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The rath situated in the townland of Derrykillultagh near Glenavy. Can you spot the little people?

The rath situated in the townland of Derrykillultagh near Glenavy.
Can you spot the little people?

THE older ordnance survey maps clearly label a round field sited in the townland of Crew, Glenavy as a fort.

To the bygone inhabitants who owned and worked the land there, the round field was known as the "forth field". The ditch that encompassed it was referred to as the "march" in an old 1862 will of a former Crew inhabitant. This ensured that the executors were in no doubt as to which piece of the land was being referred to when the land was being divided out.

We may never know the purpose of the fort when it was constructed, but in later times it provided grazing for cattle. Many years ago, though, the cattle grazing there took ill and showed signs of swollen abdomens. This was of great concern to the farmer at that time.

In those days there could of course have been several explanations cited for this strange occurrence, one being the fairies.

It was believed that the little people occupied these earth works all over the land where they danced and played their musical instruments. It could just be that on this occasion the cattle had disturbed their antics and they had taken some form of evasive action.

The cattle could have fallen victim to feared "elf-shot", where the fairies used arrow heads to injure them. Of course a nasty neighbour could have "blinked' the cattle after a neighbourly dispute by putting a curse on them. The "culprit" of the strange affliction was soon discovered. The cattle had decided that the unkempt straggly over-hanging crab apple trees would provide a variation to their usual stable diet.

They had been munching on the fallen fruits of these trees which bounded the forth. The farmer would no longer have to keep looking over his shoulder for the smaller race and treading carefully round the neighbours. The simple answer was to cut back the trees from the reach of the cattle. Problem solved.

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