Visit Ireland's "Last Leprechaun Whisperer" and see if you've got the gift to carry on his legacy

Meet Kevin "McCoillte" Woods, Ireland's self-proclaimed "Last Leprechaun Whisperer." He lives in Carlingford, County Louth, where he protects Ireland's 236 last remaining leprechauns. His work has paid off, too–in 2009, after six years of lobbying from Woods and other like-minded leprechaun devotees, the European Union declared leprechauns a protected species under the European Habitats Directive. 

Recently, Alan and Muireann of Ireland AM interviewed Kevin. The interview starts at 58:20 if you want to watch. I've transcribed some of what Woods had to say about leprechauns and his history with them:

What is a "leprechaun whisperer"?: "I talk to leprechauns. I communicate with them and my job really is to make sure that they survive as a species. There are 236 left. There were millions of them and they all died out except for 236."

What do they look like?: "Well, they are spirits and they manifest themselves to me in a form that I want to see them in. You may see them as angels or you may see them as fairies. You see them in whatever form you see them. At the moment I see them as children. Before, I saw them as old men in the same mode as you would think 'leprechaun,' but now I see them as children."

Why are there only 236 left?: "The rest of them all died and effectively what happened was that the leprechaun spirit attached itself to the human spirit, and it didn't do that until the Vikings came to Ireland, let's say around 802. And they were so cruel that the leprechaun said that he would help the human. And his spirit became attached to the human spirit. And as years went on and after the famine and people went away to America and whatever and made more money, they stopped believing in leprechauns. So it's based on spirit, and it's based on belief. When the belief died, there were only 236 believers left . . . It's a wee bit complicated."

What will happen when you die?: "Originally they asked me to pass on the gifts that I had two hours before I die to the eldest of a family of nine of seven sons. I have the seven sons ready to go and two daughters. . . but none of my family want it . . . Now I've asked the leprechauns what they want me to do about that. So anyone who comes in now into my cavern, or into their cavern, really, which is below, it's subterranean…. Well, I give them a test when they're in there, and if they're psychic they can get the gift. But they don't get it until I die . . . I won't call it Messiah, but I'm the protector of those that were left. I was chosen by them to be the protector, unknown to myself at the time. I got them protected by the European Union in 2009, as a species."

If you want to see if you've got the gift, you can visit the caverns and try your luck. On his website, Woods relates the history of the leprechauns and describes the caverns where they live:

Millions of years ago Leprechauns lived in Clans all over Ireland. They communicated with each through a series of tunnels connected to a central gathering point in a vast plain below Athlone.

Once a year clan elders met in Athlone to exchange information on the happening in all parts of Ireland.  Many tunnels still exist today following the leprechaun's demise. The 236 leprechauns still alive now live in a cavern below the Cooley Mountains on Sliabh Foy and this is linked by a tunnel under Carlingford to a cavern on the shores of Carlingford Lough. It lies hidden beneath the Carlingford Folklore Park on Ghan Road.

Visitors can take Woods' one-hour tour of the Leprechaun Cavern, which includes storytelling entertainment, for 10 euros per child, 5 euros per adult accompanying children, 10 euros for adults without children. 

To learn more, check out the Last Leprechaun Whisperer's website.

Previously: Leprechaun opens car door for pantless man