Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download


23 Frances Brown (1816-79) was often called ‘The Blind Poetess of Donegal’, and is perhaps best known for her children’s stories, in particular the collection Granny’s Wonderful Chair, published in 1856 (there were at least seven, subsequent editions of this collection in the nineteenth century). The below extract is a story from Granny’s Wonderful Chair, called ‘The Story of Fairyfoot’, which belongs in the same Ulster fairy tradition as fellow Donegal poet William Allingham’s influential poem ‘The Fairies’, and Ferguson’s ‘The Fairy Thorn’; and which arguably anticipates the supernaturalism of the Irish literary revival. ‘The Story of Fairyfoot ONCE upon a time there stood far away in the west country a town called Stumpinghame. It contained seven windmills, a royal palace, a market place, and a prison, with every other convenience befitting the capital of a kingdom. A capital city was Stumpingham, and its inhabitants thought it the only one in the world. It stood in the midst of a great plain, which for three leagues round its walls was covered with corn, flax, and orchards. Beyond that lay a great circle of pasture land, seven leagues in breadth, and it was bounded on all sides by a forest so thick and old that no man in Stumpinghame knew its extent; and the opinion of the learned was that it reached to the end of the world. There were strong reasons for this opinion. First, that forest was known to be inhabited time out of mind by the fairies, and no hunter cared to go beyond its borders–so all the west country believed it to be solidly full of old trees to the heart. Secondly, the people of Stumpinghame were no travelers–man, woman, and child had feet so large and heavy that it was by no means convenient to carry them far. Whether it was the nature of the place or the people, I cannot tell, but great feet had been the fashion there time immemorial, and the higher the family the larger were they. It was, therefore, the aim of everybody above the degree of shepherds, and such-like rustics, to swell out and enlarge their feet by way of gentility; and so successful were they in these undertakings that, on a pinch, respectable people's slippers would have served for panniers. Stumpinghame had a king of its own, and his name was Stiffstep; his family was very ancient and large-footed. His subjects called him Lord of the World, and he made a speech to them every year concerning the grandeur of his mighty empire. His queen, Hammerheel, was the greatest beauty in Stumpinghame. Her majesty's shoe was not much less than a fishing boat;

Pages Overview