Halloween is upon us again. In the past it was a very different occasion and I've written about the Halloween of my childhood before. Now it wouldn't be Halloween without a Ghost story and here's one my Father told1.
"There was a family called Walsh who lived above where your brother Robert now lives in Coolbunnia, The man of the house was a fisherman and was renowned for mischief. He was returning home from fishing one night with his eldest son. They were coming up the lane off the strand when the heard the banshee howling and keening. The son ran away up the lane, but his father stayed behind and crept up to see her. She was sitting on a rock looking out on the river and was combing her hair with a beautiful comb. Now Walsh loved a bit of blackguarding. So he watched the banshee carefully and at some point she dropped the comb to fix her hair and in that instant he ran up, snatched the comb and ran away home.
Meanwhile his son had arrived home and was relating what he had seen to his increasingly concerned mother. Suddenly the door crashed open and there her husband stood laughing and shouting, his eyes wild with the sport. But as he banged the door shut behind him the howls of the enraged banshee could be heard coming up the lane. His son and wife saw a strange eerie light shining under the door and the screaming raised to a furious pitch.
The wife ran to her husband and shook him, asking was he mad or what, how could he bring the banshee on their home and her children, that the demon would murder them all. Realising his mistake, her husband barred the door and they then ran to the windows, checking the latches, pulling the curtains across. He urged his son to put what timber was in the house on the fire. The banshee was rushing round the house, checking for a way in. The windows were shook, the door banged and rattled, the light was seen coming down the chimney. The fire was stoked till the flames rose higher. But it was an open fireplace and they knew that sooner or later they would run out of fuel.
Suddenly the son had an idea. Could they not just give the comb back. But how. It couldn't be thrown out, what if she didn't see it. Would they wait till she came down the chimney, but then the house would be cursed. They considered the dilemma and finally they came up with an idea. The son would retrieve the fire tongs from the kitchen and hold the comb out to the enraged banshee. Once done, his father placed the comb between the iron tongs and the window was opened a crack and the comb pushed out in clear view. The eerie light appeared at the window and the screeching reached a crescendo of rage as the banshee spotted her stolen comb. She grabbed it and the tongs but the boy hung on and a fierce struggle ensued, she pulling with all her demonic strength while the boy hung on to the tongs, terrified it would force open the window, and entering she would kill them all. All at once she relented and departing, she could be heard screeching her way up towards the Minaun, her returned comb firmly in her grasp.
Exhausted, the family slumped down on their bed or slept where they were huddled. Next day the neighbours called and asked after the noise of the banshee they had heard the following night. No one would believe the account, but on the fire tongs being produced, they had to relent with the sight of them in a twisted and mangled state. For years afterwards people coming to the village called in to view the tongs and hear the story"
The banshee, my father claimed, having been bested by the Walsh's, was never heard in Coolbunnia afterwards!
1. Jim Doherty in his book - The Next House has a similar story, but with different details.
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