A Kinsale Ghost Story

Posted on Sep 17, 2012


Kinsale, County Cork, Éire
October, 2011

Early Evening

The young English tourist had been having a great day in the small picture perfect harbour town of Kinsale. He had eaten his meal in Jim Edwards bar and restaurant on the bar side with his girlfriend. They had a couple of drinks then she had decided to go back to the bed and breakfast but he didn’t want to yet. He wanted to walk off his food of fish and mash and three pints of Beamish. She was fine with this and looked at him in a sad happy smile. He turned around briefly and went to say something but she had already gone to her room. He could still feel the warmth and wetness of her kiss considering what had happened earlier.
He had been to Kinsale before a long time ago and was happy beyond words to be back. It was the only place he felt truly happy in the world. He walked out of town heading in the direction of the area known as Scilly as two of his favourite pubs were there as well as a short walk to Summercove and another pub right on the sea front and just a few minutes walk away to the historical Charles Fort. He could never get bored in Kinsale. His imagination ran wild there plus the people were so damn friendly that his heart melted when they spoke to him. It was heaven to him. Keep your London and its stress-heads and angry people with all their pressure and greed. That wasn’t for him. Kinsale was.
He was tired of the crazy life of the big smoke and the constant stress of it all with bills and sleepless nights just to put money in his governments pockets so they could eat in the finest restaurants. No, Kinsale was for him. No pretentious idiots here. What you saw is what you got with them. They were honest and true and above all seemed carefree even if they weren’t deep inside.
Passing a car park on the right he walked on the pavement heading up to Scilly and Summercove keeping off the road that branched off to another road out of Kinsale to villages and Cork city itself. On his right was the harbour and the tide was in. Little boats bobbed on the water calmly in the breeze. It was a warm evening. Kinsale always had warm Octobers as they were in the path of the Gulf Stream. Palm trees dotted the town in places.
It was only a short walk up the hill to the Spaniard pub, the road curving into a U-shape and as you approached the bend you were greeted by a famous lane called Breakheart Hill that led up to people’s homes and onwards to Summercove and Charles Fort. Breakheart Hill was well named because it did indeed break your heart walking up its steep incline. You needed a drink after it!
He passed it knowing it would kill him and besides it was dark and there were no lights up there. The hill was surrounded by trees too giving it an eerie feeling. With its tress bending over with skeletal claws reaching out to passes by, it looked like an opening to a daemon world and the trees were clawing to them to pull them down to their world.
He would have a drink in the Spaniard then move on to the Spinnaker which was a bar and restaurant also as was the Bulman which he loved. It had the advantage of being right on the harbour mouth so looked out to the sea and the bobbing boats of Kinsale. The Bulman pub/restaurant and fort was a short fifteen minute walk away from there.
The Spaniard was one of his favourite pubs of all time anywhere in the world. It was old, built around 1650 and was originally called the Castle Bar because it was built on the site of an old castle. He loved the ramshackled and uneven look about it from the outside and even more so from the inside.
He stood for a moment just taking it in, listening to the sea, the boats and their bells tinkling in the night. It was a perfect evening. He had never been happier. He passed two locals and a couple of tourists who were smoking outside and ducking down, went in to the public bar.
A band were setting up preparing for the nights entertainment and the pub was already busy but he still managed to get a seat at the bar by the band. The barman came over to him asking if he could help. A Beamish was ordered and some crisps. God, he hadn’t been this happy in years. This was what he needed all along, just to be in Kinsale in the Spaniard. Nothing would ruin it for him.
The Players played their music in a practice session just to get the feel of things even though the tourist knew they all played together all the time. He had seen them before. He was sure he remembered them. He felt eyes on him as the barman came up to him again.
“Are you over on ye holidays is it?” the barman said cheerily as he ordered another pint of the black gold.
“Yeah, I am, well sort of. I’ve been here many times before and used to live in Cork for a while. Here I wanted to live though and still do.”
“When was that?” he asked the tourist.
“Four years ago. A long time. I was a chef briefly before I gave it up. Too much pressure and hard work for little money sadly.”
The barman looked at him again thinking to himself something but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “And you’ve been here before then you say?” Again that quizzical look.
“Yeah, quite a few times. My first boss used to live out by Belgooly before I started as a chef. He was an accountant but had his fingers in a lot of pies. I used to run his factory for him. Just a small operation but it was comfortable and I was briefly happy. They asked me to move with the business though to Donegal but I wasn’t interested in moving already after just being here for a few months. Still, life works out in weird ways. I never thought I’d leave but had to go back to the UK for family stuff. Since then I’ve not been back till now sadly…”
The barman excused himself to serve someone else saying he’d be back in a few minutes. By now the pub was packed and he was tight up against the bar on his stall but quite comfortable. Like hell was he moving though. He had a perfect view and fast service here. A crescendo picked up fast and hard, the bodhrán beating a rhythm in his chest and heart. He watched the hand beat back and forth so fast it was hard to see it. It was captivating, entrancing, hypnotising. It took on a life of its own. He imagined himself back in the days when this instrument would’ve been used to scare the enemy like a lot were meant for as well as music and ceremony. Now they were used for telling stories completely in musical form. Some people debated that the bodhrán wasn’t that old, only really twentieth century as it is now known coming from the tambourine.
Tourists danced around him, mostly Americans, whilst others chatted and drank merrily. He really wanted to make the other two pubs but was feeling very comfortable sat where he was. Too hell with it he thought and ordered another pint of Beamish from a different member of staff who also looked at him strangely but didn’t say anything at all. He just sat there and drank and chatted to strangers for about an hour before deciding to move off to the Spinnaker.
The band were on a break anyway and he was ready to move on although really he should head back to his girlfriend. Just as he was leaving the barman saw him and called after him. “You’re a whiskey drinker aren’t ya?” he said. You always used to come in ordering and talking about whiskies. Am I right? Is your name Ben or Barry too? I’m sure I know you from somewhere? As you said, perhaps it’s because you’ve been here many times before?” He still looked confused but also sure. There was something missing that he couldn’t put his finger on. What was it? Damned if he knew!
“Yes, I am a whiskey lover, a little too much sometimes although being sensible tonight. Garry my name is. You probably just recognise me from before. I’ll try to get back. I’m off to the Spinnaker and the Bullman for a quick one so hope to get back in time for the rest of the band.” He said this with a smile and went on his way.
Suddenly something clicked in the barman’s mind. He went pale. It couldn’t be? This had to be a joke? Some sick joke?
Garry indeed went on to the Spinnaker where a regular gave him a similar look and when at the Bulman, One of the girls almost fainted with shock. She had worked there for years and never forgot a customer by name or where they were from or what they did. This one stood out though. He didn’t notice as he was already drinking his beer having been served by someone else.
Just over three years ago an Englishman had been visiting Kinsale on a regular basis. He had been living in Cork and had worked hard in various jobs but the situation wasn’t good and he thought he may have to return to Britain which broke his heart. Then the news came that he was to lose his job, his third since being there. Many were deserting Cork for foreign shores to find work, many going to Britain, especially trained nurses.
He had had an on/off girlfriend who was also English but was born in Cork and brought up there for the first seven years of her life. She sadly lost her accent but sometimes it did come out when in the company of other Irish. At the time they had both been together and had debated on going back to the UK anyway for a short while. They were In Kinsale and an argument ensued one night about this. She had gone back to her B&B whilst he had gone on a pubcrawl to calm down.
He was coming back from the Bulman pub in the dark with hardly any lights along Ardbrack Heights. There are a couple of view points from there and stood swaying slightly looking out to the town below. Oh how he loved it there with all of his heart. It was at this point that he decided to turn back around at head to Charles Fort where he also loved. All that history there and sadness. It suited him. It was locked up of course but he knew a ay in where he could wonder. Maybe he would see the ghost of the White Lady? Hers was a sad story too about lost love and mistaken identity. So he gets in and wonders around on a moonlit night taking in all around him. He climbs to one of the parapets and stands on the top, breathing in the sea air and being at one with Kinsale. It was at this point that speculation and myth came in. Did he jump or fall? Did he actually see the White Lady which made him fall or was it desperation never to leave the place that he loved? No-one knew. His body was found the following day on the rocks below. His girlfriend had been found and told of the tragedy and a few days later she was found on almost exactly the same spot. The tragedy had shook the town and the similarities between them and the legend of the White Lady wasn’t missed by the good people of Kinsale.
Some said they sometimes saw them together, other times apart searching for each other, but never were they seen amongst large crowds. This was what shocked the people who saw them or spoke to them this night.
They both did go back to the UK, but in coffins but their spirits never left the place they loved. Now, they keep a watchful sad eye on the door of their pubs or anywhere in town for the ghosts of the broken-hearted and lost lovers…

*A brief history is available on the following link should you wish to know about the real White Lady: http://ghosts.wikia.com/wiki/Charles_Fort
For more information on everything Kinsale go to my blogroll for a direct link to Kinsale Tourism