As we near 31st October, it’s time to dust off the ghost story books and spook ourselves a little! The legends surrounding the Hell Fire Club are probably South Dublin’s most famous chilling tales, but there are plenty of other ghoulish stories to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Old Bawn House looking particularly spooky
The Ghost of Old Bawn House
Close to the Old Bawn Road and the Dodder was situated one of the most important houses of the Dodder valley – Old Bawn House. Archdeacon William Bulkeley, son of the Archbishop of Dublin, built the house in 1635.
During the rebellion of 1641 the house was damaged, but was restored soon after. The house continued to be lived in for many years, but was eventually demolished. There was a local tradition in the old neighbourhood of Old Bawn House: that each year on the anniversary of the death of Archdeacon Bulkeley, a coach drawn by six headless horses and containing two passengers attended by two footmen, drives up to the house.
However woe betide anyone who looks on the coach, for they will die within a year and a day – or so the story goes.
The Murder of Lord Kilwarden
During Robert Emmet’s Rising of 1803, Newlands House, near Corkagh House, was occupied by Arthur Wolfe (1739-1803), 1st Viscount Kilwarden, or Lord Kilwarden as he was better known, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. There were rumours of an attempt on his life by Emmet’s insurgents but despite this, Lord Kilwarden decided to travel into Dublin City. He left the Corkagh Estate by the back entrance, near to the present day St. John’s Road, and headed off towards Dublin City for Dublin Castle. Near Thomas Street, his carriage was ambushed by a number of insurgents, and Lord Kilwarden was dragged from the coach and repeatedly stabbed with pikes. He was brought to a nearby building but died an hour later. After the insurgents ambushed the coach, the terrified horses galloped back the way they had come, and entered Corkagh Estate through the back entrance and out the front drive to Newlands House. Over the years, members of the Finlay family of Corkagh claim to have heard the sounds of a coach and horses rushing through Corkagh Estate: however, neither coach nor horses could ever be seen.
The Phantom Band
During the Easter Rising of 1916, Major Gerald Colley, a brother-in-law of Mrs Edith Colley of Corkagh, was stationed in Dublin Castle, and his wife lived in Corkagh. On the day before Easter, the Major telephoned his wife to tell her that there was some trouble brewing between the Irish nationalists and the British authorities.
On Easter Monday, the Rising took place, and the Major’s wife, along with a friend, went to Belgard Castle to watch the burning bridges in the city of Dublin. Meanwhile, Mrs. Edith Colley, whilst walking with her husband, George P. A. Colley, through Corkagh Estate, heard a marching band playing and the sound of tramping feet marching down the Naas Road and through the rear gate of Corkagh.
They hurried back to the house to find the entire staff anxiously gathered at the front of the house. All had heard the band, and they thought that Corkagh was going to be attacked. However the music suddenly stopped and there was nothing to be seen. Despite the large number of people who heard the band, no one saw it.
The Pond at Rathfarnham Castle, from the Fr. Browne Collection, courtesy of the Irish Picture Library
The Phantom Dog
In the hard winter of 1840-1841 a skating party was in progress on the icy pond in the grounds of Rathfarnham Castle. Among the group was a man who had with him a curly-haired retriever dog. The ice cracked suddenly and the man disappeared into the murky water. His dog jumped in after him and both were drowned. To this day it is reported locally that the ghost of the animal can be seen regularly along the Dodder between Lord Ely’s Gate and Rathfarnham Bridge.