The Fairy House of Carrigoona and the magnetic bombs of Stylebawn!
You could describe it as a "unique detached residence with south facing gardens, close to the N11" and that would be accurate. For close to eighty years, this landmark has been a source of fun for children and many locals have fond memories of trips up to visit it, and sometimes to leave their baby teeth behind! I am advised that the current rate for a child's tooth in Carrigoona is five euro!
The Fairy House is located on Carrigoona Commons, west of Kilmacanogue, and still a semi rural area. From Carrigoona Summit (all of 242m!) there are stunning views in all directions and you are well rewarded for your effort. Just below the commons, in the sloping fields of Stylebawn, an unusual event occurred, eighty years ago, this year.
On the night of January 1 1941, Luke Messit, heard the noise of an airplane close by and looked out to see two objects falling from the sky. He went to well known artist Paul Henry, then living in Carrigoona, who had a phone and alerted the authorities who discovered two magnetic bombs lying in a field.
The Irish army were brought in to detonate these bombs and local families were evacuated until this was done. Until recently, there were two craters in these fields! It is thought that the bombs were dropped as a result of navigational error and that the pilots had mistaken the search lights of Dublin for a British city.
Magnetic bombs were originally developed as mines, and were designed to attach to metal hulled ships, attracted by their magnetic field. As ships developed anti-magnetic measures, these mines were repurposed and attached to parachutes and dropped from aircraft. They were designed to detonate fifty feet from the ground, or fitted with delayed mechanism, to blast forty eight hours after landing. There had been a number of bombs dropped in 1940, notably on the creamery in Campile which killed three people. A number of bombs were dropped on the nights of 1 and 2 January 1941 and three people were killed and two injured, in Borris, Co Carlow. The German Government firstly denied involvement, and said the bombs were imaginary. They then said they were British. Finally, they said they would consider matters when the war was over. It was not until 1958 that the West German Government paid compensation of £327,000 - the year before work started on the German Military Cemetery in Glencree.
The story behind the Fairy House begins in 1942 and in the words of the grand daughter of the original artist
"My grandfather, George Mulligan of Stylebawn, Glencormac helped his 3 young daughters Maisie, Breda (my mother) and Therese to first paint the stone in around 1942. They would have been 8, 6 and 4 years of age then. It was much smaller then, just a part of one side was painted. The walls were white lime wash and the roof was the kind of red paint used on tin roofs of the time. There was no garden around it then. By the time I first saw the 'little house' (as they called it) visiting from England at the age of 7 in 1972, the fairies had 'extended', but still no garden. Having moved back, we returned again in the early 1980s to find it still visited and further extended. I remember there was a note for the fairies in a child's handwriting on top, held in place with a stone. It's wonderful that it is still maintained after almost 80 years. It looks really well: and it's lovely to think that it will continue to be visited in time to come".
The house was painted by various people over the years and among the names I have been given, apart from the Mulligan family, are Molly Bushe, Mrs Carney, Jane Ryall, Dermot Cranny (several times) and most recently, Tim Weldon
Opinion is divided in the area as to whether the roof should be red or yellow. My earliest memory of the house is of a red roof, green window and doors and a date in the 1940's to the back of the house. In recent years the various artists have added an open door and more windows and at present there is also a home office in the garden! What started out as a bit of fun for children has endured to become a well loved feature of the area and the regular maintenance over the years is testament to that.
Finally, and proving that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, the good people of middle Wicklow have created their own special landmark! Holly Cottage, residence of Mrs Berry, has become one of Wicklow's newest residences and hopefully will bring as much joy to the local community as Carrigoona's Fairy House has.
With thanks to Sheena Ni Connachtain, Vincent Kirwan, Juju Jay, and many people in the Kilmacanogue community for their help with this blog.