In the south west of Ireland, the medieval fishing port of Kinsale stands on the mouth of the River Bandon in County Cork. With a rich and varied history, this quaint tourist village with its labyrinth of narrow streets is set firmly between the hills and shoreline, little having changed in centuries.
Built in the late 17th century, Charles Fort in the Summer Cove part of Kinsale was designed as a star fortification by the Surveyor General of Ireland so as to maximise defence from cannon attack from the water or land. This stronghold was witness to many historical events and battles from the Williamite War of 1689/91 to the War of Independence, all taking place in its shadow.
Of particular note is that it played host to Admiral Penn, the Governor of Kinsale, placed there by force after turning traitor to the crown, taking orders from Cromwell and failing in his task to take the West Indies cleanly for the Commonwealth. The Admiral had a son called William who became the Clerk to the Admiralty Court of Kinsale during his time in Ireland, after which he journeyed to America and became the founder of Pennsylvania.
An interesting sidebar, however I digress as Kinsale has its own stories and I am about to tell you one of its most famous – that of the Lady in White.
The Commander of Charles Fort at the time in question was believed to be named Warrender. He had a daughter who lead a life of privilege in the town of Kinsale and remained mostly within the garrison itself.
Under English rule, the barracks had a turnover of soldiers and a young touring officer fell in love with the Commander’s daughter and she with him. After a whirlwind romance the two were betrothed and married.
After a wedding day of festivities, later that night duties returned to normal as Charles Fort was still of course an operational garrison. The newlyweds took an evening walk along the parapets and the young bride was soon distracted by a single white flower growing below.
An eager young sentry stated he would climb down the ramparts and fetch the flower as a wedding gift if her officer husband would mind his post. The groom took up the post with the sentry’s musket and waited…and waited…
With no sign of the sentry, quite possibly an absconder, the newly married officer sent his dear wife to their chambers while he stood guard. Tired after a day of drinking and excitement he gradually dozed off, leaning on the musket.
Later that night the Commander took to his rounds and found the sleeping soldier. As the offence demanded immediate resolution and penalty, the Commander raised his gun and fired, realising at the moment he released the trigger that he was shooting his own son- in- law in the heart.
Distraught over his actions and unable to face the grief and judgement of his daughter, in a split second decision the Commander threw himself from the battlements.
The young wife awoke from a short sleep and went in search of her husband, only to find his bloody corpse. In despair she looked out over the ramparts and saw the broken body of her father below. This was all too much for the new bride to take in and so she leapt broken hearted to her death.
From that day her lonely spirit, dressed in her wedding gown wanders the parapets of the Fort, desperate and forlorn and can be seen as the evening turns to night. Her eerie presence casts fear and sorrow into those who see her and until it was abandoned, leaving even the battle hardened soldiers of the Fort to carry out their duties in terror, locking all the doors to keep her from entering.
A futile gesture, as this grief stricken widow who lost the two men she loved has nowhere else to go.