A GHOSTLY WALK IN TIMES PAST ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT

The wind, swaying through the trees at the back of the house, swept up the alleyway in Abbey Terrace, and enhanced the sound of the river, now swelled from days of excessive downpours,… as it trundled alongside the old ruined Abbey.

As she buttoned her rainwear, she thought she could have foregone her old Mailcoach Road walk for one evening. Still, there was a bright moon and the walk always gave her time to reflect and allowed her to aid and abet her fantasy that it was making a difference to her weight. She smiled at her own indulgence as she thought that at least she would not feel so bad about tucking into Annie's chocolate-to-die for gateau on Saturday morning in the Soul and Heal.

There was this great thing about going walking too on one's own - no distracting conversations or the sheer exertion to reply while endeavouring with panting pressure to take that Hill in Green Street. It was lovely to be able to wander freely and faraway in one's mind and sometimes have those maddening encounters with friends and foes and say all the things one ever wanted to say, and magically the right words would come to render, especially your foe, speechless.

How come it never really happened like that in the real world? Well, it was great being a heroine, even if it was only in the darkened and private recess of the mind !

The Abbey walk and Military road
Moving on and musing on her thoughts, she almost walked into the overhanging briars and branches of a neighbour's shrubbery and gave her customary salutation to Gelasius, the last Abbot in residence of Boyle Abbey.

She never could pass the old ruins without being aware she was doing so and marvel at its architectural greatness, now floodlighting its 800 year old historical remains and throwing its own artwork into distant shadows to fire the imagination.

Halloween night - yes, this could be the night that we could see the boys in brown hurrying to evening vespers, covering their tonsures with their deep recessed hoods to allow a small measure of warmth from the autumn chill. Go on with you now girl, she thought, you're feeding the fear and you haven't even started to walk the oldest and scariest street of childhood.

Turning into Military Road which is a quiet thoroughfare with few houses and, even fewer showing signs of life as evening progresses. Nevertheless on a winter's night or an evening with blustery winds, the quietness becomes more audible as the mighty tall cascading branches of the numerous trees shake and sigh, almost as if nature is herself roaring at you to leave your thoughts and notice her.

Even the enveloping blackness of the unlit Sligo Road and its small bushy grove penned behind the high stone wall below the Church of Ireland adds to the darkness awaiting around darkened corners of the mind.

Why did she always expect to see a furtive figure slinking away into Sam McElroy's old Gate-Lodge at the entrance to Stewart's or a pasty face staring out from the middle window of the old stone two-story cottage, or hold down her head and watch out for the puddles as she passed the dark and unlived in old Rectory, just in case she might see something move across the attic window, particularly now as the beautiful full blown moon is shining directly on……..to…….that……part…….of……the……old…….. abandoned house. Or? Was? It?

A beacon of light shines forth from the Garda Station and with the light comes a momentary pause in Halloween hallucinations until she realises that to-night, of all nights, there is no light but candlelight in the King's House - a night indeed for the mythical Green Lady to sally forth, and the ghosts of long-dead soldiers of her Majesty's Colonial past, to be awakened by the sweet scent of her lavender laced apparel.

The house, she thought, even with its face-lift, and even more so now with the flickering candle-light, is awesomely haunting.

She momentarily halts in her tracks and peers through the black railings, closing her eyes and as though in a time tunnel, hearing in the near distance all the sounds of the red-coat trot - as they march in from the quagmire streets of 16th century Boyle town, anxious to warm and dry their bog-sodden feet and sup their broth.

There are other sounds too - coming up from the dank and dreary cells in the belly of the great house - sounds of anguish and pain as lacerated skin is once again whipped and freshly bloodied.

High above, under the vaulted ceilings, M'Lord and M'Lady chat about their forthcoming trip, out of the wilds of rebel-rousing Connaught to the Elizabethan Court of lackeys and ladies in London.

If stones could story-tell , what snippets of history would she like to eavesdrop on, within and without the walls with the ghosts of King's House? A spiralling wind-swept leaf, touching her face, brought her out of her revelry and so she hurriedly increased her stride making up for lost time.

The bright shop fronts of the Main Street caught her attention and little groups of children calling trick and treat reminded her that she must hurry, in order to finish her walk and be home for the Egan-Paul's dunking of Apples, and Kitty the -Hare Story-telling of fado, that formed part of their own Halloween celebrations every year.
Suddenly, and without warning, the town's lights went out and almost as quickly a damp all enveloping mist came swirling down with out the barest of visibility.
That's it !, she said to herself, I'm off home - it would be madness to even try and walk through this - I could, the thought, end up like, in the old stories her Aunt used to tell her about people coming home from rambling with neighbours and meeting the club-footed one and being found wandering aimlessly the next day.

The olde coach road But no sooner had she turned the corner into Green Street than a voice spoke rasping out her name…….. Or at least she thought she heard someone speaking. Peering intently through the foggy mist she could make out a form of a man sitting on a chair, a man with a pipe in his hand.
The album of the mind began to turn back pages - yes it was - the General himself. He lived with his very timid wife, who used to give her brothers and her, lovely hot scones besides an enormous open grate fire. But he was dead over 40 years - how could he be nodding his head at her?


Panic gripped her and she felt so scared - what was happening? Had she died? Or had she, while stepping over the big pool of water at Wynne's corner. stepped into the space between the mist and the light? She would turn back. But then she felt a hand on her back propelling her forward, try as she might to resist!!!.


"O'God, save me"! she said out loud, but tonight he must have been busy elsewhere, as there did not appear to be anyone listening. Instead she could smell - something peaty and perhaps even rubbery burning. O, no, the two houses beside her mother's were on fire and there was an air of sadness which she felt rather than saw - there was her father carrying out one of the bags he used in the Bakery and he was crying too. She had never seen him crying. She wanted to touch him but she could not free herself from the tight, unseen grip that was holding her back.

She looked across at the Princess Hotel and Michael was standing there, just like he did when she was younger, calling her across with a curl of his index finger and little Punch was barking at his side. He had on his brown shop-coat, which he could never button because his stomach was so fat. And why did he always close the big heavy door behind him when he called her - it made everything so dark and he looked, with his long white beard, very scary too, especially to a small child.
His sisters, especially Bea, were nice. She remembered once when she was sick, Bea sent her over a packet of dates- very nicely wrapped - horrible really but then, her mother said it was a nice gesture.

Now Rosie and Vera who lived next door to the Ward sisters really knew how to treat children. They had a beautiful, Victorian style sweetshop and gosh, there it was! and she was upstairs with Vera, getting ready for bed. Sometimes Rosie went away and she had to keep company with Vera.

It wasn't too bad until, Vera started to comb her long white hair, which she always kept up at the back of her head in a bun. She looked more like a witch when it was down. And she had to sleep in the same bed as her. Still they could tell good ghost stories.

They were very old and lived through the beginning of the century and had lots of old stories about when the black and tans were in Boyle. They helped to alert the priest saying mass on the top of the Curlieus by throwing stones from child to child once they saw the tans coming out of the King's House.

But the funniest story was about Jerome a relative of Vera and Rosie in the USA. He died and was cremated but he had asked that his ashes be buried in Assylinn . His ashes were sent to the sisters in a sealed tin, just very similar to the ones people used in those days for snuff - the awful smelling brown stuff some people put up their noses. as they said, to clear the head!

As it happened in those days many women also had this habit and Mrs. Cox, Rosie and Vera's mother did so too. She was a little short-sighted and it was her treat when stoking the ashes in the morning to put her hand up on the little shelf over the fireplace, that was in everyone's kitchen in those days and pinch a little snuff.

One day a letter arrived from America saying that some of their relatives were now in a position to travel and give Jerome his final death wish - for his ashes to be buried in Boyle. Rosie, who in this family was generally the one who went out and about and met the townspeople - Vera was really relegated to her little shop adjoining the house and was like Martha in the bible, she prepared the meals and fed the cat.

When Rosie reached for the tin of ashes she found it almost empty. Where were they? She asked her mother who just shook her head and could not help her and suddenly it dawned on Rosie just where the ashes had gone - up her mother's nostrils - because she realized the two tins were sitting together on the shelf and as her mother never looked up when she reached for her snuff - it was just an automatic gesture - she never knew she was using poor old Jerome's burned bones instead.


Suddenly a wail of a cry cut through the fog and everything else. She looked further up the street and saw on Chapman's roof a scene from Ghostbusters - something like candy floss but grey and God almighty it couldn't be -

but yes it was - a banshee and now she realized that the times when she thought she heard cats crying outside at night it may really have been the tortuous and anguish cry of the Reaper of Death - who was it calling tonight? It appeared to float and glide across the rooftops and she hoped that it would not come closer as surely to look in its eyes would be terrifying.

As if that apparition wasn't enough now she could hear horses hooves and the trundling of carriage wheels along the cobbled surface. Not Mulhall - the headless horseman and his coach carrying its lifeless remains - sometimes in the dead of night and while she was tucked up warmly in her bed she oft heard the sounds but this was the first time she actually saw the terrible sight and now as it began to come closer to her she jumped out of its way -

the four horses passed by, steaming and drenched with sweat as they made the ascent up the hill pulling the coach with its darkened windows and the driver - with a gaping void where his head should have been.

Echoes of "Mulhall will get you" if you wander out after night came back to haunt her. The mists swirled in and out of the scene - now she could see it, now she couldn't as it passed over the top of the hill. She longed to get home but try as she might, her body would only walk in one direction - up. She crossed over the street above the pump as she remembered the many ghost stories her friend had told her - the night that was in it many of those creepy tales might take form --- whoosh.

Whoosh, ...she felt she had seen enough for one night. She was now walking past Kilkenny's but strange, it had no high Eircom wall - instead there were rows of small odd shaped houses and she could see candle lights making little pin pricks through the mist.

Stewart's tall trees swayed dangerously behind the houses with their branches scraping and banging furiously against the estate wall as though they were very angry indeed. What evil was unleashed this night at nature's displeasure?

A very pale faced women with long black hair came into view among the trees - it was the old witch of the glen making its nightly visit across the fields to Kilkenny's,-maybe even to consort with the fairies at the far end of Old Fort lane. She decided to cross again and walk along the side of the Slated Halls - she just hoped that Mary Kate Dolan didn't call her to do a message tonight because she wasn't coming back this way again!
Fear clutched at her stomach as she saw flickering light coming from the fairy fort , the little people must be out and about too - not that she wanted to meet them either - but they didn't seem as threatening as the Caspers she had already encountered.

She saw a figure coming towards her, wearing a long black cloak and a square hat pulled down over her forehead so that the eyes were hidden. She carried a small black bag and she seemed to be beckoning her on. She stopped .

Lowparks and Church of Ireland

Now she appeared to be warning her to go no further. What could she do? She was being moved on against her will by some unseen force. She gasped as the old woman put her hand out to stop her moving forward and she realised it was the old midwife herself and she heard a sound as though it came from the bottom of a tunnel, "don't go any further" it said, " for those who cannot rest walk unseen tonight, making mischief and mayhem" . " Beware, take care and return from whence you cam" and with that she vanished.

Why were her feet refusing her commands? She did not want to be a second longer on this road and it had got even darker now - even the new lights at the Church were switched off tonight. Well she wouldn't be going in there anyway, she thought.

But no sooner had she formed the words in her head than that was exactly where she went - opening the gate herself. It now felt like she was watching this daft person move along and she was out of her own body - in the spirit world and now she was going to go into the dark graveyard that always scared her with its macabre vaults and tombs straight out of Dracula.

Her brother P.J. had a few unkind friends who had locked him in one of the vaults and he had to stay in it for hours!
She remembered looking through the slit in the wall, at the back of the church to see the sword lying atop the coffin and pretending she saw it because everyone else seemed to have seen it. She stopped in her tracks - what was that - a shadow - was there some other daft idiot out tonight.

She felt a chilly wind seeping through her and shuddered - her nerves wouldn't take any more of this. There was a smell of rotten flesh and the ground underneath and all around her seemed to be heaving and breathing and she could hear soft thuds as grass and gravel and earth mixed together and fell to one side.



"O dear God", was the graveyard coming alive - she felt herself shriek but no one would hear her here. Something furry brushed her face and she really yelled this time but it couldn't have been bats - although she knew there were millions of them in the area - as this was not their season and they would be chilling out in some smelly old cave deep within the Bricklieve mountains.
She was numb with expectation - she felt sick and then she saw the shadow again - only this time it had taken form and it was coming for her - tonight she would be one of them and she would have to walk the Green Road for eternity.

What had her mother often told her - " it's not the dead you need to be afraid of, but the living". Well she was wrong about that one because it was a definitely dead Johndoe Reoilly coming for her now with his lopsided cap and toothy grin - except there were more missing teeth than she remembered and he had chains around his body that rattled every time he moved.

His face was hideous and with his mouth opened she could see that his teeth were fang-like and had something that looked like blood coated on to them and though a small man, he appeared very large to her with his arms that stretched out to wrap around her shoulders.

The fear

She couldn't even turn around because he had pounced on her so quickly. She had memories of him going home at night singing, which was a lot nicer to think about that what confronted her now.

It began to rain and suddenly her mind cleared - what was she thinking off - all she had to do was to float back into her body and think nice thoughts - call on the Warrior angel to help her and hey presto she would be out of the clutches of ghouls and ghosts. She tried and tried again but it was no use - her body refused to accommodate her. She had left it to late and she was now condemned to walk or float her street forever.

So any night, reader, that you take the old mailcoach road either for leisure or as an escape route when other spirits are within, remember this old spirit .
She could still be lurking about and might decide one body is as good as another.


The end ? happy halloween

Written by Maire Paul , Boyle

home to the green

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