A Union Twp. Leprechaun tale for St. Patrick's Day

Illustration by Jim Schoonover from Walsh's book, "Leprechauns of Union Township." Schoonover, a World War II veteran, artist, and musician, resides in Culver with his wife Phyllis and has been a member of Heartland Artists of Marshall County since 1994. He creates art with oil, watercolor, enamel, calligraphy, pen and ink, and especially enjoys creating cartoons and caricatures.
James Walsh
Staff Writer

Editor's note: James Walsh of Culver has amassed a large collection of materials on Irish history and has become known locally as an expert on all things Irish. Several of his books -- including the one from which this one is derived -- are available for purchase online. His book, "Leprechauns of Union Township," is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Leprechauns-Union-Township-James-Walsh/dp/09887289.... He and wife Joann live not so far from Washington school -- which was located on Queen Road in Union Twp. and was razed since this story was written -- in an area which he says resembles the hills of Ireland. This story originally appeared in The Culver Citizen in March, 2008 and appears here in celebration of St. Patrick's Day 2015.

You knew George Washington’s American Army, with the help of the Irish Brigade, defeated the British Redcoats at the battle of Yorktown in 1781. But did you know there’s a Marshall County connection?

It was discovered by Union Township’s own Charley Connolly, an Irishman, who wrote about it on cow hide, but in the Gaelic language of his Celtic ancestors. His book was misplaced, but ninety years later was found by Molly, Charley’s great grand daughter, a very smart red head. She translated the ancient book., as follows:

I, Charley Connolly, formerly of Cashel Towland, County Sligo, Ireland, the holder in fee simple of Washington School Hill, Union Township, Marshall County, Indiana, hereby write:

There was a westerly wind blowing one twilight. The lake was jumping for joy. Clouds were curling like woman’s hair. What an evening! I was in my cabin bubbling stew in my pot hanging from the crane over a warm and glowing wood fire. The cow being dry, and having a terrible thirst on me, I went the way of the bohereen, a cow path, to the cropped-grass around the sweet spring on Washington School Hill, high above the lake, to fetch a bucket of cold water. My spring was a curious spring. It bubbled up from a hole in the rocks in the ground on top of the hill, but its water never overflowed the stone pool.

Later that day, I had sent a thirsty farmer to the spring to drink, but he couldn’t find it. I went back with the farmer, but no spring could I locate. Had I lost my way? I was after thinking it was the heat of the day on my red head that had confused me. I led the farmer to my cabin to drink from the morning-filled bucket of the spring’s sweet cool water, but dry the bucket was. The fanner thought me crazy. He mumbled against me his way down the hill where he had to drink of the water from the lake.

I took to wondering if the spring bubbled when I was in the fields with my horse and plow, or while in my cabin when I slept. I took to wondering how the grass around the well got cropped. Not one cow did I let off the bohereen to go near the spring to eat its grass. I took to thinking the spring was magical. Had the ghosts of American Indians left me the spring on Washington School Hill? I’d find out. When clouds hid the moon, I sneaked out of the cabin and up the bohereen to within feet of the spring. I’d worn soft shoes on my feet. My lantern was unlit. I got to my knees and crept close to the cropped grass around the spring. I laid on my stomach.

Incredible! Unbelievable! I saw leprechauns, wee men the size of my thumb in the grass around the spring. They were wearing green jackets, white linen shirts, green dyed wool trousers and shoes of white sycamore bark. With scythes in hand, the men were cropping the grass, some even hewing down dandelions with but one swing.

“Play us a tune, Seamus O’Tuba,” a wee man said.

Leprechaun Seamus O’Tuba sat on an acorn chair. He had around his head a very tiny tuba. He put his lips to its mouthpiece and powerful tones played music that sounded an octave lower than a mole’s moan from the center of the earth.

I saw wee women leprechauns, too. They looked beautiful in linen dresses the colors of Ireland’s grasses. They wore rainbows in their hair. Their feet were in white spider-silk slippers.

The women started step dancing in the grass to Seamus O’Tuba’s tune. A wee woman, no other fairer than she, her hair as white as freshly fallen snow, began singing. She had a voice an angel should have. She was singing to the bass tuba’s tune of “Jackets Green.” She sang:

“Yorktown ‘s won, We ‘re harping and feasting tonight,

Victors in Jackets green sharing delight, British Redcoats soldiers we ‘ye chased, America no longer their base.”

These wee leprechauns at Washington School had fought for America with General Washington at Yorktown? Yes! I, Charley Connolly, held back my tears, for my tear drops would have fallen as big as diamonds on their heads. After the song and the scything of the grass was finished, the wee men joined the wee women on acorn chairs around a flat stone table for a meal of sizzling roasts of cricket thighs and drink made from the dandelion. Seamus O’Tuba entertained, his sounds rising in a harmonic series of notes resounding in a full rich quality. It was lovely.

All of a sudden my lantern was kicked from beside me. It rolled across the cropped grass toward the wee people at table. They scattered. I made a quick grab for the lantern, and just before it rolled off the cropped grass into the spring to pollute the water, I caught it. I was breathing so hard, my breath was a tornado. It blew Seamus O’Tuba into the spring, the weight of his tuba pulling him deeply beneath the bubbling surface of the water. I quickly reach my hand into the spring and scooped him out. I untangled him from his tiny tuba and dried him with my handkerchief.

Seamus O’Tuba said, “And it’s my gratitude I’ll be after showing you, Squire Connolly, if ye be coming to me concert the night next.”

“Sure it is I’ll be back to hear your concert, Seamus O’Tuba,” I said.

I took my leave. On the way to my cabin, I gave a penny’s thought to who or what had kicked my lantern from my side, but no answer found its way to my brain.

The night for Seamus O’Tuba’s concert arrived. What a black night! It was as gloomy on stage as it had been when I sat on Washington School’s dunce stool in the classroom’s dark corner. So I lit my lantern to light the stage. Then wee men and wee women leprechauns came up from the earth, for they lived down there next to Washington School. The spring was their lake. They sat on acorn chairs around the fine musician Seamus O’Tuba. He fingered valves and blew bass notes out of the tuba’s funnel shaped bell. It rumbled earth and wiggled the lantern, its light simmering on a sea of grass. When I looked down to steady the lantern I noticed a leprechaun. He wasn’t wearing green. The inelegant imp wore a British Redcoat and said with a roar:

“To see my England lying like a child crying.

Twas mad temptation to cause Green desolation.”

Before I, Charley Connolly, could grab British Redcoat’s foot, leprechauns are slick and tricky, he kicked the lantern a violent kick. It rolled away. I grabbed for the lantern but its hot glass seared my flesh. The glass broke. Whale oil spilled out of the lantern toward the spring. It would pollute the spring’s sweet water. I quickly dug into the earth and heaped dirt in front of the whale oil, then packed the dirt into a dam to keep the whale oil from flowing into the spring and polluting it. But the oil exploded in flames. The green wee folks were in danger. I picked them up by their green jackets and dresses and dropped them, one by one, into the spring. They swam in clean and clear water to safety.

Seamus O’Tuba was the last to be saved and swim to safety. Alas, not so lucky was his tiny tuba. He’d left it behind. Its brass had melted into an ingot no bigger than a fly speck.

The British Redcoat leprechaun? I said to the narrow-headed elf, ‘In heaven you’ll not take dinner, for your act was that of a great misdeed.’ To my surprise the tiny clod replied:

“My heart with horror is shrinking that flowing oil did hiss aloud.

From America, my footsteps sinking, to Canada I, my head low bowed.”

At last sighting the night of the near pollution of the spring and the fire, a Great Northern owl swooped down and plucked British Redcoat from out of our midst. Off they flew to Canada!

Then didn’t Seamus O’Tuba’s wondrous base voice boom in song from shore:

“Proud wee folk wearing green, in Union Township no Redcoats seen.
Washington ‘s Irish Brigade remain, his soldiers on Washington School ‘s high plain.”

The End