Tag Archives: Ireland

The Banshee of the Fitzgeralds: 1760s

An Irish Ghost Story

By Kate Bell

The tale I am about to relate is strictly true. It was told to me by a young lady whose grandmother, or grandaunt, or great-grandmother, had been the heroine. I am not quite certain which of the three, but it was some ancestress or relative. I wish to be particular on this point, because I know how much more interesting it must make the story.

About 60 years ago then—more or less (I know it must have been a long time ago because there were rebels in Ireland then) armed bands of men, most absurdly called ‘Whiteboys,’ though they were full-grown villains of the blackest die, roamed over certain districts of Ireland, doing all the mischief they could, burning houses, shooting men, ill-treating women and children, rousing Catholics against Protestants, tenants against landlords, and, in fact, everybody, who had nothing, against everybody who had anything. The special objects of the Whiteboys’ hatred were the landed proprietors. These persons were not at that time greatly to be envied. Inheriting, for the most part, heavily mortgaged estates, they inherited also a talent for spending money, far beyond any capacity for gathering it. When, at last, their tenants refused to pay any rent at all, and the excited state of the country made it dangerous to attempt to force them, why, the result was that the majority of the ‘landed gintry’ of Ireland found themselves finally ‘landed’ in the ‘Encumbered Estates Court.’

Mr Fitzgerald was a landed proprietor, who lived at Kilbally-something House, near the small country-town of Ballykillsomething else; (the final syllable does not matter much in these Irish names). Although a Protestant, Mr Fitzgerald had hitherto lived on amicable terms with his tenantry. He was known to be a just and kind-hearted man, and besides, (which was of much more importance in the eyes of the Irish poor) he came of a ‘rale ould family,’ a family of sufficient dignity to possess a ‘Banshee’ of its own. Therefore although the majority of the tenants had ceased to pay any rent, they were forbearing and generous enough not to shoot their landlord, and, as long as he ‘kept quiet,’ did not mean to do him any harm. So the wives of the poorer tenants still went up to the kitchen of the big house for a chat, and still resorted to ‘the misthress’ when they needed help, or medicine, or a word of good advice, the latter two, however, being much oftener asked for than taken.

A few years before the (unknown) date of my story, Mr. Fitzgerald had married Annie O’Byrne, the daughter of a neighbouring country gentleman. Many men envied him the prize, for Annie was one of the belles of the county and as good as she was pretty. Picture her to yourselves, my readers if you can! for she is the heroine of this tale, generous, bravo, and witty, impulsive, loving, and loveable; in fact, a perfect specimen of that most charming of all feminine creatures, the true Irish lady. Annie had been brought up almost entirely in her own native county, the only exception being two seasons spent at a fashionable boarding school in Dublin. There was one branch of her education not attended to at that boarding school. This neglect, afterwards turned out to be of the greatest use to her, as we shall see. In her early childhood, Annie had learnt from the nurses aid servants who surrounded her, many of the wild legends and superstitions of her native country and many also of its touching ballads. Possessing a vivid imagination and retentive memory, she could, in later years relate some wild story of the district in such a manner as to thrill her auditors with pleasing horror, or sing some touching Irish ditty till tears came to their eyes but her special talent lay in imitating the mournful ‘keen’—that heart-breaking wail of the Irish mourner.

Mrs. Fitzgerald was of course a great favourite amongst the tenants, both on her father’s and husband’s estates. Her intimate acquaintance with their habits and modes of thought, and her knowledge of their native language gave her great influence. Her ready sympathy in their troubles quite won their hearts, those warm and loving Irish hearts, which yet often so cruelly belie themselves under the evil influences of ignorance–and superstition!

Ballykil——-House was situated on a terrace commanding a lovely view of the surrounding country. The lawn studded with clusters of Arbutus and Hydrangea, and bordered by two fine avenues of Elm and Ilex, sloped gradually down till it reached the high road, beyond which, stretched an undulating plain, where the fields and hedges glistened with that vivid green, so peculiar to the Emerald Isle.

Ballykil__ House was a large and comfortable mansion though, (like many of the Irish country houses of that time) standing much in need of repair. The sitting-rooms were all on the ground floor, and so also ware the kitchens and servants offices, The latter lay at the back of the house, and were reached by a long passage, having been built out from the main edifice. The old-fashioned vaulted stone floored kitchen had three large windows on each side, looking out on the one hand, into the glen before mentioned, and on the other into the shrubbery. The windows had no shutters, but were crossed by two or three iron bars, an unusual precaution in those days, for burglary was not a vice of the Irish peasantry, nor even petty theft. Upstairs there were the sleeping rooms of the family and servants. Mr. Fitzgerald’s domestic establishment had been greatly reduced since the real troubles had begun, and consisted at present of only three female servants and one man, the latter acted as groom, gardener and general messenger.

One summer evening, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald were sitting on the terrace in front of their house, admiring the glories of the sunset rays gilding the fair scenes before them, and discussing the state of affairs in general and the state of their own district in particular.

‘ How happy we are,’ said Mrs. Fitzgerald ‘to be so quiet and peaceful here.’

‘Long may it last!’ replied her husband, ‘but there are floating rumours, that the Whiteboys have been seen in the neighbourhood, and if so; farewell, to peace!’

‘I do not think they would do us any harm at any rate,’ observed Annie, ‘for none of our people would join them, we are not rich enough to tempt an attack for the sake of plunder, and I do not think there is one man in the district, who harbours ill-feeling or revenge against us.’

‘You forget Con Bourke,’ answered Mr. Fitzgerald; ‘I was obliged to turn him out as he had not paid rent for three years; he was thoroughly bad, or I might have left him alone, but I found he was spreading mischief and persuading the tenants not to pay any rent, vowing vengeance. I have never ventured to eject another tenant since.’

‘But you know dear, Con came from another part of the country,’ remarked Mrs. Fitzgerald eagerly ‘he was not one of our own people and besides that, he is gone to America.’

‘I hope so, but I doubt the fact,’ replied her husband, ‘and if the Whiteboys should ever attack us I fancy we shall have to thank Con Bourke. But who is this coming up the avenue?’

As he spoke, a man appeared, riding in haste. On reaching the house, he dismounted and handed Mr Fitzgerald a letter. Annie, watching her husband while he read saw his face grow suddenly grave and anxious. He turned quietly, however, to the messenger saying, ‘Take your horse round to the stable for a feed, O’Hara, and send Jerry here to me.’ Only when the man had disappeared did Mr Fitzgerald relieve his wife’s curiosity. ‘This is a letter from the High Sheriff, my dear Annie, calling on me to repair at once to the town, both as a magistrate and as an officer of militia, to assist in keeping order and to protect the inhabitants against an expected attack by the Whiteboys. The militia has been called out in the immediate neighbourhood already, Sir George says.’

Annie turned pale, for danger threatened her husband. ‘And how does Sir George know of this attack?’ she asked. ‘He has received an anonymous communication, informing him that a large band of rebels intend entering the town to-night, where they expect to be joined by a number of malcontents. Their object is to seize the gaol, and burn it down after having set free the prisoners, especially that last batch of rebels. However, I must go at once, but I cannot bear to leave you here alone, Annie I don’t know what to do.’

‘I am not in the least afraid,’ replied Annie, bravely. ‘You know I am quite safe amongst our own people, and as the Whiteboys will be occupied with the attack on the town there is no fear of them. I am far more anxious about you, my dear husband, who are going into danger. However it is your duty to go at once, and I will not keep you back by my foolish fears.’

‘You should have been the wife of a soldier, my dear,’ said her husband, kissing her, and while Mrs Fitzgerald went into the house to make some preparations for his departure, Mr Fitzgerald gave his orders to Jerry, who now appeared breathless with excitement.

‘Bring round the car at once, Jerry, put on your uniform and load your gun, there may be fighting in store for us. The Whiteboys are expected in the town to-night.’ Jerry grinned with delight at the prospect of a shindy, for he was a soldier in his master’s regiment of militia.

In less than a quarter of an hour the car was at the door, and master and servant, both, armed, but with large top boots concealing their uniforms, mounted one on each side, and away rattled the old jaunting car down the avenue. ‘God bring you back safe to me again, darling,’ had been Annie’s last words as she had been bravely struggling to  keep back the tears that would glisten in her eyes as she bade good-bye. As Mr Fitzgerald looked back up the avenue to wave a last farewell, he saw his wife still standing on the terrace. The last rays of the setting sun were falling on her sweet face and crimsoning the long curls of her hair tossed back from her brow, as she held one child high in air to kiss its hand to papa, and the other child clung timidly to her dress. Mr. Fitzgerald never forgot that scene, for his wife’s hair was grey ere she stood on that terrace again.

When the car had disappeared Mrs Fitzgerald went into the house and occupied herself busily till night came on; determined not to give way to her sorrow and anxiety. The elder of the two children, little Aileen, had. been feverish and restless during the day and her mother determined to keep the child with herself for the night. Before retiring to rest, Annie drew back the curtains of her window, and looked out. The wind had risen, and heavy masses of cloud swept across the sky, obscuring at intervals the light of the newly risen moon. All seemed quiet in the direction of the distant town, and breathing one more prayer for her husband’s safety, Annie lay down to sleep. An hour or two later Aileen awoke, and became more and more restless in spite of the medicine and cooling drink administered by her mother, till finding sleep impossible, Mrs Fitzgerald rose and throwing on a long white dressing-gown, sat down in aa armchair by the bed-side, prepared for a night watch. After a time little Aileen cried for more ‘nice drink,’ but there were no more lemons in the room so Annie, giving the little girl the last drop left in the tumbler, told her to be quiet and be a good child while mama went to fetch some for her. Then, drawing back the curtains that the child might see the moonlight, Mrs Fitzgerald took the candle and left the room.

Having descended to the dining-room, and finding no lemons on the sideboard, Annie suddenly remembered that there were some in a pantry which opened off the kitchen, and at once she hurried there to get them. As she left the dining-room a draught, by the shutting of the door, blew out her candle.

‘This is unfortunate!’ said Annie to herself ‘especially as I have no matches. However, it is moonlight so I can grope my way to the kitchen where I shall find both matches and candles on the chimney piece.’ So leaving her own candle on the Hall table, she hurried down the long dark passage leading to the kitchen. Mrs. Fitzgerald had told her husband truly that she was not afraid, for personal fear had really never crossed her mind, and her only personal anxiety was lest the child should become frightened at her long absence.

On opening the door, Annie found the kitchen almost in total darkness. Only a few streaks of light only, lay across the floor, the moon being half obscured at the moment. The rest of the floor was darkened by heavy shadows from the shrubbery. As she groped her way to the chimneypiece Mrs. Fitzgerald for the first time, experienced a sensation of awe and loneliness, aptly turned eerie and this feeling increased when, after searching on the chimneypiece (where, she knew the cook always kept her matches, she could find none. She was still standing in the deep black shade thrown by some shrubs across the upper end of the kitchen, when the moon suddenly emerged, bright and clear, from behind the clouds and all the floor before her lay in one broad expanse of soft and silvery light, crossed by bars of shadow.

Delighted at the sudden change Annie looked up, and out of the barred windows, looked up—and saw at every window human faces—faces, that looked white and ghastly in the moonlight, pressed against the bars, fierce eyes that seemed to be piercing that corner of black shadow where one white speck appeared—faces that were cruel, coarse and brutal! eyes that haunted Annie to her dying day.

The shock was so great, that for one instant her heart and brain seemed turned to stone, she could not breathe or stir. Then, like a lightening flash, the whole truth burst upon. her. ‘The Whiteboys the cruel Whiteboys they will kill us all! they will burn down the house,’ but then the first thought of the woman’s heart was ‘my children ! Oh god! save my children,’ and in that brief moment an agonized though silent prayer went up to Him. who, heareth in the time of trouble.’ But she must act as well as pray, and what can she do? Poor Annie! surely terror must have driven her mad! Loosening the knot of her black hair till it fell in waving masses to her waist, throwing her arms above her head,  and there clasping and wringing her hands and uttering one long low wail of agony she suddenly emerged into the light. Those hardy men were terror stricken at the sight; some with a cry of horror turned and fled, others hid their eyes and whispered to their companions behind them; for fast as those faces disappeared from the windows others took their place, at first incredulous, but soon on all there came the same blank look of awe and dread. Truly they saw a weird sight!

What was that ghostly, awful figure wandering up and down, and round and round that gloomy vaulted room, keeping her lonely watch at dead of night. White feet gleaming on the cold stone floor, white garments floating to the ground! Pale hands, now folded patiently upon her breast, now wrung as if in bitter agony! A white and ghastly face! whose fixed blue eyes gazed at them, with such a wild and mournful, but yet stony gaze, that the bravest amongst that murderous band, shuddered as they looked: and ever and anon, there rang out upon the breathless silence, that shrill and mournful keen, that wailing deathsong which thrills the Irish heart.

What could this be but the Banshee?—the ‘Banshee of the Fitzgeralds!’ that sad spirit who appears only to announce the approaching death of one of that family which she loves and guards; and who mourns bitterly over the fate which she alone foresees, but has not power to avert. Woe to the man, who disturbs that spirit in her night watch or who interrupts her ‘keen’ of sorrow

There were amongst those men however, some more determined and less superstitious than the rest, and although even they, dared not enter the house which that spirit walked, yet they said ‘Let us wait a while perhaps she will disappear soon, and then we must make haste, seize what we can, and burn the house down.’ And Annie heard them!

The band retreated to the glen, from whence two or three of the boldest returned at intervals to look in; but the spirit walked still! still wept and wailed, and wrung her hands only each time they came, the wail was lower and feebler, the step slower and more solemn. At last the boldest gave way, and came no more. For the Irish peasant will face danger in any earthly form, but let the terror take a ghostly shape and he is the veriest coward! With gloomy fears and lowered voices, the baffled Whiteboys slowly slunk away and disappeared down the glen.

Annie Fitzgerald unfortunately, did not know that the men she feared had gone at last, and she still dreaded their return. It was past midnight when she had left her room that night, and now the clock was striking three. The moon sank down below the verge of the horizon, but a faint light still lingered on the sky, and so the Banshee walked still! near to the windows, where the glimmer of her white garments might be seen; only the wail had ceased at last. The voice was gone indeed she walked mechanically now. The faint red gleam of early dawn appeared. The chirping of the awakening birds sounded from the shrubberies. Slowly, oh, how slowly, the blessed light of day crept up the eastern horizon, bringing release to a brave weary creature whose strength was well-nigh exhausted. Then, only, did Annie feel that she was saved. She knew that the Whiteboys dare not wait for daylight, and so, casting one last shuddering look at those barred windows, she left the kitchen, and walked steadily down the long passage. When she reached the foot of the staircase, strength failed her, brave Annie gave way at last and fell senseless on the floor. There the servants found her a short time afterwards. Roused by the crying of little Aileen, the nurse had run down to her mistress’ room, where she found the child alone, crying out for her mama who she said had left her ‘such a long long time ago.’

Fortunately little Aileen must have fallen asleep immediately after her mother had left the room, and had not awakened till daylight appeared. Nurse calling down the other servants, immediately went in search of her mistress, and was horrified to see the white heap lying at the foot of the staircase. They carried Annie to her bed, and tended her lovingly till her husband’s return a little later, when he found his wife, whom he had left so bright and well, senseless and speechless Immediately Jerry was despatched for the doctor and also to bring the parents of Mrs. Fitzgerald, who lived a few miles away. The servants could give no reason for the condition in which they had found their mistress, and all seemed most mysterious. Presently, however, the cook ran up to say that there were numerous footsteps outside the kitchen, as if a number of men had come up from the glen and returned thither. Mr Fitzgerald at once suspected that the Whiteboys, instead of attacking the town made their way to his house, and that the letter to the sheriff had been only part of a plot to mislead him and others; for no alarm or attack had occurred in the town during the past night. Before the doctor arrived Mrs Fitzgerald recovered consciousness sufficiently to relate with tolerable clearness what had happened. This enabled her husband to send messages to the town giving information as to the direction the band had taken their steps having been traced after leaving the glen.

Very brief was poor Annie’s gleam of intelligence; she soon relapsed into unconsciousness again, and a severe illness followed. For weeks she lay in brain fever, struggling with dreadful phantasies, haunted incessantly by those faces and eyes, and wailing on monotonously that dolorous ‘keen’ she had often practised in her merry childhood, but which now wrung the hearts of the loving watchers by her bedside learning, as they did, from her ravings, all the concentrated agony which she had endured on that dreadful night. But if the wife had prayed earnestly for her husband in his hour of danger, so now his prayers for her were answered; and Annie recovered to be more than ever the beloved wife, mother, and daughter, and in addition to become henceforward the heroine of the county.

The long hair which had played its part was shaved off during her illness, and when Annie’s locks grew again, they were grey. But some thought this only added to the beauty of the sweet face, which, had grown more thoughtful and grave then of yore. Many years passed ere Mrs Fitzgerald could be persuaded to relate her story to any but her husband. As the terror and suffering of that night passed away in the past, she would occasionally, however, tell the tale to some of her children and dear friends at their very earnest request.

It seemed to her, she said, as if in immediate answer to her prayer for help, that thought had come into her mind. By a sudden inspiration, knowing as she did the superstition of the Irish poor, and knowing how mysterious and ghostly she must appear in that lonely room at dead of night, she had acted—for the very last time in her life—the part of Banshee and strength had been mercifully given her to bear a mental strain for three long hours, which might well have driven her mad.

Soon after Mrs Fitzgerald’s recovery, the band of Whiteboys, which had threatened Kilbally—— House, was captured by two and threes, having dispersed about the country. It appeared that Con Burke, inspired by revenge, had induced them to attack his late landlord’s house, informing them that there were plate and jewels of great value in the house (an invention of his own) and rousing their indignation against Mr. Fitzgerald as a ‘tyrant’ Landlord and, a ‘heritic.’ As those Whiteboys were all from a different part of Ireland, they believed him, their only aim indeed, being plunder and destruction. All the men acknowledged the terror they had felt at sight of the ghost!

Most of the prisoners wore transported. Only a few of the greatest criminals amongst them suffered death, but from that time, the district remained quiet and Mr. Fitzgerald enjoyed many happy years in peace with the noble woman whose courage had saved to him his wife, his children, and his home.

Auckland Star, 27 May 1876: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While this story was published in the 1870s, the “Whiteboys” protested the injustices of landlords in the 1760s. The authoress, with a romanticised view of the Irish countryside, voices some unfortunate common prejudices about the “superstitions” of the “peasants,” as well as a bit of dismissiveness for the lower orders.

The “keen” or caoine was the Irish funeral lamentation uttered at wakes and funerals. It was, indeed, heart-breaking. Here is an early 20th-century description:

The cries of lamentation usually take the form of questions which are asked in a half-singing, half-reciting and sobbing voice. “Mo cushla machree (pulse of my heart), why did you die from me ? Wasn’t it you that was the best of husbands and fathers, giving joy to all that knew you, and wouldn’t those that love you go through fire and water to save a hair of your head from being hurt ? ” The piercing wail of a mother for a favourite son is most heartrending to hear. “Ah, Michael, mo ville astore (my ten thousand treasures), sure your like was not to be found on all the broad acres of Ireland, and your death has cast a shadow on the country that no sun will ever disperse.”

The Banshee or Bean Sidhe is the Irish death messenger. She may appear as an old woman washing the bloody clothes of the soon-to-be-dead or as a younger woman with long red hair. She keens or wails in the manner of Irish mourners, announcing an imminent death.  The Fitzgeralds as well as the O’Neills, the O’Donnells, and the O’Briens, were among the ancient families of Ireland said to have their own personal banshees. It was said that the banshee might even cross the water to wail for members of those families who had sailed to America.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Confidential Secretary: 1880s

lady-bess-male-impersonator

The following story is narrated by the son of an Irish politician whom we will call by the name of O’Brien. The events narrated followed on his return from abroad consequent on his father’s death. In recounting the circumstances of his return to his native land he put on record the following striking occurrences:

My father’s death recalled me from abroad. His letters and MSS. were sealed up, and it was my duty upon my arrival in Ireland to wade through the enormous pile of correspondence. He was a man with literary tastes, he was a strong Home Ruler, a Parnellite, and although he had never made the public a participant in his labours, he left a testamentary instruction for the publication of his essays, etc., on this great political problem.

Now I myself, as one of Her Majesty’s civil servants, was strongly for the Union, and was afraid that I could not do justice to the intentions of the testator.

I had been away from home more than ten years, and I found that my father had been assisted in his work by a young fellow, Louis Sullivan, who seemed to be his only companion, my mother having died when I was quite young. Of course, I was only too glad to retain the services of the young man. I requested him to call, and we soon came to an arrangement satisfactory to both of us. Louis Sullivan. who was about twenty years of age, was slim and fragile, his face was very handsome, of true Irish type, with dark hair and blue eyes. He was well versed in my father’s literary work, and absolved me entirely from any responsibility. I left him fully in charge of all matters referring to Home Rule, and took the sifting and investigating of letters and other papers upon myself.

During some months we were daily together, and I often observed that my young companion looked at me with an expression of fondness which touched me in an inexplicable manner. I came across some letters which showed me that Louis was more than a mere acquaintance to me. My father had years ago formed an intimacy with a woman residing on his estate, who had nursed him through a severe illness, and a child was born as the result of this attachment. The name of the woman was Sullivan, and she was dead. I thought it more than coincidence that Louis Sullivan should have been with my father ever since then, and I could understand why my father should have provided for his young companion by a substantial annuity. He was his own child, though I soon became convinced that Louis was not acquainted with this fact. Nevertheless, I felt that blood spoke loudly, for I saw that Louis loved me, and such a state of things can only be due to a strong sympathy, which, no doubt, is based upon blood relationship.

In a conversation with him one day, I gathered that he was under the impression that his father had died before he was born. I could not undeceive him and let him know that he was an illegitimate child. At last our tasks were finished, and as I was leaving Ireland, a separation became necessary. The night before my departure I asked Louis to dine with me.

It was a sad occasion; little was said, and it was evident we both felt keenly the approaching parting from each other. At last Louis broke the silence, and taking my hand in his, he asked my forgiveness for making a confession. I saw now that I was mistaken, and that he knew our relationship, and I told him that his confession was not needed, that I knew all, and embracing him, kissed him, and called him brother. The result of my action was a great surprise. Louis burst into a fit of the most violent weeping. I told him how I had found out the secret, and entreated him to come with me, and be my brother before the world. I could not understand his subsequent behavior, but he refused point-blank. This was the last I saw of him…

  • • • • •

I was in ___, where I intended to spend some weeks. It was just eight days since I had left Ireland. I was ascending the staircase of the Hotel___in ___. It was the evening twilight. Suddenly I saw standing before me the shape of a woman dressed in white. I stared at her; she bore the face of Louis Sullivan. Too astonished to speak, I stood looking at her in amazement, when she vanished.

  • • • • •

Subsequently I learned the truth. The being who recently had been my companion, and whom I had discovered to be so near a relation, was indeed no brother, but a sister. Why my father had made her wear men’s clothes I never exactly understood, unless it was the fear that the presence of a young girl at his house would have given occasion to gossip. She is now dead. She died the very evening she appeared to me at the hotel in ___. With her own hands she made an end to her life. The letter she left behind her told all: she loved me, and was just on the point on that evening before my departure of confessing her feelings when, misunderstanding her purpose, I told her she was my brother. Her relationship to me had not been known to her, but she found now that she was my sister—she could not bear the situation and she died.

That I should have seen her in the shape of a woman, when her sex was entirely unsuspected, seemed to me the most inexplicable feature of the occurrence.”

The Occult Review November 1912, p. 270-1

 Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Females disguising themselves as males is a well-worn plot device—Shakespeare was particularly fond of it—but rarely has it been deployed to such tragic effect.  

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

The Character Witness: 1860s

british judge

A young man was tried for murder, having killed a member of a rival faction in a faction fight (writes Aubrey de Vere in his “Recollections”). The judge, reluctant to sentence him to death, on account of his youth, turned to him and said: “Is there any one in court who could speak as to your character?”  

The youth looked round the court, and then said, sadly: “There is no man here, my lord, that I know.”

At that, my grandfather chanced to walk into the grand jury gallery. He saw at once how matters stood. He called out: “You are a queer boy that don’t know a friend when you see him!”

The boy was quick-witted; he answered: “Oh, then, it is myself that is proud to see your honor here this day!”

“Well,” said the judge, “Sir Vere, since you know that boy, will you tell us what you know of him?”

“I will, my lord,” said my grandfather, “and what I can tell you is this — that from the very first day that ever I saw him to this minute, I never knew anything of him that was not good.”

The old tenant ended his tale by striking his hands together and exclaiming: “And he never to have clapped his eye on the boy till that minute!”

The boy escaped being hanged.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 7 February 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah, but what of the boy’s subsequent career? Was he transported to where he made a fortune in the gold-fields or sheep-pens of Australia, returning to Ireland a rich and prosperous man to thank his benefactor? Or did he return from prison a hardened ticket-of-leave lag who had learned every species of vice behind bars? In such case, he undoubtedly would have approached his benefactor under the pretext of asking for aid, while planning a burglary of the premises, which invariably went wrong, leaving the former convict mortally wounded by the police.

Inquiring minds naturally want to know.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Shamrock Entertainments: 1910, 1916

A St. Patrick's Day postcard, courtesy of The Graphics Fairy. http://thegraphicsfairy.com/vintage-st-patricks-day-clip-art-lovely-lass-in-giant-clover/

A St. Patrick’s Day postcard, courtesy of The Graphics Fairy. http://thegraphicsfairy.com/vintage-st-patricks-day-clip-art-lovely-lass-in-giant-clover/

ERIN’S GREAT DAY

From green cardboard or green paper cut out cards about the size and shape of playing cards, or, if you have a printing-press or a typewriter, you can use paper cut like handbills, and write or print on them the following form:

Grand Irish Expedition Covering Every Feature of Life in the Emerald Isle— Its Geographical, Industrial, Legendary, and Literary Interests—Will be Opened on March 17th. Doors Open at 8 P. M. Possession of this Ticket Admits Bearer Free of Charge. Children Not Admitted.

Decorate the parlor with Irish flags, large shamrocks cut out of cardboard, pots of growing clovers or of shamrocks, if you can get them, and other appropriate insignia. If possible, arrange the exhibit in a room adjoining that where guests are welcomed, or in a portion of the parlor or hall which is curtained off for the purpose. However, this is not absolutely necessary.

The Comic Catalogues

Now from paper, preferably green, make the catalogues. These are little folders or leaflets folded once, the outside to be decorated with gold-paper shamrocks, or with the funny Irish faces clipped from comic papers and mounted with library paste and appropriate pen-and-ink decoration on the green. Letter in “Catalogue of the Exhibits” on each cover, and inside write out the various titles and the numbers by which they can be identified around the room.

Here are the exhibits, with the explanations in parentheses. In each is a laugh—”merely this and nothing more.”

  1. A View of Cork. (A little house built of corks, or simply one or more corks placed together.)
  2. A Bird’s-eye View of Three Irish Counties. (A limerick, an ulster, and a cork laid together.) Others, such as Wicklow, a candle with the wick cut down, might be added if desired.
  3. Home Rule for Ireland! (A yardstick tied with green ribbon.)
  4. “Rory O’More.” By Samuel Lover. (Picture, clipped from an advertisement or an illustration, of a shrieking infant.)
  5. The Bells of Shandon. (Pictures of pretty girls of Irish type.)
  6. The Blarney Stone. (Small stone with a smiling Hibernian phiz painted or pasted upon it in green ink or paint.)
  7. “Patrick’s Day in the Mornin’.” (A salt fish and a baked potato upon a breakfast-plate.)
  8. “The Last Rose of Summer.” Thomas Moore. (A faded millinery rose and a picture of the great poet of Ireland.)
  9. “The Wearin’ o’ the Green.” (Little Irishman from the favor shop, with a bow of green ribbon of disproportionate size decorating him.)
  10. What Ireland Does Not Know. Toy snake from the Oriental Store.)
An Irish boy and his colleen dancing with a pig, c. 1917

An Irish boy and his colleen dancing with a pig, c. 1917

Special Irish Dishes

Here is a suggestion for the menu which the individual entertainer can minimize or increase. The Shamrock Chicken is delicious Chicken Newburg decorated plentifully with green, which may take the form of parsley or of shamrocks cut from slices of green sweet pepper. The Irish Cabin is mashed potatoes quickly molded upon the platter with a knife to suggest a cunning little cabin, such as the traveler sees in Irish country, while popovers or other very light biscuit served with the first course are called “fairy bread,” because as soon as you look upon them, so to speak, they vanish. The Erin Go Bragh Salad consists of a few leaves or sprigs of all available green things in the way of lettuces, with green mayonnaise. The Shillalahs are cheese straws. “Blarney” is macaroon fluff, a delicious dainty, to be served in green glasses. Mavourneens are cream-cakes iced in green. The Hibernian Sugar served with the tea is green rock candy. [described further on as “Grane Tay” Irish Sugar.]

The entertainment may consist of a story called “Inthroducin’ Pat,” where blanks in the narrative are left to be filled in by the cleverness of the competitor with words beginning with the syllable “pat.”

The story is written on cards or sheets of paper, and half an hour or more should be allowed for working it out. Here is the tale:

“My friend Pat is, I believe, a native of (Patagonia). He is a fond and devoted father whose (paternal) side is one of his most attractive characteristics. His wife is called (Patricia). Mrs. Pat is a famous cook, one of her specialties being (patties), indulgence in which has inclined Pat to be rather (patulous). Owing to his foreign birthplace Pat talks with a slight dialect (patois). His work is on the force as a (patrol), but he is never so happy as when playing (pat a cake) with his children and listening to the (patter) of their little feet. From his father he inherited a modest (patrimony), which makes the family independent of small necessities, and in addition to his salary Pat ambitiously endeavors to add to his income by (patents) registered at Washington. His wife is a good needlewoman and makes her own costumes as well as those of the children, using a good (pattern). Her one extravagance is a fondness for (patchouli). Altogether a happy and lucky man is this (paterfamilias), honest, thrifty and (patriotic).

* * * *

Other games: see how many words you can make out of the word “shamrock,” and “Evergreen Questions.”  Mrs Daffodil will give just a sampling:

EVERGREEN QUESTIONS

  1. Green and real estate form a northern country. Greenland.
  2. A city and green form something dangerous. Paris green.
  3. One of the Presidents and green form the cloth worn by woodmen in Merrie England of olden time. Lincoln green.
  4. Green and a British general of Revolutionary fame give a delicious fruit. Green Gage.
  5. One rough green is obtained from the skin of fish. Shagreen.

The Mary Dawson Game Book: A Manual of Original Games and Guessing Contests, Mary Dawson, 1916

One imagines that the persons actually labouring to free themselves from the tyranny of the English would not have found the “funny Irish faces,” mangled dialect, or the  “home rule for Ireland” terribly amusing. This next author is even more dismissive of the Irish, except as a party theme.

 THE POSSIBILITIES OF ST PATRICK’S DAY

Mrs. J.M. Henderson

No day in the year lends itself to absolute fun and jollity like St. Patrick’s Day. There is no sentiment attached to it. Ireland’s patron saint, who established the religion on that beautiful isle is never considered or thought of on this merry day. Outside of the church calendar St. Patrick’s Day is simply a name, but its decorations, its favors, and its emblems are so different from those used at any other time that the merry hostess simply gives full scope to her fancy and the merry dance goes on.

"The Wearing of the Green," postcard, courtesy of The Graphics Fairy. http://thegraphicsfairy.com/free-st-patricks-day-clip-art/

“The Wearing of the Green,” postcard, courtesy of The Graphics Fairy. http://thegraphicsfairy.com/free-st-patricks-day-clip-art/

In sending out your invitations for a St. Patrick’s Day entertainment ask the guests to honor the saint, the day and the nation by their dress. These costumes need not be elaborate. Green ties for the men, big green covered buttons—if they so elect— for their waistcoats, and, of course, a sprig of shamrock for their buttonhole. The women may wear wreaths of shamrock in their hair and corsages, real or artificial.

Pewter Ice-cream moulds including a shamrock and Irish pipe. http://www.cowanauctions.com/auctions/item.aspx?id=36423

Pewter Ice-cream moulds including a shamrock and Irish pipe. http://www.cowanauctions.com/auctions/item.aspx?id=36423

In decorating the house for such an event, green should predominate. Strings of paper shamrock leaves on green cord carried from the corners of the table to the chandelier above the centerpiece would be effective. Glass candlesticks, with green shades or green electric bulbs could be used. A large cardboard harp, gilded and placed in a conspicious position, labelling it, “The harp that once through Tara’s Hall,” is another suggestion. During the evening let some member of the company standing by the harp read or sing the poem. Let Irish guests sing Irish melodies and invite all present to-repeat some Irish joke, giving a prize for the best. [One shudders at the thought of these jokes…]

1912 St Patrick's Day novelties

1912 St Patrick’s Day novelties

Have a big punch bowl in a corner draped with Irish flags and labelled, “Cruiskeen lawn.” [An Irish song, “The Little Brimming Jug.”] This may be a temperance beverage, but should be colored green. Have near the entrance a real marble block or stone wrapped in moss, green paper or silk, and notify each guest that he is expected to kiss the “Blarney Stone.”

Favors for the dances and table decorations are unusually varied this year, many of them being extremely dainty. There are large and small pots of growing shamrocks, little pots with make believe shamrocks, full sized clay pipes, with several shamrocks tied around the bowl with green ribbon; shiny black or green top hats in all sizes, each with a little white pipe tied to its stem. There are small green snakes, irridescent and quivering; frogs tied to rubber jumper cords and many banners, harps, pigs and “pratie” conceits.

A clever idea for St Patrick’s entertainment is a big Jack Horner pie that can be purchased ready made or constructed at home from a big round hat box. It should be covered with moss or green paper and filled with St. Patrick favors, each wrapped in green tissue paper and attached to emerald ribbons used to draw them from the box.

American Housekeeper: New series, Volume 23, Issues 141-146, 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil hopes that her readers will spend St Patrick’s Day in a more edifying fashion than those college students who wear shirts inviting onlookers to, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” and consume multiple green beers—an abomination to any right-thinking lover of Irish stout.

However, Mrs Daffodil is not convinced that these hints on celebrating St Patrick’s Day from a time when the Irish were often stereotyped as credulous, stupid, and lazy offer much in the way of an improvement. Mrs Daffodil has omitted some suggested entertainments for the young people, which included attempts at side-splittingly humorous Irish dialect. Cook also has put her foot down at making “cunning little cabins” out of potatoes.

That greenish person over at Haunted Ohio has posted previously on a different sort of shamrock entertainment at a séance.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.