The Summer of the Leprechaun
by Tom Slemen

Kensington Fields

All of the old legends and tales of folklore from every part of this planet say there is a secret commonwealth of mystical beings who live alongside us. These beings, referred to as elves, devils, leprechauns, lutins, the Feadh-Ree, fairies, boggarts, trows and other legendary names, are said to be grouped into various species, and for most of the time, we are as aware of them as we are aware of the grotesque monsters of the microscopic world who munch our flakes of dead skin. Dust mites would be terrifying alien creatures if they lived on our scale of size, but until the invention of optical and electron microscopes, no one suspected their existence or could have imagined how unsightly they looked. Could there be creatures around you as you read these words that are presently unknown to modern science? Our eyes see only a small narrow slit of the total electromagnetic spectrum which contains all of the radiations of the universe. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, and all of the shades between those colours is all we can perceive with our eyes. We are blind to infra-red, ultraviolet and countless other invisible ‘colours’. To see the craters of the Moon we had to invent the telescope for our feeble eyes, and to see our own blood corpuscles we had to devise the microscope, because our eyes have fixed lenses like a cheap throwaway camera. Our ears also have their limitations, depending on our age. Human hearing differs vastly from the acute hearing abilities of a dog or a cat, and a human being’s listening range is determined not only by age, but hereditary factors as well. Sense of smell, once highly important to man for survival in prehistoric times, is now swamped by chemicals from deodorants, aftershaves, perfumes, air-fresheners and so on. Our senses of vision and hearing are restricted, and our sense of smell has been made redundant almost, and even our survival instincts are being progressively eliminated by the society mankind has created. We are protected from danger and violence by armies and the police, whereas in ancient times we had to look after ourselves, and all we had were primitive weapons and instincts. We could smell animals such as sabre-toothed tigers and bears laying in wait for us, or spot them laying low in the undergrowth or the shadows of a cave, but now our senses in the modern world are so dulled we can step off a sidewalk into the path of a red double-decker bus we didn’t notice. It’s the same with our food and drink, which is analysed, processed, irradiated, filtered and treated with antibiotics and all kinds of artificial additives. We are then, cocooned from the reality our ancestors lived in. The ancients were fitter than us, and ate wholesome food. Their water was not filtered or tampered with; their wines contained no chemicals such as copper sulphate - just the produce of the grape. Their minds were sharper than ours, as can be seen by the engineering feats of Stonehenge and the pyramids. The ancients claimed to have a Third Eye, located traditionally in the brain just behind the centre of the forehead. This eye perceived mystical impressions too subtle for our coarser senses to register, and was regarded as the seat of intuition and heightened instincts. If we compare this to our patterns of consciousness today, we will admit to being in a state of trance most of the time as we watch television or a computer monitor as we surf the Internet. It’s as if our hi-tech, sanitized world, television, film and computers have turned us all into zombies who are entangled in self-woven nets of daydreams. Across the world, attention spans are shrinking, drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise, and mindless TV channels and idiotic violent videogames are proliferating to feed robotic stupefied minds. As a race, we have never been as out of touch with reality in our history. Long ago, when we worked in harmony with nature living off the land, sowing and reaping by the seasons, and using our instincts, we inhabited a whole different reality from our existence today. There was an unquestioning belief in the existence of a supernatural race of beings. There was a symbiotic, balanced relationship between us and them. Their lands were never to be touched by human hands or developed, and their ‘fairy paths’ were to be kept clear from obstructions of any kind. Occasionally, mischievous members of the fairy race purloined or borrowed items from humans and sometimes even stole livestock, but on the whole they kept to themselves. They sometimes imparted remedies and miracle cures to humans and even melodious songs and catchy tunes, but the fairies mostly kept well away from man, woman and child. They gradually became very wary of mortals because of humanity’s propensity for greed and battle. The ancient fairies were regarded by man with some suspicion, as no one could be sure of their origins. Some maintained that the little people were fallen angels, or perhaps something God had created in the past which was never mentioned in the Bible. There was even once a theory that fairies were members of a small aboriginal race of Eskimos who had strayed into the northern extremities of Scotland! However, most of the legends across Western Europe stated that the fairies had been driven underground into caves and mounds by warrior bands of invading Celts. In Britain and Ireland they mostly inhabited the western parts of the isles, with colonies in the outer isles of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Later invaders to our islands almost spelt extinction for the fairies, and when Christianity reached these shores, over-zealous friars, exorcists of the church and ‘limetours’ swept across the land, blessing barns, fields, woods, streams and the remotest farmhouse. The new religion, brought here by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, in 597 A.D., led to the establishment of a monastery at Kent, and although King Aethelbert welcomed the missionaries cautiously, he allowed them to preach and was even baptized by them himself in the end.
The ‘old religion’ however, did not die easily. At night, before roaring log fires, the old storytellers related enchanted tales of witches, ghosts, elves, fairies and trolls. The children would listen in wonder to the colourful stories of supernatural beings no one was allowed to talk about anymore, because the new church had forbid people to discuss anything paranormal. And yet, from Douglas to Liverpool, from County Clare to Derbyshire, from Anglesey to Alderley Edge, from Cornwall to Clitheroe, fireside tales of the fairy folk were very popular late at night.
In the Twentieth century, a long period of rational scepticism, the little people made an unlikely come-back - at a time when a new mystery was capturing the imagination of the human race: the flying saucer phenomenon. In the summer of 1964, there was a wave of UFO sightings across the UK and parts of Western Europe, and there were many reports of classic flying saucer-type craft seen in the airspace over the North West of England. There has long been an undeserved association with flying saucers and little green men, so when alleged encounters with elf-like beings were reported in Britain that summer, in places such as the Isle of Man, Lancashire, North Wales, Cheshire and Cumbria, some Ufologists connected the reports of ‘leprechauns’ with the saucers, and hypothesized that the little people visiting from another planet were being mistaken for the fairies of old. Locally, on 1 July 1964, a leprechaun mania broke out across Liverpool when a group of schoolchildren told bemused parents and teachers that they had seen little green-skinned people wearing white hats in Jubilee Park, Jubilee Drive, in Kensington. The children’s tales were naturally dismissed as immature imaginings - until adults also reported seeing strange things around Jubilee Drive. This took place in the back garden of a Mrs Williams at her house on Edge Lane on the Wednesday afternoon of 1 July, 1964. Pensioner Mrs Williams and her 67-year-old neighbour Mrs Jones sat at a tea table they’d prepared in the sunny, secluded garden. Mrs Williams brought the hissing kettle from the kitchen and poured it into teapot on the table. Muffins and biscuits were laid on as usual, and the honey in a jar had been made from Mrs Jones’s own bees. It was a typical English afternoon tea on a glorious sunny afternoon, but when the women started to talk at the table, they found their conversation increasingly drowned out by the unusually loud chattering of magpies in the shrubberies at the bottom of the garden. Then Mrs Williams recoiled in shock, because something surreal and a little frightening stepped out from the stark shadows and into the bright sunlight. A figure, about two feet in height or less, with pale yellow-green skin stood there. He wore a small white helmet, very similar to the safety headgear worn by modern cyclists, and was clad in a one-piece suit which had reflective texture of plastic. The face looked human, but childish, and it was much smaller than a normal face. The diminutive visitor also looked male, but he didn’t stay there long. Mrs Williams saw him too, but let out a squeal of surprise, and at this, the little being turned and fled into the shrubs. The women were too scared to go and see how the entity had gained entry into the garden, and the next morning Mrs Jones brought her nephew and his Alsatian dog to the bottom of Mrs William’s garden - and there was a small opening in the fence were a rotten strip of wood had been broken. The nephew repaired the fence. He and his aunt noticed that the German shepherd dog was very uneasy while it was in the garden, and seemed to be able to see something they couldn’t.
That day, Mrs Jones was reading the Liverpool Echo, when she received quite a surprise. On page five of the newspaper, a small column, entitled ‘Leprechauns Go Bowling In The Park’ stated:


Thousands of children joined in a big hunt in Liverpool last
night for - leprechauns. They invaded Jubilee Park in Jubilee
drive, hunted among the shrubberies, tore up some small plants
and turf, scaled surrounding walls, and searched empty houses.
The Great Leprechaun Hunt all started after someone had
reported seeing “little green men in white hats throwing stones
and tiny clods of earth at one another on the bowling green the
previous night.
That story buzzed through all the schools in the area, and
when the schools closed yesterday afternoon, the youngsters
swarmed to the park .
It was all too much for Irish parks constable James Nolan.
“I don’t believe in leprechauns myself,” he said. He called in
the city police. Police in cars and on motorcycles arrived.
They cleared the hundreds of youngsters from the bowling
greens - the reported playground of the wee folk - closed the
gate, and stood guard.
But beyond the bowling green gates the youngsters milled, tiny
tots to 14-year-olds. They crammed the top of the covered
reservoir for a better view of the bowling green. Tolerant bobbies
wandered about trying to get the youngsters on the move. But
the kids would not believe that there were no little green men.
It was not until after 10pm that the park was cleared.
How the story started was not known, but last night was the
second night running of the leprechaun hunt.
And how did those little brownies who help the Irish housewife
with her chores come to arrive in Liverpool? Maybe they flew
from old Ireland. A woman resident in Crosby last night
reported seeing “strange objects glistening in the sky,
whizzing over the river to the city from the Irish Sea.”


Mrs Jones took the newspaper to her neighbour, and Mrs Williams was thunderstruck by the peculiar report. Mrs Jones was a religious woman, and regarded the reports of the ‘leprechauns’ as something sinister. A friend of hers who attended the local church of St Cyprian claimed that a vicar had warned her about the things ‘masquerading as fairies’ for they were of the devil, and out to undermine Christianity. Mrs Williams was a little more progressive in her way of thinking and disagreed with the vicar’s views. She believed that the leprechauns had something to do with the recent spate of flying saucer sightings across the country.
As the leprechaun mania grew in intensity throughout Liverpool, legions of children stormed the parks of the city. 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. Around this time, over two hundred children also invaded the sanctum of St Chad’s in Kirkby to tell the Canon John Lawton of the little people they’d seen locally. In one field near Kirkby, the elfin figures were seen dancing in the moonlight one night, and on the following day a type of corn circle was found at the scene. Weeks after that incident there were sightings of ‘trolls’ outside St Mary’s Church in Northwood. Alas, when that exciting summer of the leprechaun ended the little visitors from elsewhere made themselves scarce - but will they return one day?

ADDENDUM

I once interviewed a woman named Joan who told me how, in 1957, she and her mother saw what they described as "little green men" on the windowsill of their living room window one afternoon. Mother and daughter were living at a house on Wimpole Street in Kensington at the time. Joan's mother went outside to see what the figures were on her windowsill, and expected them to be toys, placed their by a child, but instead, when she opened the door, the 34-year-old woman saw two small domed craft of some sort, hovering about five feet off the ground. Joan saw these little objects too through the window. Joan's mum called to a neighbour across the road, to draw her attention to the 'mini ufos' and as she pointed, rays of light shone at her from the weird green craft, and one of the objects zapped her with a bolt of electricity, which left the Kensington housewife stunned. The neighbour she had called to only saw a flash of light. Joan ran outside when she heard her mother groaning, and found her standing on the front doorstep with her eyes closed. The little UFOs were now nowhere to be seen. Joan's mother told her husband about the incident and he advised her to shut up. 'They'll be sending you to Rainhill if you go around telling people that,' was his advice to his wife. Wimpole Street is within a hundred yards of the locus of the spot where the Kensington Leprechauns were later seen on the bowling greens. Is there some connection between the miniature UFOs (which may have been probes of some sort) and the enigmatic "leprechauns"?

Copyright Tom Slemen 2010. All rights reserved