The Whitethorn of The Dancing Warrenpoint

The Whitethorn of The Dancing  Warrenpoint

The whitethorn has long been associated with the fairies.Such a tree grows in the centre of a field beyond the milldam by the road coming from Warrenpoint to Grinan.It is known as The Fairy Tree,The Whitethorn of the Dancing.It got its name from a tradition celebrated many years ago when on May-Eve when the children of the areas danced the "Rinceshee" (Fairy Dance) around the tree and sang The Song of May to celebrate the coming of Summer.On that night too as a protection for the year against un-welcome visitors,rowan berries and branches were placed outside every cottage,as were May flowers (primroses). Even to this day you can see May flowers scattered outside some doorways in Ireland.

It was at such a gathering many years ago that children came to dance around "The Thorn" on May-Eve. A girl child of the landowner on whose land the tree grew, brought her little brother with her to the festivities and sat him at the foot of the tree while the others danced. It was a beautiful clear night, but without warning a magic mist descended over the field enveloping everything. When it cleared the girl ran to the foot of the tree to collect her little brother,but in the time that the mist came down and the time she picked him up he had changed utterly.He was believed to be a "changeling" and he soon pined away and died.

The child's father was James McDarragh,and he was very angry with the little people and resolved to cut down the "Thorn", but a wee old man came to him in a dream and warned him that if he did cut it that something awful would happen to him. On the other hand if he left it alone he would be well rewarded.

So he left it as it was and a few nights later he had another dream,and the same dream the next night, and the next night.Go to Dublin the dream said and repair the bridge that runs through the capital city and you will make your fortune.Without telling anyone of his foolishness,he travelled to Dublin by stagecoach and on arrival took up position close to the bridge.People were to-ing and fro-ing and passing no heed of anything, only getting on with their work.No one passed any remarks of him.He stood watching for 3 days and nothing happened other than the foolishness he felt at listening to his dreams.He decided to go home.

As he turned to go a man approached him and said to him "I've been watching you for 3 days standing here looking at the bridge,do you mind me asking what your doing"."Ah" says McDarragh "you wouldn't believe me even if I told you". "Try me" says yer man. McDarragh told him about his foolishness and even managed a smile thinking about what he had done.

"Well that's a good one" says yer man, sure I often dream myself,but pay no heed to dreams.Sure even last night I dreamt that I should go a farm in Co. Down, owned by a man called James McDarragh and that I should dig in the ditch beside the road, where I would find a pot full of gold coins. Away home with you my man and put no faith in dreams"

McDarragh needed no encouragement,he was gone, willing the horses to go faster along the track to Newry and back to his farm.He got out a spade and started digging, 2 hours in and the spade struck metal.He bent down and anxious fingers grasped a bronze metal urn.He opened the hinged lid, on which there was writing that he could not decipher, and he found it full of ancient gold coins.He took them home and placed them in a chest below the floor boards of his bedroom.He never wanted again for anything.

Some years later,the urn stood empty on the dresser table, when he heard a knock on the front door.He opened it,only to find a weary traveller standing there looking for shelter.He brought him in to the fire as was the custom of hospitality and offered him food and lodgings.As he ate, a flicker of light from the candle caught the script written on the lid of the urn.The traveller stood up to examine it. "Do you know what it says" asked McDarragh. Its a very old Celtic script said the traveller,it says "Dig on the other side of the Whitethorn of The Dancing and you will get as much more". "What a strange message! said the traveller. "Strange indeed" said McDarragh, barely able to contain himself.

The following morning the traveller thanked him for his hospitality and McDarragh placed a few gold coins in his pocket as he left.He went to the "Thorn" and began to dig,it wasn't long before he struck the top of another bronze urn a replica of the one he had already found, with the same number of coins, but with no script on the lid.

The dream was as good as its word.