Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turnd round, walk on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
Cavan had its share of haunted houses when we were youngsters.
They were usually old dilapidated mansions; relics of the
past; like the house at Shinning Wood in the Parish of Killann,
where a room was permanently locked; never occupied; reputedly,
because it was haunted by some frightful fiend and it was
said that if you listened as you passed its huge black iron
gates you could hear the dragging of big heavy chains across
the room by this fiend. Needless to say, we children didnt
tarry as we passed and if the gates happened to rattle we
ran like the clappers.
In the 1940s long before the advent of TV and sophisticated
multimedia entertainment, my mother often read to us a ghost
story by Kitty the Hare from one of the weekly
issues of Irelands Own. These stories
were very scary, particularly during the long dark nights
of winter when we huddled around the kitchen fire listening
spellbound to detailed accounts of paranormal incidents.
There was an air of authenticity about these stories, which
usually commenced with the words God Bless the Hearers,
the detailing of paranormal events were always prefixed
by the exclamation God between us and all harm but
what next was. This comment alarmed us so much that
we would put our hands over our ears in anticipated panic.
The stories ended with Kittys promise to have another
equally true and frightening story for us in the following
Our mother, seeing our hypnotised state of near panic would
always say, now children that story is the Gospel
truth that never happened. We would all laugh, relieved
that it was only a story, a figment of Kitty the Hares
imagination and to our mothers relief we would gladly
escape to the comfort of our beds.
In those days Cavan people seldom spoke about ghosts. If
anybody mentioned some local incident connected with the
paranormal the conversation was discreetly changed, especially
if children were within earshot. The reason for this was
because such incidents were true and perhaps witnessed by
one of the listeners or a near relative; in other words
these incidents were serious matters of fact, which occurred
not only during the hours of darkness but during daylight
hours as well. Nobody wished to talk about them; they were
not stories to be lightly told for the purpose of entertainment.
Cavan people, in those days regarded ghosts as the souls
of the deer departed serving out their time on earth for
some purpose or other; perhaps, they were souls of those
who died during the famine from starvation or drowned in
the coffin ships bound for America - some of the three and
a half million people who made up the decline in Irelands
population during the hundred years prior to 1946 when the
population of our Ulster counties fell from 740,000 to 264,000
people. We should not forget that up to the early 1950s,
a prayer in Latin known as the de profundus,
commencing with the words De profundis clamati ad
te, Domine (Out of the depths we cry to thee
OLord) was said in Ireland daily after mass
for these poor souls.
The following are details of two ghostly incidences, which
occurred in East Cavan in the last century and no doubt
were manifestations of the dear departed.
During 1946 our family moved to a large rented house in
east Cavan. Early one morning, my four-year old sister awoke
in bed crying loudly and my mother immediately ran to pacify
her. My sister was very frightened and she explained that
she had seen a woman standing beside the front window of
the bedroom, which faced the public roadway. Eventually,
my mother convinced her that she had been dreaming.
About six months later my older sister, then 15, was one
morning lying fully awake in bed in the same room; the door
of the room was open and she saw a women enter from the
dark corridor to the room and stand beside the bed looking
across towards the rooms front window. My sister assumed
the person was mother and looked up to speak to her. She
was startled to see a strange woman. She immediately covered
her head with the bed clothes and convinced herself she
was imagining things. After a few minutes she looked again.
The woman was now standing near the window; my sister screamed
and again hid under the bedclothes. Our father who was downstairs
at the time came running to see what was wrong; the lady
had vanished; he pacified my sister; told her she would
sleep in another room in future and he made her promise
not to tell anybody about the incident, especially her younger
Years later, both sisters compared their recollections of
that ghostly lady. Their recollections were similar; the
lady was 20 to 30 years of age, of average height, beautiful
but had very tired features as if she was waiting a long,
long time. She wore a purple tight-sleeved blouse and long
dark skirt; her hair was swept upwards to a bun on top.
She had a green scarf tied low around her head and her complexion
was dark enough to be considered foreign, like a native
of India. The question is why was she there and so
interested in the window. Was she missing the children
of the previous occupier whose ancestors owned the property?
These children often passed by the house or was she waiting
for a long lost lover? We can only speculate!
One evening in the year 1893 Mrs OReilly filled her
bucket with water from the well a short distance up from
the shore of Loch Sillan and as she turned she saw three
men standing under one of the old nearby threes. They were
dressed in old fashion clothes, which was not too uncommon
at that time. She did not recognise them but she saluted
them as she passed saying Grand evening men; I didnt
see you in the shadows there on my way to the well.
Then surmising that they were waiting for someone she added
Ye look tired men; are ye waiting there long?
One of them replied Yes, Mrs OReilly weve
been waiting here a long time now. Surprised that
they knew her name and thinking that they might be friends
of her husband she invited them up to the house for a cup
of tea. Thank you kindly Mrs, one of them replied
and he added but we cant leave this spot; we
have to wait here until your son becomes a Bishop.
Thinking that they were joking she replied sure myself
and himself are not long married; we have no children yet,
and anyway, we have only a small holding, and could never
afford the education. She knew from their solemn expressions
that they were not joking. She suddenly realised that they
were not of this world. She bid them God Bless
and hurried home.
Years later, in the summer of 1944, our local curate, Rev.
Father Connolly announced at Sunday mass that the 11am mass
on the following Sunday would be said by the recently appointed
Bishop of Saint Georges Newfoundland, Bishop Michael
OReilly, a native of the parish. He said that it would
be a great day of celebration for the parish.
As a small boy in my scouts uniform I took part in
the parade which marched up the Cootehill Road proudly led
by a pipe band and included the local brigades of the LDF,
the LSF and Red Cross followed by Bishop OReilly.
The parade turned down the Cavan road to our church. In
a welcoming speech Rev. Connolly said that he and the Bishop
were old friends; in the scholarship examination for entry
to St. Patricks College, Bishop OReilly had
come first and he an unworthy second. He said
that the bishop was among the youngest appointed to that
high office and the very long wait for the parish to produce
a Bishop was well worthwhile.
Yes, it was a long long wait for the three men standing
under the tree near the well along the banks of Loch Sillan.
Taken from Breffni Blue