Contributed by Eamon Darcy
On 12 July 1963, Seán Lemass, then Taoiseach, appeared on the cover of Time magazine alongside one of the most enduring images of Ireland (well, at least in American imaginations): a shifty-looking leprechaun, no doubt hiding something. Cynics amongst you would argue that the person over Lemass’s shoulder was just another member of Fianna Fáil protecting the whereabouts of their ill-gotten pot of gold and ‘lucky charms’. On closer inspection, the Leprechaun bears a striking resemblance to our favourite resident of St Luke’s. Indeed, his pot of gold has eluded the Mahon tribunal for a few years now. One could be tempted to urge Justice Mahon to grab him
and tickle him for a confession. Alas, this would inevitably fail; our guide at the National Leprechaun Museum warned us how crafty Leprechauns are, they may tell us where their gold is, but only through riddles and directions that can never be trusted.
A copy of this cover from Time hangs proudly in the foyer of the National Leprechaun Museum alongside other Leprechaun related artifacts – a mock Leprechaun uniform, a cartoon of Walt Disney in Ireland and, of course, the film poster advertising ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’. Our guide informed us that this museum was a ‘monument to our storytelling past’ and suggested that we too would hear a tale or two, ‘some true, some not so true’ but all a very important part of our heritage.
From there we were taken into magical and mystical Ireland, via a spooky tunnel that made things appear ‘not as they seem’ and from there into the Giant’s Causeway. Here we were told the story about Fionn MacCuamhaill and how he built a bridge connecting Ireland to Scotland in order to fight a Scottish giant, as you do. Having completed the bridge, Fionn was so tired, he decided to go home for a rest. His Scottish opponent, (four times the size of Fionn) however, decided now was as good a time as any to fight, crossed the bridge and politely knocked on Fionn’s door. Fionn’s wife answers and claims that Fionn is not in. The giant, seeing Fionn in bed inquires as to who he is. To which Fionn’s wife replies “that’s our baby”. Rather than question the fact that the mother of the child was smaller than the child, the scared giant runs away and destroys the bridge between Ireland and Scotland leaving us separated forever.
Now that we were all shrunk down to the size of Leprechauns, via the magic tunnel, we then entered into somebody’s sitting room. A comfortable chair sat beside a large fire, which faced a kitchen table and another chair. Knowing their audience, the National Leprechaun Museum has cleverly put a huge obstacle course at the beginning of the tour, to tire out children who fought with me as we tried to climb the furniture. Tired and defeated, I left for the map room, which consisted of a huge visual display of Ireland explaining areas of great historical importance – Newgrange, the Hill of Tara, and many others, reminding visitors, both native and newcomer, of Ireland’s rich pagan heritage. From there, one passes through the ‘rain room’, where I was, again playing up to another Irish stereotype, protected from the rain by umbrellas stuck to the ceiling. A quick pass through the rainbow and one encounters the wishing well, where all are encouraged to make a wish.
Disappointed that my wish didn’t come true, I ambled into the story room. Another guide quickly ushered myself, and a few others, away from any children so we could hear the stories that ‘kids couldn’t handle’. Cover your eyes children! Many years ago, demons roamed the earth alongside humans, encouraging them to do naughty things. Parents were eager to protect their children from these omnipresent spirits. Their solution was the ‘master bucket’. This bucket was filled with urine, probably from the father of the children (don’t ask). When his kids decided that they wanted to go for a dance at the local crossroads, Daddy would dip his thumb into his urine and daub his children’s dresses with urine to protect them from evil spirits. Instead of being ashamed of the fact that their dresses were urine- stained, many took pride in having urine-thumbprints for it proved how socially active they were. I can confidently predict this will be next “Big Thing” in LA. Somewhat disturbed, I was glad to trade my piece of Leprechaun gold (which I received at the beginning) for a nice comforting cup of tea and reflect on what I had just experienced. It is an ideal place to visit on a rainy day (if a little pricey) – duck out for an hour and sample some of Ireland’s telling past, particularly if you have children and you want to tire them out. Walking away however, I was left wondering however, why there were not more stories told in the museum. Some of the visual displays are impressive, some downright tacky, others mildly humorous. The best parts, by far, were when the enthusiastic and lively guides gathered us round for an oul’ tale. Maybe that’s why Bertie was so popular, we all love a good story …
Children over 3 years €7
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) €27
As an introductory offer, each €10 ticket comes with a special piece of Leprechaun Gold, which you can keep as a souvenir, or redeem in their shop or café to the value of €3.
The museum is open on Jervis Street, Monday to Saturday, 930 to 1830 and Sundays and bank holidays 1030 to 1830.
Tags: Irish Leprechaun Museum