Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

The Ghost of Sneem

SOME time after Pat Doyle was killed by the ghost, my husband, Martin Doyle, was at work on an estate at some distance from Sneem, and one evening the gentleman who employed Martin told him to go that night on an errand to Sneem.
"Well," said he, "it's too late and the road is very lonesome. There is no one to care for my mother but me, and if anything should happen to me she'd be without support. I'll go in the morning."
"That will not do," said the gentleman: "I want to send a letter, and it must be delivered to-night."
"I'll not risk it; I'll not go," said Martin.
Martin had a cousin James, who heard the conversation and, stepping up, he said, "I'll go. I am not afraid of ghost or spirit, and many a night have I spent on that road."
The gentleman thanked him and said:
"Here is a sword for you, if you need it." He gave James the letter with directions for delivering it.
James started off, and took every short cut and by-path, and when he thought he was half-way to Sneem a ghost stood before him in the road, and began to make at him. Whenever the ghost came near, James made a drive at him with the steel sword, for there is great virtue in steel, and above all in steel made by an Irish blacksmith. The ghost was darting at James, and he driving at the ghost with his sword till he came to a cross-road near Sneem. There the ghost disappeared, and James hurried on with great speed to Sneem. There he found that the gentleman who was to receive the letter had moved to a place six miles away, near Blackwater bridge, half-way between Sneem and Kenmare. The place has a very bad name to this day, and old people declare that there is no night without spirits and headless people being around Blackwater bridge. James knew what the place was, but he made up his mind to deliver the letter. When he came to the bridge and was going to cross it a ghost attacked him. This ghost had a venomous look and was stronger than the first one. He ran twice at James, who struck at him with the sword. Just then he saw a big man without a head running across the road at the other side of the bridge and up the cliff, though there was no path there. The ghost stopped attacking and ran after the headless man. James crossed the bridge and walked a little farther, when he met a stranger, and the two saluted each other and the man asked James where he lived, and he said: "I came from Drumfada." "Do you know what time it is?" asked James. "I do not; but when I was passing that house just below there the cocks were beginning to crow. Did you see anything?" "I did," said James, and he told him how the ghost attacked him and then ran away up the cliff after the headless man.
"Oh," said the stranger, "that headless body is always roaming around the bridge at night; hundreds of people have seen it. It ran up the cliff and disappeared at cock-crow, and the ghost that attacked you followed when the cocks crowed."
The stranger went on and James delivered the letter. The man who received it was very thankful and paid him well. James came home safe and sound, but he said: "I'd be a dead man this day but for the steel."
"Could you tell me a real fairy tale?" asked I of the old woman. "I could," said she, "but to-day I'll tell you only what I saw one night beyond Cahirciveen:
Once I spent the night at a house near Waterville, about six miles from Derrynane. The woman of the house was lying in bed at the time and a young child with her. The husband heard an infant crying outside under the window, and running to the bed he said:
"Yerra, Mary, have you the child with you?"
"Indeed, then, I have, John."
"Well, I heard a child crying under the window. I'll go this minute and see whose it is."
"In the name of God," screamed the wife, "stop inside! Get the holy water and sprinkle it over the children and over me and yourself."
He did this, and then sprinkled some in the kitchen. He heard the crying go off farther and farther till it seemed half a mile away: it was very pitiful and sad. If he had gone to the door the man of the house would have got a fairy stroke and the mother would have been taken as a nurse to the fort.
This is all the old woman told. When going she promised to come on the following day, but I have not seen her since. The blind man informed me some evenings later that she was sick and in the "ashpitl" (hospital). Her sickness was caused, as she said, by telling me tales in the daytime. Many of the old people will tell tales only in the evening; it is not right, not lucky, to do so during daylight.

Next: The Dead Mother