Belfast Telegraph

Fairy hoaxer's Northern Ireland daughter to feature in film on faked photos

Christine Lynch with a book about the hoax
Christine Lynch with a book about the hoax
One of the famous fairy pictures
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A Belfast pensioner - the daughter of one of the women behind one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century - is to feature in a documentary about the Cottingley Fairies.

The famous photos were taken in July and September 1917 by 16-year-old Elsie Wright and her nine-year-old cousin Frances Griffiths in the village of Cottingley, near Bingley in west Yorkshire.

The images of the two girls with fairies were exposed as fakes in 1983.

A collection of the Cottingley Fairies images went under the hammer at Dominic Winters Auctioneers recently.

They fetched more than £50,000, but three of what are considered the most important images remained unsold.

Six of the lots, including the three which did not sell, belonged to Christine Lynch, the daughter of Frances Griffiths.

The two girls believed in fairies and set out to prove their existence, little knowing their practical joke would stir such controversy and fool such eminent figures as Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The truth behind the photographs only came to light when Frances confessed that all the images were staged, except a picture of the two fairies on their own, which she always insisted was authentic.

Interest in the photographs has not abated over the years, which does not surprise Frances's daughter Christine, who has spoken of her relief that she is still in possession of the three most important images in the collection.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Lynch said: "There are two different kinds of photograph - the original ones and ones that were touched up by Arthur Conan Doyle.

"The ones I have, which are the ones that were never touched up and which were only ever to be shared among the family, are very, very rare.

"These are the most important ones, but these are the ones that didn't sell, which I am actually pleased about now because a television company is proposing to do a documentary about the Cottingley Fairies, retelling the story.

"So, I am so glad I still have them.

"Since the auction, people have been in contact with me offering to buy them, but I won't sell them now.

"There has always been so much interest in the photographs, which I am not surprised about at all because there is an enigma there.

"It wasn't until 1983 that is was revealed that they were faked, so until then the people who wanted to believe cried 'no fake'.

"But once it was agreed most were faked, the interest has been on the fake ones, but not on the one my mother said were genuine and that she really did see fairies."

Christine, now in her 88th year, was aged 16 when her mother told her about the photographs - the one and only time her mother told the incredible tale or allowed Christine to speak to her about the pictures.

"The thing about it is, I grew up knowing nothing about them because my mother never spoke about them, except for one time when I was 16 and my brother was 17," she said.

"She told us the story and then said, 'There now, that's the story and I don't want to hear about it again'.

"She was traumatised by the publicity and traumatised because it was a lie.

"She was only nine and she didn't like living that lie.

"It was never meant to go out into the public, but in 1920 it got out of hand and she was caught up in the lie and couldn't get out of it. It haunted her all her life and she hated it.

"It was only in 1978 that she began to really talk about it, but even then we didn't know they were fake, except for one that (she said) is genuine.

"That photograph wasn't planned.

"Neither of the girls are in it and it is totally different from the rest, which you can see are solid. But in this one the fairies are transparent and some of them are only beginning to become visible.

"This one is absolutely delightful and there is no way it could have been faked.

"I have the original of that photograph, which is very rare and very valuable, but interestingly that didn't sell, which surprised and amused me."

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