Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Blue Baboon and The Leprechaun Dressed in White

On Monday, 20 April 1908, the following story appeared in the Irish Times:
In North Westmeath, especially Delvin district, an odd story was told on Friday. It runs that a strange creature has been observed for some days in the district of Killough, which is between Killucan and Delvin. Several persons, mostly children from the school, are reported to have seen it, and they describe it as a little creature resembling a man of dwarfish proportions clad in a red jacket, and suiting the traditional description of a leprechaun. The most peculiar thing about the matter is that it is stated that as soon as one of the school children called the attention of a comrade to the creature the informant ceased to see it, whilst the informed could clearly observe it. The reported appearance has caused much conjecture and not a little excitement in the district. Many are inclined to regard the creature as a monkey escaped from the care of some travelling organ grinder, and if it can be observed at close quarters it may prove to be such. However, the more fanciful are inclined to invest it with a far more mysterious and uncanny character.
According to a reader in Ballymahon, there was indeed a monkey on the loose in Westmeath.
I read in your issue of the 20th inst. an account of a strange appearance which was seen last week by some children and others in South Westmeath. The appearance was that of a small man in a red cloak – in fact what common superstition pictures a ‘leprechaun’ to be. Allow me, through the medium of your paper, to offer a probable solution of the mystery. A week or so ago what is described in the circus posters as a ‘blue baboon’ escaped from a travelling circus and menagerie, which was then in Westmeath. A monkey, and especially a baboon, could easily be mistaken by inexperienced children for a man, even in broad daylight.
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any other references to an escaped “blue baboon”. But, as plausible as this theory was, it didn’t stop the leprechaun sightings. On Saturday, 16 May, the Irish Times reported:
The mystery grows around the “leprechaun” which is stated to have been seen by several of the school children of Killough, Co. Westmeath. Last week the little creature is reported to have made several appearances in the district, and these are much discussed by the people. It is understood a school teacher has closely questioned the children about the matter, and they adhere to their stories, and declare they have seen the leprechaun and minutely describe its appearance and conduct. On one occasion some of the children pursued it to a moat hard by a churchyard, where it disappeared. Its clothing is described on most of its appearances as that which tradition gives to it, but on one occasion lately it was seen sitting under a hedge. In place of the red and green clothes and grey stockings it was clad altogether in white, and played on a small harp, from which sweet music was called forth by the touch of tiny fingers. The matter has naturally given food for much gossip, wonder, and speculation in the district.
The Irish Times, 20 & 24 April and 16 May 1908


  1. I found out a bit more about that story. According to the contemporary newspapers, the "leprechaun" turned out to be a human dwarf. When last heard from, he was going to capitalize on his new-found celebrity by hitting the music hall circuit.

  2. Undine, I'd be very grateful if you could pass on any details (which newspaper, dates etc). Thanks.

    1. Here are three stories from August 1920. (If you can't follow these links, let me know.) As far as I can tell, they never learned his name, or what he was doing in the woods.

    2. 1920. Argh. I meant 1908. Sorry, no coffee yet this morning.