Leprechauns trade in gold as downturn hits the streets


On North Great George’s Street this morning I saw a woman pushing a buggy with her belly while using her hands to scrape a scratch card with a coin. I imagined the baby going flying as she raised her arms in jubilation but alas, it didn’t happen. This morning wasn’t her lucky day.

I enjoyed the image though, particularly as it happened right outside the tacky off-license at the corner where a few days ago I saw the homeless man who sits on O’Connell Bridge (with his rabbit and dog) buy booze. He stuffed his rabbit into his shopping trolley and held the dog under his arm while he rummaged for coins to buy his cans. He could have gone to Centra but he was looking for good value. Aren’t we all?

If these moments tell us anything about the Irish, it’s that we’re damn good at recessions. If it’s a quirky economic downturn you’re after, look no further than Dublin city centre.

Without a doubt the creature that has benefitted most from the downturn is the Leprechaun. This being, formerly associated with ancient folklore and American gullibility, (“Do you really have leprechauns in I-Ur lend?“) has experienced an unprecedented comeback in times of austerity. On Grafton Street you can find a man of about two and a half-foot who has painted his face orange, attached a ginger beard to his chin and placed a pot at his feet. He looks a little like an Oompa Lumpa from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. If you felt sorry for him I think the joke would be on you; he’s probably making a killing. Size matters.

Size matters so much among opportunistic leprechauns that the one that hovers around the Molly Malone statue is enormous. His artificial head is about six times as big as his own. He waves his gigantic leprechaun arms awkwardly at passers-by and of late he has decorated his crock of gold with silver tinsel. The other day I saw him leaning against a lamppost on the phone, with his huge fake head under his arm. He didn’t look Irish, which made it all the more wonderful. He’s probably an economic downturn migrant from the BRIC area who’s heard that no one throws a recession session quite like the Irish.

It’s not all fun and games though. There are feuds on the streets; warring factions have developed. Resentment is building.

You can see why.

Way before economic opportunism was in fashion, an old man from Cavan had an idea. He decided to put on a tweed cap and a patchwork waistcoat and sit on Molly Malone banging on a badhrán. The tourists loved it. He’d motion to them to come sit beside him and encouraged them to take photographs. He even bought spare tweed caps for them to pose with in the pictures. Once, when I was in my first year of university, I pretended to be a German tourist just to get a picture with him. If somebody else tried to sit down on the statue beside him, he’d snarl at them and tell them to clear off. He had the kind of audacity I can only dream of.

The good old days


It may be easy to mark your territory when the property market’s booming but things have changed. A few weeks ago, I saw my tweed-capped friend outside River Island, patting his badhrán with a sour face. Two American tourists stopped to have a look at him and quick as lightning he beamed. After both of them had had a go of the badhrán and dropped a few euro into his cap, he pulled them closer to him. Pointing at the giant leprechaun parading around Molly Malone, he whispered conspiratorially, “See that leprechaun? Don’t bother with him; He’s a fake”.

Budgets aside, recessions in Ireland are pure Gold.

Also, if you find this post facetious, you can read a serious piece about my opinion of the Irish here.

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8 thoughts on “Leprechauns trade in gold as downturn hits the streets

  1. Anyone who finds this post facetious should emigrate.

    I remember when I first saw the big headed leprachaun. I was back in Dublin (after emigrating) and my first thought was ‘awww jesus…’ my second thought was ‘awww genius’.

      • If no-one was there beforehand, he was completely legit to be there, and similarly legit to not be gentle to stop people trying to steal his spot (which is exactly what did happen).

        I thought you’d like this by the way. (and funny you mention what goes around….), after reading this piece, and reflecting on how the guy had his spot stolen, I thought what if someone ELSE in a leprechaun costume came along and started busking right beside the other guy? And lo and behold, what did I see on saturday morning on the way to work? Two giant leprechauns by the statue.

        Made me very pleased 🙂

      • hehe, I saw that too! And funnily, one of them is about one giant leprechaun head taller than the other! When I passed they were posing together for a photograph.. maybe they’re besties, or brothers..!

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