that it was "extremely
rare" and that prices for this sort of sample could
go "ridiculously high if opened up for bidding. It's
an odd market out there. But in my opinion, Murphy's best
bet is to hang on to it. Hang on to it for all it's worth.
That bogie's a keeper."
is exactly what our man at the Green Goat plans to do.
man that's not so sure of Murphy's claim is Argus MacLeod,
a seelie scholar and rival badminton and rugby club operator
in Paisley, Scotland. "Murphy's a liar. You can't believe
a word from 'at man," is the quote with which I am
greeted upon being introduced as a journalist following
the story of Murphy's smear. "That boy has been trouble
since he took the reins at the Goat, and I'll hear no story
said, MacLeod is very open and willing to discuss specifics
regarding Murphy's career, including alleged attempts at
fraud in the past. According to MacLeod, Murphy has been
the instigator of much hysteria across the countryside both
in Ireland and Scotland. Crop circles, false burial sites
of ancient kings, and artifact fraud are among the charges
MacLeod hurls against Murphy. "And that bogie tops
it all! I'd cripple the man on principle if I weren't such
a gentleman!" roars MacLeod over his seventh scotch
of the afternoon.
stout Theosophist, the Scot goes on to explain that a few
simple tests would reveal the true nature of the gobber.
According to him, the technology offered by Madame Blavatsky's
clan is much more advanced than Pook's Hill's. The interview
ends soon afterward with an unconscious MacLeod and sober
correspondent parting ways. No local records substantiate
MacLeod's claims. Murphy dismisses all charges with a, "So
you've met Mr Argus. Wrong in the head, that boy."
And that is that.
at the Green Goat, the badminton lawn has been moved and
a second net erected. The original site of the capture now
boasts a larger net and a low fence around it. One with
no gate. "I don't want nobody going into that area
but me and Will," says Murphy, referring to the errant
gardener who, after the discovery of the fairy and the ensuing
offers of substantial amounts of cash for the slide, fell
back into favour with his master. Instead, he and Will keep
watch over the net, making it the first stop on their morning
rounds at the club. The recount of his experiment thus far
reveals that the lawn of the Green Goat Club is a regular
corridor of fairy activity.
they netted any more samples? "Oh yes," admits
Murphy immediately, "Almost one a fortnight, but most
of those we throw back. Bleeding pixies and the like. What
lad hasn't caught his fair share of those pests by the time
he's twelve I don't know. Common stuff around here. No,
we don't keep them. What's the use? Those buggers would
just as soon see my head turned into a cabbage than spend
time sealed up in a Mason jar. So I respect 'em and let
'em go. That's after I put one of these wee things on 'em."
Murphy draws a tiny strip of dull metal out of an envelope
he keeps on his desk. A serial number is embossed along
its surface. It's a bird-banding device!
tried some made of what you might call your more modern
metals, but the fairies never came back. They don't take
so well to iron and the like. This bronze is a lot easier
on 'em. They don't waste away quite so quick." Murphy
is conducting his experiment with a few goals in mind. By
observing the frequency of certain catches in his net, and
by watching for his bands to return, he is testing a theory
few have considered.
knows that fairies go from place to place for their parties
and to hold their courts and whatnot. Well, I'm taking a
different look at this. It's my theory that the fairies
don't go home. Ever. That these are just stops along the
way in their what you might call nomadic lifestyle."
posits that the days are gone in which fairies took up residence
in certain hillocks and ruins. "There's too many people
and too damn many cars. A soul can't go to one place what's
not swarming with people, at least compared to a few hundred
years ago. You've got to remember, the Good People have
life spans of hundreds of years, and some live to be over
a thousand years old. Them is the ones what watched it all
happen, watched the people come and crawl all over every
last piece of turf on the island."
this experiment has had a recent start, Murphy hasn't had
time to test his theory, but he's positive that his net
will yield results. "I believe there's trends I'll
be able to see. But this is going to be a long project."
has the Green Goat seen any more marshlights? "Not
a one. I'm most disappointed by that part, but I'm not a
bit surprised. They're smarter than a soul figures, and
it's my guess they won't be back too soon."
Order a copy of “Murphy’s Smear”