An #Irish Ghost Story for #Halloween | Sabina of Ross Castle

My father was not known for his kindliness; the Black Baron, they called him, and with good reason. He couldn’t abide lawlessness, demanded obedience, and ruled with an iron hand.

That grim, grey castle was not the place for a young girl to grow up in. For the most part, I was left alone, save for my poor governess. I was always tricking her with false errands, that I might escape her sharp eyes and those unforgiving walls.

Wandering the shores of my beloved Lough Sheelin, its crystal water bestowing kind kisses upon my toes, the land folding its soft green hills around me like a cloak, the trees bending in obeisance beneath that vast blue arch of sky, whispering their fluttering prayers as I passed by, it was impossible to see the danger.

I was a prize to his enemies, the wily O’Reillys, so he liked to say. I looked into his cold eyes, and believed that kidnap could only result in death… most likely mine. He told me in no uncertain terms what they would do to me first. I protested that no human being could display such brutality towards another. He just laughed, but there was no mirth in it. I was left in no doubt my father would not be moved to bargain for my release, nor waste time and effort in a rescue.

Ghost holding lantern in the archway of an ancient abbey

Even so, I risked my life as often as possible for those precious moments of freedom. I grew daring. I wandered further. Recklessly, I visited the village of Ross, drawn by an ever growing need for companionship, social interaction, and what the Irish fondly called ‘craic’.

Contrary to my father’s assertions, the village folk were kind, caring. They welcomed me into their homes and their lives. And that was where I discovered the true measure of the kind of man my father was.

I asked them about the cross under the tree. At first, they did not want to tell me, but I made them do it, and after, I wished I had not.

One day, it happened that a loaf of bread was stolen from a woman in the village. My father, who was hunting with his men nearby, heard the commotion, and went to investigate. On the way, he found a beggar asleep under a tree, and accused him of the crime.

The poor man wept, protested his innocence, pleaded for mercy, but my father’s face was hard as a hammer, and the place where his heart should have been was empty. He ordered the vagrant to be hung to death from the branches of the very tree under which he had just sheltered, and thus my fathers justice was done.

Too late, the thief was discovered to have been a stray hound. The people of the village were sorrowful, and regretted such a cruel and needless death. They carved a stone cross and set it over the man’s grave in the shadow of the tree.

I left that sad place, and went walking with my thoughts beside the River Inny, and there on the bridge which crosses that shining band of water, I met Orwin. My fate was sealed the moment I looked into his eyes.

Green as the river water, they were, and deep as the bed of Lough Sheelin. This I know, for I fell into them just as I fell into his arms, and believe me when I say that his embrace was deepest of all.

He had that skin only the Irish have, pale and even as milk, and when he laughed, the whole world lit up, and he shook his red-gold hair into a fiery cloud which rivalled even the glow of the sun.

We chatted on the bridge until dusk, then he walked me back along the river, but not all the way home. As the son of an O’Reilly chieftain, he was exactly the villain my father expected to kidnap me. Orwin and his clan were the savage native Irish my father had built his castle in defence against.

We were young, and in love. That made us foolish. As time passed, spring exploded into summer, then faded into autumn. Winter flexed its grip over the land, cruel and violent like my father. As storm after storm cracked the sky and rocked the earth, our desire grew, and our secret became harder to bear.

There seemed only one solution. One night, we stole a boat and made our escape out across the lough. On the far shores, we intended to seek a new life together as man and wife.

We cared not how the tempest stirred the lake into a wild beast. We would have risked any danger. The waters rose and fell, bucked and swelled, while our little curragh gallantly attempted to ride the peaks and troughs. But the rain came down hard and soon filled the frail little craft. Orwin battled bravely with the oar while she floundered out of control, but the current snatched it from his grasp. We were helplessly adrift, far from shore, with no choice but to accept our fate.

In the dark and the wind and the wet, we could do nothing but cling each to the other as the bones of the boat were sucked into the depths beneath us. It wasn’t long however, before the cold ate into our feeble flesh, rendering us weak as new babes, and tore us easily apart. The waves bore us rapidly away to opposite corners of the lake, so it seemed.

I tried hard to stay alive. I called Orwin’s name, but the water was in my mouth, my ears, my eyes, and the roar of the storm and rush of the water was all I heard and felt and saw. I reached out with desperate hands, searching for the touch of my beloved, but he was gone and all I found was empty water.

I didn’t remember being dragged from Lough Sheelin’s vicious clutches. I awoke three days later in my bedchamber, and my first words were of Orwin. They told me the storm had released his body, allowed it to wash limp and pale upon the shore, that his family had carried it away.

I looked out the window, and I no longer loved the lake. The grim, grey castle was my prison, and I determined it would be my tomb. I locked myself in my chamber, allowing no one access. Neither food nor wine passed my lips. I drifted into sleep, and in my dreams, I danced in Orwin’s arms.

They say my father regretted my death, but I neither know nor care if it is true. They say he haunts the castle, searching for me, hoping one day our paths will cross, that he might apologise and make amends. But he cannot bring my Orwin back. Nor can I let go of the earthly places where we celebrated our love. I am drawn to them, bound to the memories and the joy they still hold like a moth returns always to the flame which burns.

Ross Castle near Oldcastle in Co. Meath is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. It is listed on Lonely Planet as one of their top ten haunted buildings, Go Ireland list it as their No.1 haunted hostelry (yes, you can sleep there, if you dare!),  and Irish Central also include it in their list of Ireland’s most haunted castles, although they show a picture of the WRONG castle… there is another Ross Castle in Killarney.

Ross Castle Co Meath by Scolairebocht – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Many guests have reported ghostly encounters whilst staying there (just Google, if you want to chaeck them out.). I went there for dinner one night during the summer, and found it to have a perfectly pleasant and peaceful atmosphere. If Sabina and her father were wandering the halls that night, they left us well alone.

Ross Castle was built in 1553 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin, aka the Black Baron, as a defence against the native Irish of Cavan. The Nugent family were descendants of Gilbert de Nogent, who left France to join William the Conqueror in his famous 1066 invasion of England. Gilbert was later awarded titles and lands, including the barony of Delvin, as thanks for his role in the conquest.

However, Ross Castle is most famous for its association with Myles ‘the Slasher’ O’Reilly, who defended the Bridge of Finnea, which is near Ross Castle, from enemy British forces. The story goes that with just one hundred men, he held off a Cromwellian force of over a thousand soldiers. The night before the battle, he and his men stayed at Ross Castle.

There is quite a little twist to the Slasher’s story. Some say he was killed in that battle. However, it is also said that after the battle, he married Catherine O’Reilly, and went on to have three sons and two daughters. Yet another story claims that he escaped the battle altogether, and went to France, where he died some years later.

According to rumour, Myles was buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s Abbey in Cavan, which now lies in ruins. Interestingly, his oldest son, Colonel John O’Reilly, who fought in the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, was buried in 1717 in the graveyard of the now very ruinous Kill church.

It is known that John was seventy years of age when he died, putting the year of his birth as 1647, three years after the Battle of the Bridge of Finnea, thus proving that Myles must have lived beyond it.

But the most intriguing thing about John O’Reilly’s burial is that there are two  tombstones with his name carved on them… which begs the questions, which one is he under, and who is lying under the other one?

If you would like to reblog this post, please use the PRESS THIS button. Hugh has an excellent post on the PRESS THIS  feature, if you want to know more. ☺

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64 Comments on “An #Irish Ghost Story for #Halloween | Sabina of Ross Castle

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  4. Love the story, Ali, and the history that went along with it. A little Romeo and Juliet in there. Very cool that you have haunted castles. Definitely one of my destinations when I visit Ireland 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Oooh…who lies beneath indeed! What a beautifully written story Ali, and I so enjoyed reading about the history of Ross Castle. I lap this stuff up! I must tell my daughter about this most haunted castle in Ireland, except that she will want to go there straight away! Perfect post for Halloween, I hope you had a good one 🙂 I love the photo of you, but I wouldn’t want to bump into your companion on a dark ‘knight’ alone in that castle 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha very funny Sherri! I think I’d rather bump into him than a ghost, although if I knocked him over it would make a terrible clatter and wake everyone up!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha…that’s true Ali, and if anyone wasn’t scared enough already, all that clatter would put the seal on things for sure! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Gosh Ali, such a sad story. I remember you posting this last year, I loved reading it again. I watched a lot of the video this time. Really interesting. I wish they’d knock off the spooky music. They’re talking to humans, if there are any earthbounds around to speak to. It’s also really hard to hear anyone from the otherworld over the music. I did hear one or two things that seem very legitimately like someone was communicating with them. I guess they’re used to people being curious about them. I definitely have mixed feelings about it, trying to imagine the situation from an earthbound’s point of view. In any case, if one of the lovers is still here on earth while the other has crossed over, that would be even more sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I do feel that these films are sensationalising the experience. If the spirits are there, they should be left alone, not interfered with at a whim. It would be very sad if Sabina had not found her way to Orwin after all this time. Do they not try and help the earthbound to cross over?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes. It really depends. I’ve heard that not all paranormal investigators really know how to sense and communicate with spirits. They look for signs you can pick up with your physical senses, and yes, particularly what gets onto TV and in video is often sensationalized. Most people who actually work with those in the spirit world who get called out to a haunted place are there not just to document things but to help, and they will cross over anyone who is willing and ready. It’s hard to know what the motivations of the people doing this video were. They had inconsistent responses to what they were experiencing, and it seemed to me that they were unsure whether to speak differently to a nonphysical person. I also noticed that they never actually made contact with Sabina. That gives me hope that she is in fact no longer there and has crossed over. I feel like when I have some space I could potentially find out for sure.


      • Ali, I’m sure there are many, many tragic stories out there but for some reason this one has really resonated with me. I spend a lot of time on an intuitive group at facebook and I just posted there to ask whether I can help someone cross over at a distance. Tomorrow night I will find out whether Sabina is still earthbound and if there’s anything I can do to help and if she agrees, I’ll be on it. Not without help of my own of course. 🙂 If she’s been separated all this time, that is getting on 400 years, I think, and it’s so unnecessary, and far too long.


    • Thanks, Rachele. I’m flattered that you remember it. I decided to repost it as it is a ghost story, and fits the season so well. Thanks for reading it again! 😊


    • Haha! Thanks! I went to a dinner party there, all the other guests stayed over but Conor and I didnt as we couldnt leave Carys with a minder overnight. I was secretly relieved! But none of my friends encountered any ghostly characters or happenings. Thiugh they didnt sleep very well, either! 😂


  8. Your story was beautiful, and sad. So often stories of young lovers end this way. The castle is amazing. Not at all what I expected. We have a castle here that is always cold. I’ve been there several times, and though they say it’s haunted, I haven’t seen or heard anything.


  9. I love haunted stories and how they make me tingle with chills and thrills. Never figured out why that is but who cares. Wondeful spine tingling story. Sorry for the young couple,though.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That was a brilliant story Ali, I was gripped from the start. There is something spooky about castles at the best of times, but with the kind of history this one has, I would definitely not be spending the night there!


    • Haha! Thanks. I tried to give myself green skin and fangs and stuff but the pic was too small for it to work, and I didnt fancy a close up of my face on the blog! 😁


    • Fancy you remembering that! Yes I posted about it in the summer after I had been there, but thought it would suit the theme of the season, so re-introduced it for my new followers. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oh now, you are doing that Greek charming thing again! I dont often reblog old stuff but it was a difficult week last week, and the old posts fit the theme. I have new stuff coming, and back to the regular twice weekly schedule, you’ll be relieved to know! Thanks for the compliment, btw! 😊

          Liked by 1 person

          • No worries. I doubt anyone noticed – let alone minded. I’m also considering reposting some of my older posts, as I’d posted them back when far fewer people read them. Some deserve a second chance 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • That’s right, they do! I’m surprised at the number of people who hadnt seen mine, I only posted them a year ago. Either that, or they were instantly forgettable! Lol! Dont answer that, I’m joking not fishing! But seriously, yes, older content from the early blogging days is defo worth updating and reposting, I think.

              Liked by 1 person

            • We do forget how fast our audience changes. Within mere months, close friendships are formed, then forgotten in favor of new ones. It’s pretty weird.

              Liked by 1 person

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