“That is Not Bridget Boland”
Bridget not only lived on a fairy rath, but she also had cause to roam other parts of the countryside associated with the fairies. Since her marriage, Bridget supplemented her dressmaking income with the sales of eggs from hens, the money from which she collected monthly. Part of her egg round took her onto Kylenagranagh Hill, another local fairy fort. The hill was the home of one of her customers, Jack Dunne, who was a Shanachie – a custodian of the ancient lore.
March 1895 was bitterly cold- and Bridget caught a chill that confined her to the cottage for several days afterward. However, for some reason, the usually healthy woman did not throw off the illness but instead became steadily worse. Various friends and neighbors called round to see how she was. However, when Jack Dunne came to visit, he took one look at the wane and disheveled figure in the bed and declared “that is not Bridget Boland.”Michael Cleary, Bridget’s husband, overheard. From then onwards, he became convinced that the woman in the bed was not his wife – but a changeling.
Ignoring the medicine and diagnosis of the local doctor, Cleary tuned to Jack Dunne who recommended he visited Denis Ganey, a local âFairy Doctor.’ Ganey did not visit Bridget himself. However, he did give Michael Cleary a herbal mix with âthe nine cures in it’ to be administered to the patient, mixed in new milk. This cure was a standard one in cases of changelings and designed to restore the real individual. As many contained foxglove, the concoctions were more likely to finish the patient off. However, other methods could be used to identify and exorcise a changeling including harsh, persistent questioning and the threat of fire. All of these methods were used on Bridget Cleary on March 14, 1895.
Just before ten that night, William Simpson, a local landowners caretaker, and his wife Minnie went to visit Bridget. When Michael Cleary finally allowed them into the cottage, a fearful scene greeted them. Jack Dunne and her cousins Patrick, James, and William were holding a weak and distressed Bridget Cleary on the bed. Bridget’s aunt, Mary Kennedy waited nervously by the door while Michael Cleary forced his wife to take the herb-laced milk. Bridget was screaming and complaining it was too bitter. However, Cleary held Bridget’s mouth shut to force her to swallow, intermittently demanding if she was Bridget Cleary or Bridget Boland, wife of Michael Cleary, in the name of God.’
The Simpsons noted that there was a large burn mark on Bridget’s forehead caused by a poker that had been used to threaten her earlier. The harsh questioning continued, and Bridget was drenched three times with “a noxious fluid” that was probably urine. After the third dose of herbs, the men lifted her out of bed and shook her back and forth before Jack Dunne ordered them to “make a good fire and we will make her answer.” Bridget was then carried to the grate and held over the flames while her father asked her: are you the daughter of Patrick Boland, the wife of Michael Cleary” “I an Dada” Bridget said, in a voice made loud with terror.