Joe Heaney: The Mermaid, Hy-Brasail and The Leprachaun

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  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: The Mermaid, Hy-Brasail and The Leprachaun.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850407.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe tells of his own encounters with the supernatural – all of which he swears really happened.

The Mermaid

Joe’s account of his meeting with the mermaid includes a reference to the Cleggan Disaster of 1927, when Joe would have been seven or eight years old.


Hy-Brasail, Joe says, is a mythical island that is located between the Aran Islands and Oileán Mhic Dara (St Macdara’s Island). A poem by nineteenth-century poet Gerald Griffin, ‘Hy-Brasail, the Isle of the Blest,’ became a fairly standard item when Joe was dealing with otherworld beliefs in his classroom. Hy-Brasail is also connected with lore surrounding the Mahons, a family who were granted healing powers following an encounter with the island1.

The Leprachaun

As Joe tells it, he had two encounters with leprachauns: the one mentioned here, which he says occurred on the same day that he saw Hy-Brasail; and the second one – when Joe was presumably somewhat older – in which a leprachaun hitched a ride home with Joe on a bicycle.


1. For more about Hy-Brasail (in Irish, ‘Beag-Árainn’ or ‘Lesser Aran’), see Tomás Ó Concheanainn, ‘Seanchas ar Mhuintir Laidhe’ in Éigse 33 (2002), 179-225; also Daithí Ó hÓgáin, ‘The Mystical Island in Irish Folklore,’ in P. Lysaght, S. Ó Catháin and D. Ó hÓgáin (eds.), Islanders and Water-Dwellers: Proceedings of the Celtic-Nordic-Baltic Folklore Symposium held at University College Dublin 16-19 June 1996,DBA Publications Ltd. for the Department of Irish Folklore, UCD (1999), 247-60.