Account of the
P. S. Gifford
Copyright 2005 by P. S. Gifford
My grandmother often told me tales when I was a young child, all those many, many moons ago. That was back in my native land, Ireland , during the 1940’s, just after the war. Yes, I shall never forget how as she wooed me to sleep she eagerly spun tales of many marvelous legends, lyrically lolling me into my slumber. These tales of wonderment carried me into equally extraordinary dreams and other enchanted places…
I had not been back to Ireland for nearly fifty years, not since the “incident” , yet here I am. All because of that phone call I received two days ago. I find it remarkable not so much in what has changed, but more so, in what has remained the same. Now as I sit here, back in Castlegregory, off the wild and glorious Dingle peninsula, I marvel at the splendor of the untamed thrashing ocean. I am once more in my upstairs bedroom, and I am instantaneously carried back to my childhood, to this very bed.
As a cold, westerly wind blew across the frigid ocean, was that the eerie wail of the Banshee, dancing her slow waltz of death upon the oceans tips? As I closed my eyes, I cried once more at the memory of my grandmother’s words…
She told of when she was a girl, when the world still held on to its purity. A time when the legends of ancient times were respected, treasured and even venerated, a time when goblins, ghouls and gnomes coexisted, a world where magic could and did perform wonders and a time when a banshee’s cry sent even the bravest soul whimpering and cowering, and hiding in the shadows. Whenever any unfortunate heard the agonizing wail of a banshee, they understood that death was imminent. You see if they had the misfortunate chance to catch even the most fleeting of glimpse of her long white hair streamed behind her skull-like head, floating upon the winds of fate, there was no place they could find sanctuary, as before the morning sun broke they shall be dead.
She was a mere girl of eight years old, the day that it she first heard the story. She had been awakened in the wee early hours of daybreak, to her mother, awash with grief and tears. She explained that there had been an accident that they needed to get over to Doctor Riley’s house quickly. My grandma added that she had learned that there had been a fire in the night- in one of the local thatched cottages, that they had called upon him to help fight the blaze. But the blaze, despite the efforts of the local men, grew and grew, as if possessed by the devil himself. She told of how she had learned that her father, in an attempt to stop the fiery rage spreading had ventured to close to the violent flames, and in an instant had been hit over the head by a falling timbre alive with glowing embers. The men had rushed him to the doctor’s house, and they had t hurry to be by his side.
As the horse pulled carriage raced the morning sun was starting to rear over the horizon. It was then she had first heard it, the wailing. As the cries grew louder and louder, penetrating their ears, she pushed the horses even faster, and faster still, as if to escape the agonizing wailing. She told me how tears ran down her mother’s eyes…Her mother already knew that her husband, my grandfather was dead… As she reached Doctor Riley’s house, the old frail doctor was outside, standing in the winters sleet, shaking his head in disbelief. Hysterically her mother raced from the carriage to the door, the doctor held her back…
“He’s gone… But his last words were, “Tell my family I love them”.
I remembered my grandmother telling me this tale.
I had listened on, eagerly as my grandmother spoke; I had no idea that one day soon I too was going to hear the terrifying cries of the Castlegregory banshee.
It was a December night, very similar to tonight and the frigid coldness of the dark, the silence of winter, all playing a hand in the horrific circumstances. My father had been playing cards that fateful evening, in Cavanaugh’s tavern on the outskirts of Castlegregory. Yes, my father was there, playing poker, with his younger and only brother and as the whiskey was consumed, the gambling increased. My father apparently had been winning; the anger always present in his younger brother had only intensified.
I can recall with remarkable clarity as I and my grandmother had sat at home, waiting and worrying. My father, grandmother, and my uncle were all the family I knew. My mother had died in my traumatic child birth, dying just two hours after I entered this world, with me crying in her arms. It was then we both heard it, as the candlelight danced ominously about the kitchen. The unholy howling and wailing of the hellish Banshee who drew ever nearer in the night to Castelgregory on her appointed path of death. Who had she come for; a father a mother or perhaps some helpless sick child? We did not know, we simply huddled together waited and prayed. Afraid to steal a look out of the window, for fear that we might stare straight into the banshee’s seething blood red eyes filled with tears, tears for the dead.
The later and later it got the more and more we feared who the Banshee was calling for. Eventually, at a little after three in the morning, the local constable gave a reluctant knock on out front door and all at once my grandmother and I realized.
My uncle claimed that it had been an accident, that they had been walking home and that my father had lost his footing on the well worn path and fell and smashed his head in. Yet deep in our souls and hearts, my grandmother and I had known what had really happened, he had been murdered. He had inherited my father’s estate and as a girl I was not entitled to anything. He wasted no time in moving out of his run down cottage into our fine house overlooking the rocks to the ocean. My father had earned every penny of the small fortune he had amassed, and now his brother, ten years his junior was about to gain it all.
Several days later, it was casually announced that I was going to be shipped of to Chicago , in the United States , to some distant cousin…
My heart broke on the morning of my departure. As the horse and carriage arrived to take me away from the home I loved, I held onto to my grandmother, as tears raced down our cheeks. We both knew that this was the last time we would ever see each other.
This had all happened a life time ago, my grandmother apparently soon died after I had left. My uncle never married and as a result lived alone. As there were many suspicions about his character within the village, he became almost a hermit, shutting himself away from humanity apart from his weekly journey into the market. He became a miser, despite his inherited wealth, choosing to wear tattered clothes and shoes with holes in them. Instead of eating the finer, more exquisite cuts of meat, he chose to eat the viscera and innards.
In due course I established a fine existence in Chicago ; my new family was warm and welcoming, and wanted to hear all the tales from the homeland. I grew up quickly, attended a college and married. Yes, Chicago had treated me rather well... I now had three fine children and five even grander grandchildren.
It came as a surprise when I received that phone call two days ago, from a solicitor in Castlegregory. Apparently my uncle, who was now in his late eighties, had fallen desperately ill, and only had a few days to live, and after much searching, they discovered that I was his closest living relative.
Now, as I sit here in my fathers house, the house that I had been kicked out all those years ago I listen. It is then I hear it, more and more distinct. The Castlgregory banshee, as her howls intensify, I am far from afraid this time, in fact I think I am actually smiling…
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