Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Tournament Edition, Part II

March 15th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of a NCAA sign at a KU vs. University of Houston game, 1966-1967

“NCAA – Hawkers All the Way” sign at KU’s game against the University of Houston
in the NCAA tournament, 1967. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/13 1966/1967
Games University of Houston: Athletic Department: Basketball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

How Well Do You Know Your Irish Fairies?

March 14th, 2018

With St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) just around the corner, grocery stores and pubs are suddenly awash in four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and other trappings of the commercial elements of the holiday.  But why fixate on leprechauns when the world of Irish fairy folk is so much broader?  How well do you know your Irish fairies?

Frontispiece and title page of W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893), an editon of his 1888 Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, with 12 illustsrations by James Torrance.

Title page and frontispiece from Yeats’s Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893),
an illustrated edition of his earlier Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).
Call Number: Yeats Y191. Click to enlarge.

The Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote more than once about Ireland’s different varieties of fairies. In 1888, when Yeats was in his early twenties, he edited a volume titled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, which collected stories and poems by a variety of writers on the supernatural elements of Irish folklore. In organizing the book, he assembled its pieces under several headings, including “Ghosts,” “Giants,” and “Saints, Priests.” However, he accorded fairies a place of particular honor (as is their due in Irish folklore) by beginning the anthology with them and including several short section prefaces detailing their ways. When a few years later Yeats published the anthology Irish Fairy Tales (1892) for T. Fisher Unwin’s “Children’s Library Series,” he penned  an appendix offering a “Classification of Irish Fairies.”

It would be a mistake to confuse one’s Leprechauns with one’s Merrows, since fairies — or the “gentry” as they prefer to be called — are easily offended. Thus in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we share a shortened version of Yeats’s classification below.

Yeats begins his schema by dividing Irish fairydom into two classes: the sociable (or “Trooping Fairies,” as he named them in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry) and the solitary. Of these two varieties, he writes, “The first are in the main kindly, and the second are full of uncharitableness.”

The Sociable Fairies “go about in troops, and quarrel, and make love, much as men and women do.”  They are subdivided into two main types:

  1. The Sheoques (in Irish, Sidheog, “a little fairy”): Sheoques are land fairies, whom Yeats describes as “the spirits that haunt the sacred thornbushes and green raths.” While Sheoques are on the whole good, they have one “most malicious habit”: “They steal children and leave a withered fairy, a thousand or maybe two thousand years old, instead.”  If this isn’t enough to inspire terror in Yeats’s child readers, he continues nonchalantly, “Now and then one hears of some real injury being done a person by the land fairies, but then it is nearly always deserved.  They are said to have killed two people in the last six months in the County Down district where I am now staying.  But then these persons had torn up thorn bushes belonging to the Sheoques.” I suspect Yeats’s proviso comes as little comfort to anyone who counts yardwork or landscaping among their chores!
  2. The Merrows (in Irish, Moruadh, “a sea maid)”: These are water fairies. Yeats writes that Thomas Croker, the author of Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825), suggests that “[t]he men among them […] have green teeth, green hair, pigs’ eyes, and red noses; but their women are beautiful and prefer handsome fishermen to their green-haired lovers.” Yeats, himself, is more skeptical and comments that he has never “heard tell of this grotesque appearance of the male Merrows” and judges it “probably a merely local Munster tradition.”

Title page for W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy Tales (1892), with frontispiece illustration by Yeats's brother, Jack B. Yeats.

What type of fairy is that? Title page for W. B. Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales (1892) with frontispiece illustration
by Yeats’s brother, Jack B. Yeats. Call Number: Yeats Y194. Click image to enlarge.

Yeats next delineates nine subcategories of Solitary Fairies, whom he characterizes as “nearly all gloomy and terrible in some way”:

  1. The Lepricaun (in Irish, Leith bhrogan, “the one shoe maker”): Of this staple of St. Patrick’s Day, Yeats writes, “This creature is seen sitting under a hedge mending a shoe, and one who catches him can make him deliver up his crocks of gold, for he is a miser of great wealth; but if you take your eyes off him the creature vanishes like smoke.” Don’t expect to find him in outfitted in green, though. Yeats notes that according to McAnally, author of Irish Wonders (1888), the leprechaun wears “a red coat with seven buttons in each row, and a cocked-hat, on the point of which he sometimes spins like a top.”  One wonders if Yeats’s leprechaun might also be responsible for other types of mischief, such as the fact that Yeats spells his name “Lepracaun in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) but “Lepricaun in Irish Fairy Tales (1892).
  2. The Cleuricaun (in Irish, Clobltair-cean): Yeats notes that some writers “consider this to be another name for the Lepricaun, given him when he has laid aside his shoe-making at night and goes on the spree.” These fairies’ enthusiasms include “robbing wine-cellars” and “riding sheep and shepherds’ dogs.”
  3. The Gonconer or Ganconagh (in Irish, Gean-canogh, i.e. love-talker):  A “creature of the Lepricaun type” who, unlike his industrious cobbler brethren, is idle. Yeats notes he “appears in lonely valleys, always with a pipe in his mouth, and spends his time in making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids.”

[Would Yeats have concurred that modern St. Patrick’s Day celebrants perhaps possesses a touch of the Clericaun and Gonconer in their (admittedly sociable) revelry?]

  1. The Far Darrig (in Irish, Fear Dearg, i.e. red man): This fairy is “the practical joker of the other world” whom Yeats deems a “lubberly wretch.” Like the Pooka (below), “he presides over evil dreams.”
  2. The Pooka (in Irish, Púca, “a word derived by some from poc, a he-goat)”: Yeats notes that this fairy usually takes the shape of “a horse, a bull, a goat, eagle, or ass” and “most likely never appeared in human form.” He is of the “family of the nightmare” and “[h]is delight is to get a rider, whom he rushes with through ditches and rivers and over mountains, and shakes off in the gray of morning.”
  3. The Dullahan: This fairy must be a relative of the headless horseman who appears in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Yeats explains that he “has no head, or carries it under his arm,” and can be seen “driving a black coach called coach-a-bower (Ir. Coite-bodhar), drawn by headless horses.” If you hear his carriage rumble by, keep your door closed, for if you open it “a basin of blood is thrown in your face.”  As one might guess from such an unwelcome greeting, the Dullahan is “an omen of death to the houses where it pauses.”
  4. The Leanhaun Shee (in Irish, Leanhaunsidhe, i.e. fairy mistress ): Yeats writes, “This spirit seeks the love of men. If they refuse, she is their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding one to take their place. Her lovers waste away, for she lives on their life.” He also refers to her as the “Gaelic muse” and asserts that many of the Gaelic poets have had a Leanhaun Shee, “for she gives inspiration to her slaves.”
  5. The Far Gorta (man of hunger): An emaciated fairy who “goes through the land in famine time, begging and bring good luck to the giver.”
  6. The Banshee (in Irish, Bean-sidhe, i.e. fairy woman): In addition to the Leprechaun, the Banshee is perhaps the other Irish fairy who will be familiar to American audiences. Yeats notes that like the Far Gorta (and unlike the other solitary fairies), the Banshee possesses a “generally good disposition.”  He suggests that perhaps she isn’t really a solitary fairy after all, “but a sociable fairy grown solitary through much sorrow.” The Banshee wails over the impending the death of “a member of some old Irish family.”  Yeats observes, “Sometimes she is an enemy of the house and screams with triumph, but more often a friend.”  In Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, Yeats remarks that the “keen [caoine], the funeral cry of the peasantry, is said to be an imitation of her cry.” If more than one Banshee arrives to wail, it is a sign the dying person “must have been very holy or very brave.”

Yeats closes his taxonomy by alluding to other varieties of fairies “of which too little is known to give them each a separate mention.” Among these are the Bo men fairies of County Down, whom Yeats suggests are “Scotch fairies imported by Scotch settlers.”  This last detail offers us some hope of encountering Irish fairies on American shores, for its seems that, like us, fairy folk can travel.

To read Yeats’s “Classification of Irish Fairies” in full click here to access the appendix in PDF form or visit Spencer Research Library’s reading room to explore further writings on the topic by Yeats, Lady Wilde, Thomas Crocker, Douglas Hyde, and others in Spencer’s Irish Collections.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Throwback Thursday: Costa Rica Edition

March 8th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week KU is celebrating sixty years of institutional collaboration with the University of Costa Rica – the longest-standing institutional partnership in the Western Hemisphere.

Photograph of Grupo de Kansas, 1970

KU students studying abroad in Costa Rica, 1970.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 12/1 1970 Prints:
International Programs: Study Abroad (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 5-11, 1918

March 7th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 11, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Monday, March 11, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Your letter of the 9th came this noon. I have told you that I shall not marry and that is the very good reason why I can’t call you “my little girl,” and why you should “look ahead a few years.” The thought of marrying a French girl is furtherest out of my mind, so forget that clipping.

Marie, I always want to be the very best true friend to you that I possibly can be. I want to help you in every way I can. If there is a single thing I can do to make you happier, I want to do it. If there is anything I have written that you don’t understand, tell me. I have never known and never hope to know any girl so perfect in every way as you are, so you may be sure that you are in no way responsible for what I said in the first of my letter.

I will surely send you a lock of my hair in a few days.

We are not drilling very much now as there is so much other work to do in preparing to leave. Last Saturday Major Sanger gave us a formal inspection with full packs and shelter-tent pitching drill. Lietenant Killberry told us when we returned from the parade ground that we had done “excellently.” It will be impossible for you to see me as we may get orders to go any day now. There is nothing I would like better than to see you but we might just as well shut the thought from our minds.

Did you get the picture (vest pocket size) of me shooting the pistol?

Later I may send one of me with full pack as we go in the field.

Within the next few days I will probably send several packages home; will you please tell Mother to drop a card acknowledging receipt?

Here is what Sgt. Brown’s girl wrote to him:

“If my kisses to you had weight, I would have to send them by freight.”

“How is it by you?”

Won’t you please tell me that?

With love,
Forrest.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell me if you got the picture. When I say that I believe you are by far the most perfect girl – I mean it in every way.

No other girl can ever approach the place you have in my thoughts.

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Throwback Thursday: Hitch a Ride Edition

March 1st, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of Big Jay with a girl riding on his tail, 1970

Big Jay with a girl riding on his tail, 1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/25 1970 Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services