DEATH, HAUNTING AND THE BLOOD RED ROSE OF BALLYSEEDE CASTLE

Ballyseede Castle.jpg

Just off the main N69 Tralee/Killarney Road, just three miles outside of Tralee stands the majestic Ballyseede Castle. Covering some 30 acres and approached from the road via a sweeping drive, the Castle is now a majestic four-star hotel and favourite wedding venue, however its current status is far removed from the dark and violent history for which it has notoriety.  It is little wonder that it ranks so highly among in the world’s most haunted hotels.

 

Built by the Fitzgerald family, the castle was their garrison for what became known as the Geraldine Wars during the late 16th Century.  Gerald Fitzgerald, 16th Earl of Desmond joined the Rebellion in defiance of the English and the Fitzgerald family openly refused to swear their allegiance to the Queen.

After years of fighting, Gerald was captured in Stacks Mountains, the range that dominates the Tralee skyline. Charged with treason to the crown, on 11th November 1583 he was taken to the Demesne at Ballyseede and beheaded by the local executioner, Daniel Kelly.  As a warning to others not to disobey Queen Elizabeth, Gerald Fitzgerald’s head was taken to London and was exhibited in a cage at London Bridge.

The Crown instructed the Governor of Kerry, Sir Edward Denny to lease what was then 3000 acres of estate at Ballyseede over to Thomas Blennerhassett of Cumberland, England in 1590. The unique annual rent was six pounds and a single red rose to be picked from the Castle gardens on Midsummer’s Day.

BleedingRose

Although remaining in the Blennerhassett family, the once proud castle fell into disrepair until the early eighteenth century when William, son of the former lessee, took it upon himself to build the current imposing structure.

Upon William’s death, the entire estate was bequeathed to his son Arthur, who at the very young age of 21 was appointed High Sheriff of Kerry, leading to a successful political career. It was during this time that the castle was expanded and the grounds landscaped further.

Arthur married the daughter of the Knight of Glin from the neighbouring county of Limerick and they had a daughter called Hilda who went on to become a nurse. During the First World War she was awarded the 1914 Mons Star, an honour usually given to male officers, however Hilda was one of a handful of nurses to receive the medal for her work in France and Belgium.

WW1_1914_Mons_Star_WWI_ob

Hilda however, had not seen the last of the bloodshed and horror of war. In 1923, just two years after the Irish War of Independence and just one year after the death of Michael Collins, a quartermaster of the IRA issued an order for the death of Free State Army Lieutenant Paddy O’Connor.

On 6th March the unsuspecting Officer was decoyed to Knocknagoshel and a mine trap where he and five of his unit were killed outright.  Outraged, the Free State took immediate retaliatory steps.  IRA prisoners were being held at Ballymullen Barracks in Tralee, so shortly before dawn the following day, nine were removed and taken to Ballyseede Crossroads, close to the castle.

The road itself had been barricaded with rocks, tree trunks and explosives. The prisoners were bound, then forced to stand against the blockade, at which point the command to detonate was given.  Not satisfied that all the prisoners were all dead, a further order was given and the mutilated men were subjected to machine gun fire in the shadows of Ballyseede Castle gates.

 

A cross stands at the gates in their memory and a bronze memorial known as the Ballyseede Monument stands further along the road in honour of Irish Republicanism.

Ballyseede Monument

Hilda herself died in 1965 and was buried next to her family members in nearby Ballyseede graveyard. In keeping with her persona, there is a simple cross marking her grave.  Hilda was the last of the Blennerhassett bloodline and the estate was put up for auction.  The single red rose that had kept Ballyseede Castle in the Blennerhassett family for almost four hundred years was no more.

HIlda grave

The Castle was converted into a hotel, however one particular member of the Blennerhassett family was checked in as a permanent ghost. Hilda has regularly been seen and indeed conversed with in the hotel, particularly in the Crosby room, which had been hers.

Despite legend having Hilda appear on 24th March each year, she has been seen much more frequently.  Interestingly since Hilda’s passing, roses have never been present in the hotel, however on the top floor, the strong scent of roses can be noticed.

Hilda herself can be seen at her window looking out across the grounds and beneath her window the letters RIP eerily appear and then vanish.

20160410_090646.jpg

The staff at Ballyseede have had many of their own experiences, however Esther has had more than her fair share.

Esther, had been stock taking and had sole access to the premises. As she approached the castle along the drive, she could clearly see a shadow at Hilda’s window and it appeared that the television and lights were on.

After unlocking the door and dashing up the stairs, Esther rushed into the Crosby room to discover everything was turned off. Almost as if to let Esther know it wasn’t her imagination, this occurrence repeated itself the following day.

On another occasion two ladies who were staying in the Crosby room where dining in the Stoneroom, being served by a young girl called Paige. The ladies had told her that Hilda had been talking to them and so Paige asked Esther if she could go to the room and see for herself.

A while later Paige returned, white as a sheet and told Esther that Hilda had spoken with her.  The former nurse had told Paige she would be gone from the hotel within the year and overseas.  Less than twelve months later Paige was working in England.

Of course Hilda isn’t the only spirit to wander the halls of this stately home. Former landlords keep a careful watch on the upkeep of Ballyseede and undoubtedly those who were executed or died in battle remain in the grounds, or in nearby Ballyseede woods where the original house once stood.

I recently had the opportunity to stay in this magnificent building and whilst I did not encounter Hilda, I witnessed enough to know that the living are not the only guests at Ballyseede Castle, however only the living check out.

Advertisements

IRELAND’S 8 MOST TERRIFYING HEADLESS GHOSTS!

Headless horseman

When it comes to Spooky ghosts and Halloween, none are quite as unnerving as the Headless variety! Here I look at Ireland’s 8 most feared Decapitated Spectres!

http://www.spookyisles.com/2015/10/irelands-8-most-terrifying-headless-ghosts/

GRIEF, GHOSTS AND GOTHIC REVIVAL AT DUCKETT’S GROVE

Ducketts Grove

Although only ruins now, the outline of the towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove stand resplendent against the horizon and surrounding countryside of the estate to which they have belonged for nearly two centuries.

Duckett’s Grove was originally a modest two story house built in the style of its day in the mid eighteenth century by a descendant of the Duckett family, who arrived to the townland of Kneestown in County Carlow some 100 years previously.

As the family grew in wealth and social standing in both Carlow and Dublin city, it became clear that the somewhat ordinary family home was insufficient to meet the Duckett needs. Owner William Duckett, married an heiress by the name of Harriet in order to further his aspirations of grandeur.

William Duckett

William Duckett

In 1830 therefore, the services of Thomas A Cobden, renowned architect were secured and work began on making Duckett’s Grove a Gothic revival masterpiece of epic proportion, with regal arches, neo-gothic oriel windows and grotesques added to the majestic towers and imposing structure.

One of the only photographs of Ducketts Grove before the fire of 1933.

One of the only photographs of Ducketts Grove before the fire of 1933.

Now believing his home was suitable for his social needs, William Duckett began to throw lavish parties inviting the socialites of Dublin to mingle with local gentry and the Duckett family. William was somewhat of a philanderer and married his second wife, Maria Thompson in 1895 when he was 73 years old, bringing her and her daughter Olive to reside at Ducketts Grove.

William passed away in 1908 and was buried in the family plot at nearby Knocknacree. Maria continued to live in solitude at the mock Gothic castle as she and her daughter had become estranged. Finally Maria abandoned the property in 1916 to live in Dublin.

In a twist, when Maria died she was still so furious with Olive, that in her will she left nothing but what was known as the ‘Angry Shilling’ to her absentee offspring.

Not wishing to be done out of her inheritance, Olive went to court and in a week and a half long hearing, it was revealed that mother and daughter had a tempestuous and physically violent relationship, much to the shock of the Dublin city social scene. Maria was given a cash settlement and the Ducketts of Duckett’s Grove were no more.

Originally purchased by a farmer’s collective, bickering and greed over shares led to default on payment and the Land Commission stepped in and took over. During this time in the early 1920’s the IRA made use of Duckett’s Grove for training purposes and it was the base of its flying column, a mobile armed unit of soldiers.

Despite the nature of its use post-Duckett, the great house was well maintained until it was brought to a smoking shell by way of a catastrophic fire on 20 April 1933 – the cause of which was never discovered.

Although nothing but a husk, it would seem that the events within Duckett’s Grove have left their mark, with several agitated spirits being witnessed over the decades, making the building ruins a hotspot for numerous paranormal investigations, including America’s Destination Truth in 2011.

The most notorious entity identified is the Duckett’s Grove Banshee. Banshees have forever been known as portents of death, with most connected to families and more than a few of these wailing spirits seeking death for revenge and torment.

Banshee

Banshee

In this instance, the Banshee is the result of a Piseóg, a curse placed on the house and family to bring about death, despair and financial ruin. This particular curse was cast by the angry grieving mother of a young girl who had been having an affair with William Duckett and was riding on the estate when she fell from her horse.

The bringer of death can be heard shrieking on the wind through the ruins of Duckett’s Grove from the towers for two days and nights, with stories of those that heard her suffering fatality and family tragedy. Noted accounts include a woman who dropped dead in the grounds and a worker in the gardens who heard the feared cry and whose mother died the follow morning.

Servants have distinctly been heard working in what was formerly the kitchens and pantry and a phantom horse and carriage has rolled up to the former entrance.

Disembodied voices, bangs, floating balls of light and spectral shadows are just a few more of the paranormal phenomena to occur in the Carlow castle. Apparitions of various figures, believed to be members of the Duckett family have been seen, including what is believed to be the ghost of William Duckett himself, riding a horse on his estate.

The Ducketts had extremely strong ties to the Protestant church and a vocalised hatred of Catholicism, so some investigators have provoked heightened paranormal responses from the entities of Duckett’s Grove, by bringing Catholic relics such as rosary beads to investigations.

Now Duckett’s Grove is open to the public, with visitors touring the extensive gardens and woodlands. For those who look at the Gothic skeleton that remains, it is a statuesque reminder of the opulent and lavish lifestyle that used to be lived within.

Ducketts

For those who are braver, the ruins provide a hive of paranormal occurrences to be witnessed from the brightest and busiest of tourist days to the dead of night.

With a family history of materialism, violence and infidelity, and with a Duckett family motto of ‘Let us be judged by our acts’, it is little wonder therefore that this noble family and those whose lives they touched remain the eternally restless residents of Duckett’s Grove.

GRACE O’MALLEY – THE PIRATE QUEEN OF IRELAND!

Sea Queen of Connaught  When it comes to pirates, the Irish knew a lucrative industry when they saw one and some of our greatest pirates were women! This account is that of Grace O’Malley, the Sea Queen of Connaught!

Grace O’Malley – The Pirate Queen of Ireland

13 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IRISH GHOSTS!

Banshee

From Orson Wells to half witch/half horse, here are my 13  little known facts regarding Ireland, Ghosts and Hauntings!

http://www.spookyisles.com/2015/02/13-spine-chilling-irish-ghosts-facts/