True stories of the supernatural…

Thoor Ballylee, which became a home for WB Yeats and his family from 1916, drawn by Lady Gregory’s son Robert,  and used in volume two of Visions and Beliefs.

Thoor Ballylee, which became a home for WB Yeats and his family from 1916, drawn by Lady Gregory’s son Robert, and used in volume two of Visions and Beliefs.

A little later the fairy made his way to the old woman. “Have you ever seen me before?” asked he.

“Oh maybe I have,” said she.

“Do you remember that I took you to a fort to attend a young woman?”

“I do.”

“When you anointed the child did you touch any part of yourself with the ointment I gave you?”

“I did without knowing it; my eye itched and rubbed it with my finger.”

“Which eye?”

“The left.”

The moment she said that he struck her left eye and took the sight from it. She went home blind in one eye, and was that way the rest of her life.

(Jeremiah Curtin ). …

.... There was girl at Inniskill in the east of the country, of the same name as my own (Dempsey ), was lying on a mat. She never left it for eight years. But one night there was a working-man came to the house, and they gave him lodging for the night, and he watched from the other room, and in the night he saw the outer door open, and three or four girls and boys come in and a piper with them or a fiddle…I am not sure which - and he played to them and they danced, and the girl got up off the mat and joined them. And in the morning when he was sitting at breakfast he looked over to where she was lying and said, “you were the best dancer among them last night.” At last Father Lahiff came to Inniskill, and he came and whatever he did, he drove away what was there, and brought the girl back again, and since then she walks and does the work of the house as well as any other. And Father Lahiff said in the chapel it was a shame for no priest to have done that for her before (Told to Lady Gregory ).

….There was a man got married, and he began to pine away, and after a few weeks the mother asked him what ailed him. And he opened his coat and showed her his breast inside, that was all torn and bloody. And he said: “ that’s the way I am, and that’s what she does to me in the nights.” So the mother brought her out and bid her to pick the green flax, but she was against touching it, but the mother made her. And no sooner than she had touched three blades of it but she said, “I’m gone now,” and away with her. And when they went back into the room they found the daughter (wife ) lying in a deep sleep. (Told to Lady Gregory ).

….There was a woman in Ballinamore died after the baby being born. And her husband took another wife and she was very young. And every night the first wife came to the loft and looked down at her baby, and they couldn’t see her, but they knew she was there by the child looking up and smiling at her. At last someone said that if they’d go up into the loft after the cock crowing three times they’d see her. And so they did and there she was, with her own dress on, a plaid shawl she had brought from America, and a cotton skirt with some edging at the bottom. They went to the priest, and he said Mass in the house and they didn’t see much of her after that. But after a year the new wife had a baby. One day she bid the first child to rock the cradle. But when she sat down a sort of sickness came over her and she could do nothing, she fell into the fire and got a great many burns. It is said that the mother didn’t like to see her child caring for the second wife’s baby. They went to the blessed well at Tubbermacduagh, near Kinvara, and were told to go there every Friday for 12 weeks, and since then she doesn’t come into the house. But the little girl goes out and meets her mother at a faery bush, and sometimes she speaks to her there and sometimes she speaks to her in her dreams. (Mrs Casey ).

…. There was a girl one time, and a boy wanted to marry her, but the father and mother wouldn’t let her have him, for he had no money. And he died and they made a match for her with another. One day she was going out to her cousin’s house, and he came before her and he put out his hand and said: “You promised yourself to me, come with me now.” And she ran, and when she got to the house she fell on the floor. Another day she was out walking with her husband and her brother, and a little white dog with them, and they came to a lake. And he appeared to her again, but the husband and the brother didn’t see him, but the dog flew at him, and began barking at him and he was hitting the dog with a stick, and all the time trying to get hold of the girl’s hand. And the husband and brother wondered what was the dog barking at and why it was drawn down to the lake in the end, and out into the water. For it was out into the deep lake he was wanting to draw the girl. (Mrs Casey ). ….

.... There was a man and a girl that gave one another a hard promise never to marry any other. But he broke his promise and married another. She died and one night he saw her coming across the grass and she kept him in talk until midnight and every night after that. He began to waste away and was thin. His wife asked him what ailed him, and she picked out of him what it was. The next night the girl pleaded with him to come and save her. She would be on the second horse riding towards the gap. And he went and stood there and saw her coming on the second horse heading for the gap, but his courage failed him and he did nothing. He never saw her again. (Peter Hanrahan )

Lady Gregory of Coole started collecting stories from local people in Clare and South Galway in the 1890s. She was sometimes accompanied by WB Yeats, as both found the tales told in the cottages an invaluable source for their work. In 1920 she published Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, in two volumes, considered a classic in anthropological research. The above stories were used to chilling effect by Dr Lucy McDiarmid, Professor of English at Montclair State University, during the recent Autumn Gathering at Coole and Thoor Ballylee.

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