Mrs. Sheridan

 Mrs. Sheridan, as I call her, was wrinkled and half blind, and had gone barefoot through her lifetime. She was old, for she had once met Raftery, the Gaelic poet, at a dance, and he died before the famine of '47.

 She must have been comely then, for he had said to her: "Well planed you are; the carpenter that planed you knew his trade"; and she was ready of reply and answered him back, "Better than you know yours," for his fiddle had two or three broken strings.

 And then he had spoken of a neighbour in some way that vexed her father, and he would let him speak no more with her.  And she had carried a regret for this through her long life, for she said: "If it wasn't for him speaking as he did, and my father getting vexed, he might have made words about me like he did for Mary Hynes and for Mary Brown."

 She had never been to school she told me, because her father could not pay the penny a week it would have cost.  She had never travelled many miles from the parish of her birth, and I am sure had never seen pictures except the sacred ones on chapel walls; and yet she could tell of a Cromwellian castle built up and of a drawbridge and of long-faced, fair-haired women, and of the yet earlier round house and saffron dress of the heroic times, I do not know whether by direct vision, or whether as Myers wrote: "It may even be that a World-soul is personally conscious of all its past, and that individual souls, as they enter into deeper consciousness enter into something which is at once reminiscence and actuality. . . .

 Past facts were known to men on earth, not from memory only but by written record; and these may be records, of what kind we know not, which persist in the spiritual world. Our retro cognitions seem often a recovery of isolated fragments of thought and feeling, pebbles still hard and rounded amid the indecipherable sands over which the mighty waters are 'rolling evermore.'

She had never heard of the great mystic Jacob Behman, and yet when an unearthly visitor told her the country of youth is not far from the place where we live, she had come near to his root idea that "the world standeth in Heaven and Heaven in the World, and are in one another as day and night."

I was told by Mrs. Sheridan:
There was a woman, Mrs. Keevan, killed near the big tree at Raheen, and her husband was after that with Biddy Early, and she said it was not the woman that had died at all, but a cow that died and was put in her place.  All my life I've seen them and enough of them. 

One day I was with Tom Mannion by the big hole near his house, and we saw a man and a woman come from it, and a great troop of children, little boys they seemed to be, and they went through the gate into Coole, and there we could see them running and running along the wall.  And I said to Tom Mannion, "It may be a call for one of us." And he said, "Maybe it's for some other one it is." But on that day week he was dead.

One time I saw the old Colonel standing near the road, I know well it was him. But while I was looking at him, he was changed into the likeness of an ass.

I was led astray myself one day in Coole when I went to gather sticks for the fire. I was making a bundle of them, and I saw a boy beside me, and a little grey dogeen with him, and at first I thought it was William Hanlon, and then I saw it was not. And he walked along with me, and I asked him did he want any of the sticks and he said he did not, and he seemed as we were walking to grow bigger and bigger.

And when he came to where the caves go underground he stopped, and I asked him his name, and he said, "You should know me, for you've seen me often enough." And then he was gone, and I know that he was no living thing.

There was a child I had, and he a year and a half old, and he got a quinsy and a choking in the throat and I was holding him in my arms beside the fire, and all in a minute he died. And the men were working down by the river, washing sheep, and they heard the crying of a child from over there in the air, and they said, "That's Sheridan's child." So I knew sure enough that he was taken.

Come here close and I'll tell you what I saw at the old castle there below (Ballinamantane). I was passing there in the evening and I saw a great house and a grand one with screens (clumps of trees) at the ends of it, and the windows open-Coole house is nothing like what it was for size or grandeur.

 And there were people inside and ladies walking about, and a bridge across the river. For they can build up such things all in a minute. And two coaches came driving up and across the bridge to the castle, and in one of them I saw two gentlemen, and I knew them well and both of them had died long before.

As to the coaches and the horses I didn't take much notice of them for I was too much taken up with looking at the two gentlemen. And a man came and called out and asked me would I come across the bridge, and I said I would not.

And he said, "It would be better for you if you did, you'd go back heavier than you came." I suppose they would have given me some good thing.  And then two men took up the bridge and laid it against the wall. Twice I've seen that same thing, the house and the coaches and the bridge, and I know well I'll see it a third time before I die.

One time when I was living at Ballymacduff there was two little boys drowned in the river there, one was eight years old and the other eleven years. And I was out in the fields, and the people looking in the river for their bodies, and I saw a man coming away from it, and the two boys with him, he holding a hand of each and leading them away.

And he saw me stop and look at them and he said, "Take care would you bring them from me, for you have only one in your own house, and if you take these from me, she'll never come home to you again.

 And one of the little chaps broke from his hand and ran to me, and the other cried out to him, "Oh, Pat, would you leave me!" So then he went back and the man led them away. And then I saw another man, very tall he was, and crooked, and watching me like this with his head down and he was leading two dogs the other way, and I knew well where he was going and what he was going to do with them.

And when I heard the bodies were laid out, I went to the house to have a look at them, and those were never the two boys that were lying there, but the two dogs that were put in their places. I knew this by a sort of stripes on the bodies such as you'd see in the covering of a mattress; and I knew the boys couldn't be in it, after me seeing them led away.

And it was at that time I lost my eye, something came on it, and I never got the sight again. All my life I've seen them and enough of them. One time I saw one of the fields below full of them, some were picking up stones and some were ploughing it up.

But the next time I went by there was no sign of it being ploughed at all. They can do nothing without some live person is looking at them, that's why they were always so much after me. Even when I was a child I could see them, and once they took my walk from me, and gave me a bad foot, and my father cured me, and if he did, in five days after he died.

But there's no harm at all in them, not much harm.

There was a woman lived near me at Ballymacduff, and she used to go about to attend women; Sarah Redington was her name. And she was brought away one time by a man that came for her into a hill, through a door, but she didn't know where the hill was.

 And there were people in it, and cradles and a woman in labour, and she helped her and the baby was born, and the woman told her it was only that night she was brought away. And the man led her out again and put her in the road near her home and he gave her something rolled in a bag, and he bid her not to look at it till she'd get home, and to throw the first handful of it away from her.

 But she wouldn't wait to get home to look at it, and she took it off her back and opened it, and there was nothing in it but cowdung. And the man came to her and said, "You have us near destroyed looking in that, and we'll never bring you in again among us."

There was a man I know well was away with them, often and often, and he was passing one day by the big tree and they came about him and he had a new pair of breeches on, and one of them came and made a slit in them, and another tore a little bit out, and they all came running and tearing little bits till he hadn't a rag left. Just to be humbugging him they did that.

 And they gave him good help, for he had but an acre of land, and he had as much on it as another would have on a big farm. But his wife didn't like him to be going and some one told her of a cure for him, and she said she'd try it and if she did, within two hours after she was dead; killed they had her before she'd try it. He used to say that where he was brought was into a round very big house, and Cairns that went with them told me the same.

Three times when I went for water to the well, the water spilled over me, and I told Bridget after that they must bring the water themselves, I'd go for it no more. And the third time it was done there was a boy, one of the Heniffs, was near, and when he heard what happened me he said, "It must have been the woman that was at the well along with you that did that." And I said there was no woman at the well along with me. "There was," said he; "I saw her there beside you, and the two little tins in her hand."

One day after I came to live here at Coole, a strange woman came into the house, and I asked what was her name and she said, "I was in it before ever you were in it," and she went into the room inside and I saw her no more.

But Bridget and Peter saw her coming in, and they asked me who she was, for they never saw her before. And in the night when I was sleeping at the foot of the bed, she came and threw me out on the floor, that the joint of my arm has a mark in it yet. And every night she came, and she'd spite me or annoy me in some way.

And at last we got Father Nolan to come and to drive her out. And as soon as he began to read, there went out of the house a great blast, and there was a sound as loud as thunder. And Father Nolan said, "It's well for you she didn't have you killed before she went."

There's something that's not right about an old cat and it's well not to - annoy them. I was in the house one night, and one came in, and he tried to bring away the candle that was lighted in the candlestick, and it standing on the table. And I had a little rod beside me, and I made a hit at him with it, and with that he dropped the candle and made at me as if to tear me. And I went on my knees and asked his pardon three times, and when I asked it the third time he got quiet all of a minute, and went out at the door.

And as to hares - bid Master Robert never to shoot a hare, for you wouldn't know what might be in it. There were two women I knew, mother and daughter, and they died. And one day I was out by the wood, and I saw two hares sitting by the wall, and the minute I saw them I knew well who they were.

And the mother made as though she'd kill me, but the daughter stopped her. Bad they must have been to have been put into that shape, and indeed I know that they weren't too good. I saw the mother another time come up near the door as if to see me, and when she got near, she turned herself into a red hare.

The priests can do cures out of their book, and the time the cure is done is when they turn the second leaf. There was a boy near Kinvara got a hurt and he was brought into a house and Father Grogan was got to do a cure on him. And he did it, and within two days the priest's brother was made a fool of, and is locked up in a madhouse ever since, and it near seven years ago.

There was a boy of the Nally's died near a year ago; and when I heard he was dead I went down to the house, and there I saw him outside and two men bringing him away, and one of them said to me, "We couldn't do this but for you being there watching us." That's the last time I saw any of them.

There was a boy got a fall from a cart near the house beyond, and he was brought in to Mrs. Raynor's and laid in the bed and I went in to see him. And he said what he saw was a little boy run across the road before the cart, and the horse took fright and ran away and threw him from it.

And he asked to be brought to my house, for he wouldn't stop where he was; "for" says he, "the woman of this house gave me no drink and showed me no kindness, and she'll be repaid for that."

 And sure enough within the year she got the dropsy and died. And he was carried out of the door backwards, but the mother brought him to her own house and wouldn't let him come to mine, and 'twas as well, for I wouldn't refuse him, but I don't want to be annoyed with them any more than I am.

Did you know Mrs. Byrne that lived in Doolin? Swept she was after her child was born. And near a year after I saw her coming down the road near the old castle. "Is that you, Mary?" I said to her, "and is it to see me you are coming?" But she went on.

 It was in May when they are all changing. There was a priest, Father Waters, told me one time that he was after burying a boy, one Fahy, in Kilbecanty churchyard. And he was passing by the place again in the evening, and there he saw a great fire burning, but whether it was of turf or of sticks he couldn't tell, and there was the boy he had buried sitting in the middle of it.

I know that I used to be away among them myself, but how they brought me I don't know, but when I'd come back, I'd be cross with the husband and with all. I believe when I was with them I was cross that they wouldn't let me go, and that's why they didn't keep me altogether; they didn't like cross people to be with them.

 The husband would ask me where I was, and why I stopped so long away, but I think he knew I was taken and it fretted him, but he never spoke much about it. But my mother knew it well, but she'd try to hide it.

The neighbours would come in and ask where was I, and she'd say I was sick in the bed-for whatever was put there in place of me would have the head in under the bed-clothes. And when a neighbour would bring me in a drink of milk, my mother would put it by and say, "Leave her now, maybe she'll drink it tomorrbw."

And maybe in a day or two I'd meet someone and he'd say, "Why wouldn't you speak to me when I went into the house to see you?" And I was a young fresh woman at that time. Where they brought me to I don't know, or how I got there, but I'd be in a very big house, and it round, the walls far away that you'd hardly see them, and a great many people all round about. I saw there neighbours and friends that I knew, and they in their own clothing and with their own appearance, but they wouldn't speak to me nor I to them, and when I'd met them again I'd never say to them that I saw them there.

 But the others had striped clothes of all colours, and long faces, and they'd be talking and laughing and moving about. What language had they? Irish of course, what else would they talk?

And there was one woman of them, very tall and with a long face, standing in the middle, taller than any one you ever saw in this world, and a tail stick in her hand; she was the mistress. She had a high yellow thing on her head, not hair, her hair was turned back under it, and she had a long yellow cloak down to her feet and hanging down behind.

 Had she anything like that in the picture in her hand? [a crown of gold balls or apples.] It was not on her head, it was lower down here about the body, and shining, and a thing [a brooch] like that in the picture, but down hanging low like the other.

 And that picture you have there in your hand, I saw no one like it, but I saw a picture like it hanging on the wall.  It was a very big place and very grand, and a long table set out, but I didn't want to stop there and I began crying to go home. And she touched me here in the breast with her stick, she was vexed to see me wanting to go away.

They never brought me away since. Grand food they'd offer me and wine, but I never would touch it, and sometimes I'd have to give the breast to a child.

Himself died, but it was they took him from me. It was in the night and he lying beside me, and I woke and heard him move, and I thought I heard some one with him. And I put out my hand and what I touched was an iron hand, like knitting needles it felt.

 And I heard the bones of his neck crack, and he gave a sort of a choked laugh, and I got out of the bed and struck a light and I saw nothing, but I thought I saw some one go through the door.

 And I called to Bridget and she didn't come, and I called again and she came and she said she struck a light when she heard the noise and was coming, and someone came and struck the light from her hand. And when we looked in the bed, himself was lying dead and not a mark on him.

There was a woman, Mrs. Leary, had something wrong with her, and she went to Biddy Early.  And nothing would do her but to bring my son along with her, and I was vexed. What call had she to bring him with her? And when Biddy Early saw him she said, "You'll travel far, but wherever you go you'll not escape them."

The woman he went up with died about six months after, but he went to America, and he wasn't long there when what was said came true, and he died. They followed him as far as he went.

And one day since then I was on the road to Gort, and Madden said to me, "Your son's on the road before you." And I said, "How could that be, and he dead?" But still I hurried on. And at Coole gate I met a little boy and I asked did he see any one and he said, "You know well who I saw." But I got no sight of him at all myself.

I saw the coach one night near Kiltartan Chapel. Long it was and black, and I saw no one in it. But I saw who was sitting up driving it, and I knew it to be one of the Miskells that was taken before that.

One day I was following the goat to get a sup of milk from her, and she turned into the field and up into the castle of Lydican and went up from step to step up the stairs to the top, and I followed and on the stairs a woman passed me, and I knew her to be Colum's wife.

 And when we got to the room at the top, I looked up, and there standing on the wall was a woman looking down at me, long-faced and tall and with grand clothes, and on her head something yellow and slippery, not hair but like marble. And I called out to ask her wasn't she afraid to be up there, and she said she was not.

 And a shepherd that used to live below in the castle saw the same woman one night he went up to the top, and a room and a fire and she sitting by it, but when he went there again there was no sign of her nor of the room, nothing but the stones as before.

I never saw them on horses; but when I came to live at Peter Mahony's he used to bring in those red flowers [ragweed] that grow by the railway, when their stalks were withered, to make the fire.  And one day I was out in the road, and two men came over to me and one was wearing a long grey dress. And he said to me, "We have no horses to ride on and have to go on foot, because you have too much fire." So then I knew it was their horses we were burning.

I know the cure for anything they can do to you, but it's few I'd tell it to. It was a strange woman came m and told it to me, and I never saw her again. She bid me spit and use the spittle, or to take a graineen of dust from the navel, and that's what you should do if any one you care for gets a cold or a shivering, or they put anything upon him.

One time I went up to a forth beyond Raheen to pick up a few sticks, and I was beating one of the sticks on the ground to break it, and a voice said from below, "Is it to break down the house you want?" And a thing appeared that was like a cat, but bigger than any cat ever was.

And another time in a forth a man said, "Here's gold for you, but don't look at it till you go home." And I looked and I saw horse-dung and I said, "Keep it yourself, much good may it do you." They never gave me anything did me good, but a good deal of torment I had from them.

 And they're often walking the road, and if you met them you wouldn't know them from any other person; but I'd know them well enough, but I'd say nothing - and that's a grand bush we're passing by - whether it belongs to them I don't know, but wherever they get shelter, there they might be - but anyway it's a very fine bush - God bless it.

And when you speak of them you should always say the day of the week.  Maybe you didn't notice that I said, "This is Friday" just when we were hardly in at the gate.

It's very weak I am, and took to my bed since yesterday. They've changed now out of where they were near the castle, and it's inside Coole demesne they are. It was an old man told me that, I met him on the road there below.

First I thought he was a young man, and then I saw he was not, and he grew very nice-looking after, and he had plaid clothes. "We're moved out of that now," he said, "and it's strangers will be coming in it.  And you ought to know me," he said. And when I looked at him I thought I did.

And one day I was down in Coole I saw their house, more like a big dairy, with red tiles and a high chimney and a lot of smoke out of it, and there was a woman at the door and two or three outside. But they'll do you no harm, for the man told me so. "They needn't be afraid," he said, "we're good neighbors, but let them not say too much if the milk might go from the cows now and again."

I was over beyond Raheen one time, and I saw a woman milking and she at the wrong side of the cow. And when she saw me she got up, and she had a bucket that was like a plate, and it full of milk and she gave it to a man that was waiting there, that I thought first was one of the O'Heas, and they went away. And the cow was a grand fine one, but who it belonged to I didn't know-maybe to themselves.

It's about a week ago one night some one came into the room in the dark, and I saw it was my son that I lost - he that went to America - James.  He didn't die, he was whipped away - I knew he wasn't dead, for I saw him one day on the road to Gort on a coach, and he looked down and he said, "That's my poor mother." And when he came in here, I couldn't see him, but I knew him by his talk.

 And he said, "It's asleep she is," and he put his two hands on my face and I never stirred. And he said, "I'm not far from you now." For he is with the others inside Coole near where the river goes down the swallow hole.  To see me he came, and I think he'll be apt to come again before long.  And last night there was a light about my head all the night and no candle in the room at all.

Yes, the Sidhe sing, and they have pipers among them, a bag on each side and a pipe to the mouth, I think I never told you of one I saw.

I was passing a field near Kiltartan one time when I was a girl, where there was a little lisheen, and a field of wheat, and when I was passing I heard a piper beginning to play, and I couldn't but begin to dance, it was such a good tune; and there was a boy standing there, and he began to dance too.

And then my father came by, and he asked why were we dancing, and no one playing for us. And I said there was, and I began to search through the wheat for the piper, but I couldn't find him, and I heard a voice saying, "You'll see me yet, and it will be in a town."

Well, one Christmas eve I was in Gort and my husband with me, and that night at Gort I heard the same tune beginning again - the grandest I ever heard-and I couldn't but begin to dance.

And Glynn the chair-maker heard it too, and he began to dance with me in the street, and my man thought I had gone mad, and the people gathered round us, for they could see or hear nothing. But I saw the piper well, and he had plaid clothes, blue and white, and he said, "Didn't I tell you that when I saw you again it would be in a town?"

I never saw fire go up in the air, but in the wood beyond the tree at Raheen I used often to see like a door open at night, and the light shining through it, just as it might shine through the house door, with the candle and the fire inside, if it would be left open.

Many of them I have seen - they are like ourselves only wearing bracket clothes, and their bodies are not so strong or so thick as ours, and their eyes are more shining than our eyes. I don't see many of them here, but Coole is alive with them, as plenty as grass; I often go awhile and sit inside the gate there.

I saw them make up a house one time near the natural bridge, and I saw them coming over the gap twice near the chapel, a lot of little boys, and two men and a woman, and they had old talk and young talk. One of them came in here twice, and I gave him a bit of bread, but he said, "There's salt in it" and he put it away.

When Annie Rivers died the other day, there were two funerals in it, a big funeral with a new coffin and another that was in front of them, men walking, the handsomest I ever saw, and they with black clothes about their body.

I was out there looking at them, and there was a cow in the road, and I said, "Take care would you drive away the cow." And one of them said, "No fear of that, we have plenty of cows on the other side of the wall." But no one could see them but myself. I often saw them and it was they took the sight of my eyes from me. And Annie Rivers was not in the grand coffin, she was with them a good while before the funeral.

That time I saw the two funerals at Rivers's that I was telling you about, I heard Annie call to those that were with her, "You might as well let me have Bartley; it would be better for the two castles to meet."

And since then the mother is uneasy about Bartley, and he fell on the floor one day and I know well he is gone since the day Annie was buried. And I saw others at the funeral, and some that you knew well among them. And look now, you should send a coat to some poor person, and your own friends among the dead will be covered, for you could see the skin here.

[She made a gesture passing her hand down each arm, exactly the same gesture as old Mary Glynn of Slieve Echtge had made yesterday when she said, "Have you a coat you could send me, for my arms are bare.~" and I had promised her one.]

** ** ***

Would I have gone among them if I had died last month? I think not. I think that I have lived my time out, since my father was taken.

He was a young man at that time, and one time I was out in the field, and I got a knock on the foot, and a lump rose; there is the mark of it yet. It was after that I was on the road with my father, near Kinvara, and a man came and began to beat him.

And I thought that he was going to beat me, and I got in near the wall and my father said, "Spare the girl!" "I will do that, I will spare her," said the man. He went away then, and within a week my father was dead.

And my mother told me that before the burying, she saw the corpse on the bed, sitting on the side of the bed, and his feet hanging down. I saw my father often since then, but not this good while now. He had always a young appearance when I saw him.

A big woman came to the window and looked in at me, the time I was on the bed lately. "Rise up out of that," she said. I saw her another time on the road, and the wind blew her dress open, and I could see that she had nothing at all on underneath it.

In May they are as thick everywhere as the grass, but there's no fear at all for you or for Master Robert. I know that, for one told it to me.

"Tir-nan-og" that is not far from us. One time I was in the chapel at Labane, and there was a tall man sitting next me, and he dressed in grey, and after the Mass I asked him where he came from. "From Tir-na- nog," says he. "And where is that?" I asked him. "It's not far from you," he said; "it's near the place where you live." I remember well the look of him and him telling me that. The priest was looking at us while we were talking together."


She died some years ago and I am told.

"There is a ghost in Mrs. Sheridan's house. They got a priest to say Mass there, but with all that there is not one in it has leave to lay a head on the pillow till such time as the cock crows.

 Source: Lady Augusta Gregory - Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, first published 1920.

republished by Colin Smythe Ltd. 1977, reprint 1992.


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