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Haunted Britain

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But, where history remains silent, legend possesses no such restraint and the Irish talent for storytelling has subsequently blessed us with an intriguing narrative of what occurred. Owen was a brave and fearless mariner who knew his business well. He was, however, forbidden to trade in his nearest port, the English-controlled Galway and, as a result, did business instead with Scotland, France, Portugal and, England’s archenemy, Spain. Richard Parsons had founded an Irish branch of this club in 1735 and they are said to have held their sinister assemblies, in a hunting lodge, the ruins of which can still be seen on Montpelier Hill behind the centre. The Great Hall of the Castle, is one of the most important medieval rooms in Ireland and remains virtually unaltered since its construction in 1475. Wherever he went, the tools of his trade went with him and he was always sketching the people and events that he came across.

But the shadow of grief fell once more upon the household when Aobh died giving birth to twin boys, whom the distraught widower named Fiachra and Conn. She learnt that the ghostly boy was a member of the Blake family, the original owners of the house. In 1210 the castle was taken over by King John who made it an administrative centre for English government, in which capacity it served for the next seven centuries.

5. Chillingham Castle, Northumberland

His ghost, it is said, still drifts in a spectral boat across the glassy surface of the Lake in the dead of night. He has even been seen in the hotel’s "Devil’s Punchbowl" bar looking sadly across at the ruined castle, no doubt remembering long ago days of glory and bloodshed - although the pint of Guinness that he reputedly holds in his hand should perhaps be taken with a large pinch of salt! Tradition holds that her husband longed for a son, but when his wife gave birth to a daughter his anger knew no bounds. On the way he met his commanding officer Robert Stewart, but since they were good friends, and given that he had similarly covered for Stewart on other occasions, he felt sure that he would understand the urgency and necessity of his quest. With such an eventful and often gruesome history, it is inevitable that Kilmainham Gaol should have several ghosts. Of course, the passage of time has obliterated any remnants the paint or clay with which those long ago worshippers may have decorated the stones and their surroundings.

When word of his foster daughters death reached Bodb Dearg, he was filled with grief at the loss and, consumed with pity for his son-in-law, he declared that "our friendship with one another will not be broken for I will give him for a wife her sister Aoife." There can be little doubt, however, that people came here to venerate the deity Baal, the great Sun God and ruler of nature. These celebrations were always carried out on a hilltop so as to ensure a view of the rising sun at the exact moment that it began its climb into the firmament. Tradition holds that the principle ceremonies were held on June 21st, on which day the lawgivers lit sacred fires at the centre of the circle that symbolised the sun, whilst the surrounding stones depicted the stars. Others have caught glimpses of a furtive figure flitting across reception and disappearing close to the stone fireplace.These little moments of frozen time, captured by his pencil, provide delightful studies of the early Edwardian era.

It is inevitable that family members who were so spirited in life, should in death have left indelible traces upon the fabric of the old house. The apparition moved to the door of a bedroom, proceeded to raise her arms, apparently in despair, and then slowly faded away.The boys, meanwhile, had been sent to the Tower of London, ostensibly in preparation for Edward’s Coronation, and were often seen playing happily around the grounds. The story goes that Dorothy would have to meet her beloved in secret due to their differing religions. When they had decided to secretly elope, their relationship was discovered by Dorothy’s family. The young man was ambushed and killed by Dorothy’s brother and she was banished to a convent abroad where she died of a broken heart. Olivia’s ghost is still said to repeat the desperate dash to prevent her husband’s death and has been seen on several occasions standing at the door of the blue room, her hands raised in horror.

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