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The Legend Of The Churchyard Bride
by Father James E. McKenna
A very interesting legend connected with Errigal graveyard in Co. Monaghan would have probably perished with the other folklore of the locality had not Carleton enshrined it in his beautiful ballad, "The Churchyard Bride".
It was commonly believed in the neighborhood a century ago, that Errigal graveyard was haunted by an amourous spirit which appeared occasionally to young people whose relatives were buried here; and its appearance was always an omen of death to those who had the misfortune to encounter it. When a funeral took place it accosted the young person who remained last in the graveyard, over whom it exercised a fascinating influence. If that person was a young man, it appeared as a charming maiden, inspired him with an irresistible affection and extracted a promise that he should meet her there, on that day a month later. When, on the contrary, it appeared to a girl, it assumed the appearance of a graceful and attractive young man and secured a similar promise.
"If I to thy youthful heart am dear, one month from hence thou shalt meet me here."
This promise was always sealed by a kiss, in which the poison of death was communicated to the mortal who received it. The lovers parted, but no sooner had the victim passed the boundary of the graveyard, then he or she recollected the history of the graveyard spectre and abandoned all hope of life. Death in all cases supervened and the victims' remains were carried to the graveyard on the day the fatal tryst was to have been kept.
"The month is closed and green Truaghs pride,
Killeevy' O Killeevy'
Is married in death, and side-by-side he slumbers
now with his churchyard bride,
By the bonnie green woods of Killeevy."
Carleton, in a note to his ballad, writes: " I was shown the grave of a young person about eighteen years of age, who was said, about four months before, to have fallen a victim to it, and not many months previously a man in the same parish declared that he had given the promise and the fatal kiss, and consequently looked upon himself as lost. He took fever, died, and was buried on the day appointed for the meeting, which was exactly a month from the interview. Incredible as it may appear, the friends of those two persons declared (at least those of the young man did), to myself that the particulars of the meeting were detailed repeatedly by the two persons, without the slightest variation."
There are several cases of the same kind mentioned but the two now alluded to, are the only ones that came within my personal knowledge. It appears, however, that the spectre does not confine its operations to the graveyard only, as there have been instances mentioned of its appearance at weddings and dances, where it never failed to secure its victims by dancing them into pleuritic fevers.
This quaint belief is seldom, if ever mentioned in the locality at present, and as we have said, if it had not been for Carleton, it would probably have been forgotten with the host of beautiful folktales that were familiar around the firesides of Errigal Truagh.
The fact that the spectre was supposed to attend weddings and dances, suggests a motive for the legend, among a people who have been noted at times, for the jealous care with which they safe guarded the innocence and purity of their young people. The fear of the spectre lover was well calculated to make young people of both sexes very cautious about forming intimate acquaintance with strangers.
Resources: Edited and adapted from The Irish Heritage newsletter who shared this story by Fr. James E .McKenna from the "The Parishes of Clogher"(1921).
Images: Photos by Ann Harney and reprinted here with her kind permission.
See our other articles on Samhain and Halloween below:
An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 1
An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 2
How the Irish Invented Halloween
A Triple Treat For Hallowe'en
The Churchyard Bride
Creepy Irish Castles and Houses
Creepy Irish Creatures
Something Wicked this way comes - Irish Ghosts by Region
Protect your property and yourself - Make a Parshell Cross for Hallowe'en
Samhain - The Irish New Year
The Day after Samhain - All Souls Day
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
Click for More Culture Corner.
There's nothing like a good ghost story, and the Irish have traditionally excelled at them. The specters who haunt these pages include massacred Spanish sailors, a silver-robed woman who plies her guests with poison, a mutilated peddler, a benign but icy embrace, and the devil himself. Energetically inventive, and infused with a relish of the supernatural, these classic tales still retain their original power to unsettle and surprise. This is one chilling anthology no fan of the genre will want to be without. Edited and adapted from an amazon editorial review.
Click here Ghost Stories.