Locals of the Isle of Man are well acquainted with the folklore around the so-called Fairy Bridge on the A5 between Ballasalla and Newtown.
Local superstitions state that those who do not greet the bridge’s fey inhabitants with something like “Hello, fairies!” as they pass over it may fall prey to their malicious, mischievous whims.
From the 1950s, it was reportedly the custom to advise a visitor of the myth on the journey south from Douglas or north from the airport.
Also motorcycle racers and spectators at the annual TT and Manx Grand Prix races tend to take the ritual seriously, in most cases making a point of visiting the bridge before setting up for practice and the races.
Interestingly, also the local buses relate this warning in a pre-recorded message as they draw close to this fabled spot.
However, there are few locals that are aware that this tourist trap is not the original Fairy Bridge, and even less that know of the real bridge’s location. Though historical accounts of why and how the bridge was built might be lost, the Manx people haven’t forgotten that the ‘Real’ Fairy Bridge is not the one you see when you drive on the A5 from Douglas to Castletown, but it’s the ruin of a fairy tale stone bridge set among trees a short walk from Kewaigue Hill.
The story goes that less and less people were visiting the original site so someone decided to create a more accessible one that would draw more tourists.
It’s worked, and it seems most of the island will say Good morning/Good day/Good evening to the fairies when they drive past on the A5.
A true Manxie will say it in Manx Gaelic: “Moghrey mie Vooinjer Veggey”, literally Good morning Fairies, “Fastyr mie Vooinjer Veggey” (Good afternoon Fairies), or “Oie vie Vooinjer Veggey” (Good night Fairies).
But nobody know if we are greeting in vain, and if the Fairies are really there.
Many people know of the existence of the “Real” Fairy Bridge but aren’t quite sure where it is.
To find the old bridge, you must embark on a quest that begins with those still believe in the magic and the existence of fairies: the children of Kewaigue Primary School, despite they are often reluctant to divulge the location of this wondrous, sacred grove.
Traditionally, Fairies-touched children who visit the bridge leave offerings of small gifts or trinkets to invoke their blessings, while others write letters wishing for luck on an upcoming exam, the well-being of their family, for a new Play Station, to grant a happy holiday season, good weather, or even a boyfriend.
These gifts are left in small nook in the crumbling facade of the bridge, and are mysteriously spirited away by some unknown agent.
But, either way, when you visit, be sure to bring a gift to leave behind, and remember to say, “Hello, fairies!”.
You wouldn’t want to be impolite.
Despite its mysterious location, enough clues have been scrounged up over the years to assist curious locals and tourists in finding it: set out from Kewaigue Primary, and walk northwest on Kewaigue Hill road, looking for a dirt track on the left side a few hundred feet from the school, framed by a stone wall covered in vines.
Follow this pathway for approximately 1km, until you reach a low bridge fording a shallow stream. Turn to your right, and follow the stream to the bridge, a few hundred meters ahead.
In any case, the history of the Old Fairy Bridge is more political than magical, as the tradition of saying hello to the faeries actually stems from the time when Catholicism was made illegal on the island.
The bridge used to sit at the boundary of church lands and took a toll from those passing over. When the church was ousted, people took to saying hello to “the faeries” and leaving offerings for them, as a hidden way of supporting the Church.
They did this because public support of Catholicism would have been criminal.
Not by chance, It has been suggested that this location was on the boundaries of the land of the nearby Rushen Abbey, and the greeting is a folk memory of crossing oneself at the sight of the crucifix marking the boundary of the monastery’s land.
This superstition may possibly have arisen at this location during the 19th century in response to the large number of tourists visiting the Island.
Images from web – Google Research