Limerick’s Legends and Urban Myths

UL Global’s Halloween Trilogy- Part Three

Halloween originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, explaining why Ireland’s nation has so many mysterious and creepy undertones to it. The island is known to be haunted and with thousands of ghost stories at our finger tips and Halloween around the corner, it is only fair we share a few! As UL is situated in Limerick we have decided to share the urban myths and legends of Limerick City and County. We will begin closer to home than you may like with the Haunting of Plassey House…

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The Haunting of Plassey House-

The ‘White House’ as it is better known as in UL has been a symbol of higher education in the University for decades, but this beautiful building has quite the crimson past. The house is said to be haunted by the ‘White Lady,’ a ghostly figure which has been seen by fisherman and barge workers alike roaming the banks of the River Shannon. The house features many works of art chosen by someone with a deep knowledge of the house’s secret history. These include the marble bust of Lady Mont-eagle and the 18th century painting ‘woman in white’ which are both said to be uncanny replicas of the vision seen by those men on the banks.

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Saint Katherine’s Augustinian Abbey-

This nunnery was founded in 1298 and was one of the first in Ireland, although only the ruins are left now, the remains of the Refectory and Abbey Church are still very clear. It is commonly believed that the last Abbess prior to the Abbey’s demise in 1541 practiced witchcraft in a room south of the Church. This room became known as The Black Hag’s Cell. The ruins of the Abbey are said to be haunted by the Countess of Desmond. In this tale we see the Earl and Countess of Desmond fleeing an assault where unfortunately the Countess gets wounded by an arrow. The Earl believed his wife to be dead and quickly buries her at St Katherine’s, beneath the altar. It is said the Countess regained consciousness and found herself tragically buried alive. A shadowy figure has oftentimes been seen among the ruins and the Countess’s screams are heard throughout the night as she cries for her husband to realise his mistake and come back for her.

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Castle Troy-

Built in the 13th century by the O’Brien clan, the castle was passed on to the MacKeogh clan soon after. The tragedy of this story involves the daughter of the leader of the MacKeogh clan being taken by the head of another clan after she declined his marriage proposal. The aftermath of this situation are best summarised in the words of Limerick poet Michael Hogan, ‘MacKeogh has defeated the brigands, with slaughter, but a spear has been thrust thro’ the breast of his daughter.’ The screams of the young woman can often be heard by local fisherman echoing down the River Shannon at night.

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Spiorad na mBarna-

Barna, a rural area outside the town of Newcastle West in Co. Limerick is famous for the tale of Spiorad na mBarna (Irish for the Spirit of Barna.) The name was given to a local woman Moll O’Shaughnessy, who lived here in the late 1800’s. Barna was and still is a very small and close-knit village in Ireland, making the revelation of the very well-liked Moll having murdered her husband and young child even more horrific. Almost as gruesome as the murders themselves, the people of Barna decided it was only just for Moll to suffer the way her family did. They sentenced her to death by being rolled from the top of a hill in a barrel lined with sharp and rusted nails.

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It is a common notion in Ireland that a traumatic and violent death is what leads to restless spirits, and Moll O’Shaughnessy was no exception, as many people claimed to see her soul appear in different forms around the area of Barna. Oftentimes appearing as a wild greyhound and a weeping woman, she truly terrorised the area of Barna. This continued for several years before she finally succeeded in another murder. One dark night, an unknown man was riding horseback through Barna and he passed under the Old Barna Bridge. Although the horse emerged on the other side, the man was left for dead after being jumped by the bloodthirsty Spiorad na mBarna.

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In the stone of the Old Barna Bridge, which is still there to this day, an image of a face of a screaming woman can be seen. Many people have claimed that the image of the woman moves around, sometimes the face can be seen closer to the ground, sometimes in the top right-hand stone, and sometimes on the other side of the bridge altogether. It is a common sight when passing the bridge that you would see people stepping out of stopped cars, counting the stones and pointing out the face!

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Ballinagarde House-

A terrifiying figure on horseback which was said to be one of the dark apostles or even the devil himself is oftentimes seen on the grounds of Ballinagarde House to this day. On a dark, gloomy night a mysterious rider appeared on horseback and pulled up beside Edward Gill Croker’s carriage. The two men struck up a conversation which ended in Croker inviting this mysterious man to Ballinagarde for dinner. After a wild night the drunken stranger collapsed, and in the morning one of the servants removed his boots. Hairy, cloven feet were revealed and hoof marks were seared in to the floor by red hot feet. A common phrase you would hear in Munster, specifically Limerick is, “as sure as the devil was in Ballinagarde”, which is used to say something is factual.

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Why not go and visit these places when restrictions are lifted and see for yourself if they are true?! Or are you too scared?… I know I am!

By Saoirse Hammond

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