Battle of the Ghosts

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (12) | Start of Chapter

A young mountain lad had been to a fair, and took too much whiskey; on his return up the mountain, his pathway lay across this burying-ground. As he passed a tomb-stone, a couple of goats were pushing with their horns, and "rattling them like sticks." The terrified fellow ran home as fast as his staggering would enable him, and fell shaking upon the floor, and it was not for hours that he could understandingly tell the astonished family what had caused the fright. At last he informed them, "that all the ghosts that had been buried for the last forty years had come out of their graves, and were killing each other, for he saw them fightin' and heard the bones rattle, and they were all in their windin' sheets about the ground." "For a twelvemonth," said the narrator, "Paddy could hear nothing else when he went to the town, but the 'rattlin' of dead bones killin' each other."

This burial place, like most others in Ireland, is situated in a pleasant spot, and it would seem that the ancients had a regard for good air, extensive view, and a noble church for the comfort of their dead. The country here slopes down to the lakes. The Kerry mountains rise in the most varied shapes, and topped with snow, glistening in the sun; while many a green field with cattle and sheep spreads out at their feet, making together so picturesque a view, that I sat down upon a wall, with my cabin man and mountain lad at my feet, for two hours; and they in turn did what they could to amuse and instruct me.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.