Matty told me she was chatting the other night to this old guy Charlie about wee still. Charlie was telling her that when he was a young he was visiting friends in the Glens of Antrim and the young fellows of the family took him to meet the local poteen maker. When they called at his house they found the poteen maker taking the first run of the still. He drew off a glass to taste it but before he drank he threw poteen on the ground to the left and the right of him. Charlie couldn’t understand why he’d done this and asked his friends the reason. Everybody laughed at him for his ignorance. The still-maker told him that the first glass drew off the spirit must be given to the fairies. Failing to do this would bring the worst of luck.
Then Matty told me this story from her childhood. A neighbour of hers from Creggan, a very superstitious woman, was going on a journey to Belfast. Before setting out she sprinkled oatmeal on her head. This was supposed to protect her from the fairies. Matty said that this was the stupidest thing she had ever heard in her life. “What did she think was going to happen? Did she think the fairies were going to come down from the Cave Hill and carry her off?
She asked me if I believed in fairies and I told her that I wouldn’t rule them out. The fairies I’d believe in would not be the Victorian, gossamer-winged sort though. They would be much more likely to be malicious little creatures with a look of Gollum about them.