Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland
In the Way
An old Athenry man who had been as a soldier all through the Indian Mutiny
and had come back to end his days here as a farmer said to me in speaking of
"The Others" and those who may be among them: "There's some places of their own
we should never touch such as the forths; and if ever we cross their pathways
we're like to know it soon enough, for some ill turn they'll do us, and then we
must draw back out of their way... And we should above all things leave the
house clean at night, with nothing about that would offend them. For we must all
die some day, but God knows we're not all fit for heaven just on the minute; and
what the intermediate state may be, or what friends we may want there, I don't
know. No one has come back to tell us that."
I was told by John Donovan:
Before I came here I was for two years in a house outside Cloon. And no one
that lived there ever prospered but all they did went to loss. I sowed seeds and
put in the crop each year, and if I'd stopped there I wouldn't have had enough
to keep trousers to my back. In the way the place must be. I had no
disturbance in the house, but some nights I could hear the barrel rolling
outside the door, back and forwards, with a sort of a warning to me.
I knew another house in Clare where the front door is always shut up and they
only use the back door, but when I asked them the reason they said if they
opened the front door a sudden blast would come in, that would take the roof off
the house. Arid there's another house in Clare built in a forth, a new one, shut
up and the windows closed, for no one can live in it.
In the way? Yes that's a thing that often happens. Sure going into dough, you
might see a house that no man ever yet kept a roof on. Surely it's in the way of
their coming and going.
And Doctor Nolan's father began to build a barn one time, and whatever was
built in the day, in the night it would be pulled down, so at last they gave
over. It was only labour and wages wasted.
No, I never heard or felt anything since I came here. The old people used to
tell many things, they know more than what the youngsters do. My mother saw many
a thing, but they did her no harm. No, I remember none of the stories; since my
children died and a weight came on my heart all those things went from me. Yes,
it's true Father Boyle banished the dog; and there was a cousin of my own used
to live in the house at Garryland, and she could get no sleep for what she used
to feel at night. But Father Boyle came and whatever he did, "You'll feel them
no more," says he, and she never did, though he was buried before her.
That was a bad, bad place we lived in near the sea. The children never felt
anything, but often in the night I could hear music playing and no one else in
the house could hear it. But the children died one by one, passing away without
pain or ache.
All they saw was twice; the two last little girls I had were beside the door
at night talking and laughing and they saw a big dark man pass by, but he never
spoke. Some old thing out of the walls he must have been. And soon after that
One time when I was there a strange woman came in, and she knew everything
and told me everything. "I'd give you money if I had it," said I. "I know well
you haven't much of it," says she; "but take my word and go away out of this
house to some other place, for you're in the way." She told me to tell no one
she came, and that shows there was something not right about her; and I never
saw her any more.
But if I'd listened to her then, and if I knew then what she meant by the
house being in the way I wouldn't have stopped in it, and my seven fine children
would be with me now. Took away they were by them and without ache or pain. I
never had a sign or a vision from them since, but often and often they come
across me in my sleep.
The woman that came to give my wife the warning, I didn't see her, and she
knew all that was in the house and all about me and what money I had, and that I
would grow very poor. And she said that before I'd die, I'd go to the strand and
come back again. And we couldn't know what she meant, and we thought it must
mean that I'd go to America. But we knew it at last. For one day I was washing
sheep down at Calairglissane, and there is said to be the deepest water in the
world in one part of that lake. Arid as I was standing by it, a sheep made a run
and went between my two legs, and threw me into the water, and I not able to
swim. And I was brought on the top of the water safe and sound to land again;
and I knew well who it was helped me, and saved my life. She that had come
before to give advice that would save my children, it's she that was my friend
over there. To say a Mass in the house? No use at all that would have been,
living in the place we did.
But they're mostly good neighbours. There was a woman they used to help, one
of them used to come and help her to clean the house, but she never came when
the husband was there. Arid one day she came and said they were going to move
now, to near Clifden. And she bid the woman follow them, and whenever she'd come
to a briar turned down, with a thorn stuck in the earth, to build a house there.
A Travelling Man:
I was sleeping at a house one time and they came in-the fallen angels. They
were pulling the clothes off me, ten times they did that, and they were laughing
like geese-just the very sound of geese-and their boots were too large for their
feet and were clapping, clapping on the floor. I suppose they didn't like me to
be in it, or that the house was built in one of their passages.
My father was driven out of the little garden house at Castle-boy one time he
went to sleep in it. In the way, I suppose it must have been.
And I knew of a herd's house, where five or six herds went one after another
and every one of them died, and their dogs and their cow. Arid the gentleman
that owned the place came to ask another one to go in it, and his wife said she
wouldn't go, for there was some bad luck about it. But she went after, and she
was a very clean woman, not like some of them that do have the house dirty.
Well, one day a woman came to the door and asked for a dish of oaten meal, and
she took it from the shelf, and gave it to her. "I'll bring it back to you
tomorrow," says she, "it'll be easy getting it then when it's market day." "Do
not," says the woman of the house, "for if you do I won't take it." "Well," says
the stranger, "you'll have luck after this; only one thing I tell you, keep that
door at the back shut, and if you want any opening there, let you open the
window." Well, so she did, and by minding that rule, and keeping the house so
clean, she was never troubled but lived there all her life.
An Island Woman:
There are some houses that never bring luck. There is one over there, out of
this village, and two or three died in it, and one night it blazed up and burned
down, those that were out in the fishing boats could see it, but it was never
known how it happened.
There was a house over in the other village and a woman living in it that had
two forths of land. Arid she had clever children, but the most of them died one
after another, boys and girls, and then the husband died. Arid after that one of
the boys that had died came to her and said "You'd best leave this house or
you'll be as we are, and we are all now living in the Black Rock at the gable
end of the house. Arid two of the McDaraghs are with us there."
So after that she left the house-you can cut grass now m the place where it
was, and it's green all through the summer and the winter--and she went up to
the north side and she married a young man up there, for she was counted a rich
woman. She had but two daughters left, and one of them was married, and there
was a match to be made for the other, but the stepfather wouldn't allow her to
give any of the land to her, so she said she'd go to America, and the priest
drew up a stamped paper for her, that they'd keep a portion of money for her
every year till she'd come back. It wasn't long after that the stepfather was
out in one of the fields one day and two men came and knocked him down and gave
him a beating. And it was his belief it was the father of the girl and one of
the brothers that came to beat him.
And one of the neighbours that went to the house one night saw one of the
brothers standing at the window, plump and plain. And a first cousin of theirs-a
Donovan-was near the Black Rock one night, and he saw them playing ball there.
the whole of them that had gone, and others with them. Arid when they saw him
they whistled to make fun of him, and he went away.
The stepfather died after that, and the woman herself died, and was buried a
week yesterday. And she had one son by the second husband and he was always
silly-like, and the night she died he went into the room where she was, to the
other side of the bed, and he called out, and then he came out walking crooked,
and his face drawn up on one side; and so he is since, and a neighbour taking
care of him. And you'd hardly mind what a poor silly creature like him would
say, but what he says is that it was some of the boys that were gone that were
in it. And now there's no one to take up the land that so many were after; the
girl in America wouldn't for all the world come back to that place.