In Faery Lands – Forlorn
Now that Hallowe’en is over and that all self-respecting witches have cranked up their broomsticks and proceeded upon their lawless occasions, perhaps the more serious-minded of us can settle down to doing something really useful.
The winter nights are long and dark, and often wild; and as the wind wails like bereaved banshees round the eaves what more inspiring occupation could engross an adult mind than doing research into the activities of fairies. Yes, fairies!
Of course the season is the wrong one for study at first hand, but then the key-note of airy-fairy research is hearsay. If we all make a determined effort and ask all we meet or sit down with of an evening if they have ever had a glimpse of the “little folk” we may not meet anyone who actually has a fairy at the bottom of his garden, but it is possible that someone will be fortunate enough to meet the man who had a friend who once talked to a lady whose gardener had a brother who was bitten by a dog belonging to a shepherd who once lay on a hillside – after taking too big a swig out of his flask on a hot midsummer’s day, on an empty stomach – while a zephyr of fairies danced and sang round his addled head. This sort of information would be extremely valuable, and anyone acquiring it – provided of course it was vouched for as authentic – should communicate immediately with Mr Alasdair Alpin Macgregor, Swan-court, London, S.W. 3.
Alasdair Alpin is not actually advertising, presumably because, although it pays to advertise, at the same time, if you advertise you pay. Instead he has a letter in the News Chronicle of Wednesday November 2nd apprising the world at large that in collaboration with Marjorie Thelma Johnson he is wrestling with a magnum opus. “I am collaborating” he says “in a serious work dealing with contemporaneous accounts of faery vision. if any reader of the News Chronicle would care to submit an authentic account of his or her, having seen or been aware of the presence of a faery or faeries, we would certainly give it sympathetic consideration. Anything dealing with faery music, faery apparel, and so on, would be equally acceptable.” You should pay particular attention to the “so on” part of the foregoing and for your own use only add “so forth.”
This time Alasdair Alpin Macgregor would not seem to be venturing in person to the haunts of the “daoine sith” [fairy folk] – he is going to get his fairy tales by post.
It is extremely doubtful if experiences of manifestations other than fairies would be worth mentioning when writing to Mr Macgregor. People should show a sense of discrimination in their awareness of presences and in their belief in THINGS. If someone living in a backwater in the isles knows perfectly well that there are witches, and that the witch from the next village is taking the goodness out of the milk and making the hens lay wrinkled eggs; and even if she has seen the witch, with her own two eyes, in the form of a cat slinking out through the byre window, she is just havering and is nothing more or less than a superstition-ridden old hag. But if a person living in a mental backwater in London knows perfectly well that there are fairies, even if he hasn’t seen them with his own two eyes, and is writing to the daily press for second-hand confirmation of his belief, he is an intellectual.
We can feel reasonably sure however, from familiarity with some of Mr Macgregor’s work, that whatever may be lacking in the public response to his appeal will be more than made up for by the author’s imagination.
By a strange coincidence the day after I read Mr Macgregor’s letter I had a short talk with a four year old child who addressed me very earnestly. “Do you know what?” she said. “There aren’t any giants, not anywhere in the whole world. Not one giant. Not really!” To which I replied cautiously “Aren’t there?” “No. Not any” came the very definite response. So then I lost some of my caution and asked “Are you glad?” “Yes” she said “I’m glad. But I wish there were fairies. I would like to see one fairy.”
This four year old is several jumps ahead of Alasdair Alpin.
M.S. in Stornoway Gazette, 8 & 11/11/1955:
As I See It column, p.3
The full collection of these articles may be read on pdf here
(this one is on p.8 of the booklet).
M.S. and (probably) the 4-year-old quoted, not looking for fairies on the golf course, a year or so later