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Irish Ghost Stories & Mysteries from County Down

A History

of Our

Churches

Our 

Emigrant

Sons & Daughters

Annaclone &

Drumballyroney

Local History

“The Supernatural is the natural not yet understood”

Elbert Bubbard (1856-1915)

Ireland has a rich history of ghost, banshee and fairy sightings all around the country and County Down is no exception.

 

Ghosts may take the form of phantom white or blue ladies, ghostly nuns, children, animals and horse-drawn carriages. Other ghosts make their presence felt through unexplained lights or noises which occur in haunted houses. Ghostly happenings occur in castles, cottages or even open spaces.

 

Many years ago when there was no electricity, television or the internet, people would gather in their cottages and over a turf fire tell stories and legends about Celtic heroes such as Cuchulain and mythological people such as the Tuatha De Danaan. In rural areas, stories were also told about ghostly sightings, fairies, leprechauns, witches and the dreaded banshee. Every part of Ireland has its own collection of individual tales and mysterious happenings. These stories were handed down over generations. ‘Kitty the Hare’ ghost stories were very popular in the publication ‘Ireland’s Own’

 

This is the second compilation of such stories from Annaclone Historical Society. Our first book ‘The Unexplained in Co. Down’, published in 2011 sold out within a short period of time and is now out of print. Due to its success, the society decided to collate further stories and publish a second book and have included a limited number of stories from the first one. However, the vast majority of the stories will be new to the reader.

 

This publication focuses on County Down and areas which border the county for example Carlingford, County Armagh and Belfast. Once again we have concentrated on stories about people who have experienced paranormal activity in one form or another allowing the reader to experience these personal accounts first hand. Other stories have been passed down over the years by word of mouth or have been unearthed during research of old books and newspapers.

 

Our publication covers haunted buildings and places including Greencastle, the former sites of Downpatrick and Belfast Workhouses and haunted houses in Castlewellan, Annaclone, Ardglass and Banbridge. Our fairy stories range from fairy trees in the Mournes, sightings of fairy people in Hilltown and the Pooka from Kilkeel. We also provide stories of the dreaded banshee, the witch hare and devil related tales from across the county. We journey back in time to retell the story of the Lough Shannagh monster and the ‘Fairy Cat’ from Clough.  Finally, we have included some of the strange and mysterious stories that we came across in our research. Stories that will fascinate you including the disappearance of a daughter in Katesbridge that was widely reported in newspapers across Britain and Ireland in 1868, the surprising number of centenarians in County Down during the 20th Century and severe weather conditions that prevailed back in history. 

 

Even though the tradition of storytelling in modern Ireland has dwindled, there is still a fascination with ghost and fairy stories and mysteries. We hope that this publication will re-generate further interest in the ‘Other Ireland’ and rekindle the tradition of storytelling. The authors would like to thank all who contributed or assisted in any way with this publication. Our thanks also to the staff in Banbridge and Downpatrick Libraries.

 

As you read through the book, we would ask the reader “Are you a believer or a sceptic?” Whether you are a believer or not, remember that most of these stories originated from first-hand accounts and many of the people who told us the stories did not believe in ghosts either. However, as the saying goes, ‘seeing is believing’ so always remember to be on the look-out as you never know what might be lurking in the shadows. You might even feature in our next book!



 

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Since the publication of the society's first History book, further research has been carried out on our ecclesiastical heritage. The new book outlines the history of the parish including the building and renovation of the current churches of St. Colman's and Mary Immaculate in Magheral. It also provides information on the dedicated windows in both chaples, which includes an original 'Harry Clarke' window dedicated by the Magennis family of Ardbrin, notable priests of the parish and information on the graveyards.

 

Fifty percent of sales of this publication will go towards the upkeep of the graveyards.

Origins of Surnames in

Co. Down - 

​References over 1000 different

family names

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The book, entitled 'Origins of County Down', contains references to over a thousand surnames that either originated within Co. Down, or are now prominent within the county.



Some of the names listed are unique to Co. Down, such as McCrickard, McCartan, Sawey, Rooney or McGivern. Rare names, such as Hannet or O'Haddy, are also mentioned. 



Events that changed and influenced the demographic picture of Co. Down from the 13th Century onwards, such as the Viking and Norman invasions and the 17th Century British Plantations schemes, are mentioned as well, since many surnames were introduced in this way.



They include Fitzsimmons, Nugent and Savage (Norman derivation) and Cromie, Harshaw and Tweedy (Scottish and English origins.)


The County Down connection to William Hare of William Hare of the infamous Body Snatchers 'Burke and Hare.'  Killeagh's link with Sloan Square in London.  The tallest man in the world was from County Down.  Who was 'the man from God knows where?'



Catherine O'Hare (1835-1918) born in Ballybrick, emigrated to the US aged 16.  She became one of the overlanders who were a group that crossed the Rockies in the search of gold.  She gave birth on the journey to a child called Rosa and it was the first white child born in the district.



 

Annaclone Historical Society has researched and collected a large number of local emigration stories. Some of these have come from descendants who have contacted the society over the years. The collection which includes over 200 surnames, reflects the many and varied experiences of our emigrant sons and daughters who made the long journey away from Annaclone & Drumballyroney area to many parts of the world.

 

Examples include the Bryan family who left Ballyroney in 1718 to settle in Virginia. They had a letter of commendation with them signed by the minister and the Elders of the local Presbyterian Church. President George Bush can also trace his ancestral line to Drumballyroney and Rathfriland.

 

Patrick Bronte the father of the famous Bronte sisters hailed from Ballynaskeagh, Annaclone. Catherine O'Hare, the first European woman to transverse the Canadian Rockies was born in Ballybrick. The collection also covers emigration stories in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Soth Africa and Great Britain.

Genealogy on the Go…..

 

Recently, we have been successful in securing funding from DARD who is providing funding for this project as part of its Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework.

 

Annaclone Historical Society is now in the unique position of being able to call at individual houses in order to scan, take photographs of memorabilia, important historical documents old photographs and other items that may be of interest to historians now and in the future. We wish to add to our archive catalogue of information that we feel would be a shame to lose.

 

We are now also able to record via our own camcorder stories of old.

 

We would now ask anyone who is interested in providing any information, photographs or stories to contact us and we can arrange a suitable time and date to call.

 

Please telephone Pauline on 028 406 28126 or Bronagh on 028 406 71099 or Kieran on 028 406 31378 (after 6 p.m.)

The Unexplained

in Co. Down

Ghosts, Legends &

Folklore

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Ghost Stories of Ulster

Only released

Price £10.00

Limited copies

available!

Annaclone Historical Society has produced a most comprehensive book detailing the social and political history of the ancient district of Annaghlone and Drumballyroney now known as Annaclone Parish.
Located within the Drumlin country of County Down in the Barony of Iveagh, between the towns of Banbridge and Rathfriland, the parish of Annaclone is steeped in history.
The book includes an account of the Netholithic settlement at Knock Iveagh (dating from 3700 BC), the Celtic period characterised by the Ardbrin Horn (dating from 300 BC), the Castle of Magh Cobha in the townland of Seafin, the Magennis Lords of Iveagh, the Cromwellian Settlement and the Penal times.
19th Century history detailing the Landlords, the Great Famine, Emigration and Population trends, Education and Schools, Rebellions and Risings are covered in this detailed publication.
Historical accounts of local industry, Farming and the Linen Trade, Community Groups, Pubs, Post Offices and Shops, Sport and Leisure are provided.
The history of the local Roman Catholic (pre and post reformation), the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church are also provided.
The authors within Annaclone Historical Society went to great lengths to research the local history.  Personal accounts by elderly parishioners (several now deceased) are provided.  The stories of famous parishioners such as Catherine O’Hare (Canadian pioneer), Mayne Reid (Wild West novelist), the Brontes and many others are given.
An account of the infamous ‘Anaghlone Affair’- involving the 1840’s lockout of the local churches arising from a dispute with Dr Blake, the then Bishop of Dromore is provided.  The priest threw the bishop in the bog.
With details such as farm census records and local graveyard inscriptions this publication will surely be of interest to genealogists and to emigrants who have Annaclone ancestry.
Of much interest to readers will be the chapter on local murders…..

The book focuses on areas like Banbridge, Annaclone, Drumballyroney, Hilltown, Dromore, Castlewellan and Downpatrick as well as other surrounding areas.  We have specificly chosen stories that have been told by people who have experienced paranormal activity in one form or another.  This means the reader gets first hand personal accounts of what happened to them rather than stories that have been passed down through the years or word of mouth.  As you would be aware over the years stories can change with more and more bits being added onto them.
As regards ghost stories the book has many stories spirits remaining in houses, churches, graveyards but then there have been those who have been in contact with the Devil.  There are certain myths and superstitions which people believe that by doing something it will bring them luck or by doing something else it could bring them bad luck.  We have described these things in great detail in the book.


The folklore sections focuses mostly on fairies and people’s opinions on them differs.  Some people have a great belief in staying clear of fairy trees and forts while others don’t believe that they exist at all and just ignore the fact that there are fairy trees but bad luck usually follows them after this.
Most people that we have spoken with blamed the fact that years ago people had no cars and the only form of transport was by horse, bicycle or on foot so hence this may have been one of the reasons people meet spirits or heard banshees.

The new book contains a vast array of ghost stories from every county in Ulster.  A spokesperson from the group, Michael Wallace, describes the book as one of the most comprehensive collection of ghost stories ever written with almost one hundred and fifty stories.

“Our members have experience in producing other publications mainly based in County Down but this is our first venture into the rest of Ulster”.

 

Ulster, like the rest of Ireland contains many ghostly tales and almost every castle claims to be haunted with at least one or more ghosts for example those at Carrickfergus, Narrow Water (Warrenpoint) and Doe Castle in Co. Donegal. Other ghostly tales involve some of our most famous buildings for example Crumlin Road Gaol, Springhill (Moneymore) and Lissan House, Cookstown.

 

Ghosts are not just confined to buildings however, and the book also mentions haunted places including Vicar’s Hill in Armagh City which has its famous ‘Green Lady’, the Ballyroney Lake Ghost in County Down.

 

The book also includes stories of the dreaded banshee, poltergeists and devil related tales and we journey back in time to retell the ancient mysteries and legends of Ulster including those of Finn McCool and the story of the Last Serpent of Ireland, ‘Lig na Paiste’, Co. Derry

 

Recently, this part of Ireland has become the location for the filming of the hit HBO Series ‘The Game of Thrones’.  Many of its locations have a ghostly past and are featured in this book for example, Tollymore Forest in County Down and the Dark Hedges in County Antrim where many people have claimed to have seen a ‘grey lady’ wander through the ancient beech trees.

 

The recent ‘Star Wars’ movie was filmed in Inishowen in Co. Donegal- another area with an ancient and mythical past as described in the book.

 

Ghost hunting has become popular in this part of Ireland and around Halloween there are a number of ‘ghost tours and walks’ arranged in some of our popular haunts, for example, Crumlin Road Gaol.