The Kilranelagh Spirit

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

About four miles east of Baltinglass stands the hill of Bally Carrigeen (rocky pass), and on its top a large ring of rounded flags about nine yards in diameter, and called Fan-a-Cool's griddle stones. On the side of the neighbouring eminence are two long strips of turf, much greener than that by which they are surrounded. These are the marks of the resting-places of Fion Mac Cuil and his wife, who, when they rose early in the morning, descended the slope, washed their faces in the stream, and baked the cakes for their breakfast on a griddle supported by these flags. However, we have not much to say of them on this occasion. In their neighbourhood, on the crest of another hill, is the churchyard of Kilranelagh, where no corpse of Protestant man or woman has ever been allowed to rest. The boundary-wall is formed of loose stones, and the top is very narrow in comparison with its base. Every man attending a funeral brings a stone picked up on its way, and throws it on the circular fence, and so the mighty ring has grown. Outside this boundary is a deep, round well, and a tall curved recess in the wall just above it. This recess is furnished with ledges, which are plentifully provided with wooden cups—every one interring in the graveyard the corpse of a child under five years of age providing one of these vessels. The spirit of the latest interred is obliged to supply every one of its predecessors with a cup of water and to keep watch and ward over the sacred inclosure till the next funeral; and so, when two convoys are approaching at the same time, there sometimes occur unseemly races and struggles. Having sketched our scenery, we proceed with the legend of


Two men repairing to their homes just in the twilight, were obliged to pass through this churchyard, or take a considerable circuit. They had come up the hill, and were beginning to proceed through the cemetery, when they heard, just on their left, and apparently proceeding from a tomb, the most awful groans and frightful outcries, and a shower of red-hot cinders fell on them. They retreated down hill in great dismay; yet, after getting to some distance, they plucked up courage and returned. They were received in a more fearful fashion this time, and once again fled in terror. Unaccountable as it may appear, they made a third attempt; but this time the noise was more appalling than ever, and a terrible being, with a wild outcry, sprang up from behind the monument, and rushed on them. Down the hill they flew like deer, and, after a wild flight, took refuge in the first cabin they reached. This was their version. We supply another from the mouth of the fiend, then a young stripling, and now a plodding citizen of Dublin, and proprietor of a farm near this extensive and ancient cemetery.

He was seated on the stony enclosure, when he saw, in the gloom, the two men approaching up hill. He at once conceived the design of frightening them, and for this purpose ensconced himself behind a tomb with a provision of small stones. All the ghostly machinery consisted in the groans and howlings he contrived to make, and the showers of pebbles he discharged on the adventurers. At the third attempt he himself was startled by a rustling among the dry weeds and stones behind, and his headlong charge was the result of his panic. Of course he managed not to come up with the fugitives.

End of this Story