Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Travel Tails

A Haunted Tale

Upon returning to the stables, we offered to see to our horses instead of leaving them for Vicki to unsaddle. We certainly didn’t mind, in fact, we enjoyed spending a little more time with the lovely horses. We’d taken Vicki from her morning chores, which happened to still be waiting for her. The least we could do was help out a little. Sure, we would’ve happily gone riding for hours and hours, but we’d had an enjoyable ride and had to be content with it.
Back to Sligo we went to catch the bus and carry on. The wanderlust had tugged at us. It was time to find the next adventure. Sure, we could’ve explored Sligo and the surrounding area some more, yet we decided to save that for another time. Heavy clouds now covered the sky, and rain threatened. To our way of thinking, there’s no better time to travel than when it’s raining. There were times the scenery was almost hidden by the intensity of the rain. Green hills and fields that were usually dotted with sheep, cattle and of course horses, now appeared moody and extra mysterious. The idea of getting soaked to the skin again, wasn’t one we were keen on. Nope, it was much better to sit on a warm bus and head for the next spot to explore.
On arriving in Galway, we decided to stay at a hostel instead of our usual bed and breakfast. We’d never stayed at a hostel before, and figured that we might as well give it a go for the experience, if nothing else. We narrowed down our choices to one of two. In the end, it was price that made the decision for us. Though the one advertised that it had a friendly dog, the other was a couple of bucks cheaper. Being a Manitoban, one who loves a deal, won out over having a dog to pat. As we walked to the address of the hostel, we laughingly wondered what the room number would be. After the first few stops, we’d begun to notice that we were always in room number four. As we approached the tall building, we doubted we would be in room four again. Funnily enough, we ended up on the third floor, in room number four. In retrospect, we probably should’ve gone with the place with the friendly dog. It wasn’t that the hostel we ended up at was sketchy or anything, as it wasn’t. The new-age hippy at the desk was pleasant. The other folk who were also staying there seemed nice enough, at least the ones we met. It was the building itself that gave us pause. Typical of its era, it had wide ledges outside the windows, ledges that were wide enough for an animal like a cat or a rat to walk along. Even more worrisome, it was plenty wide enough for a person to creep along. Also typical of Ireland and the rest of Europe, there weren’t screens on the windows to keep bugs out, like there were in at home in Canada. A screen isn’t a barrier to a person up to no good, but will at least slow an intruder down.
The room was small with two single beds. Used to what were for the most part, rather lovely bed and breakfasts, we were slightly taken aback by the place. We chose to sleep in our clothes, atop the blankets as they appeared a tad sketchy. I slept by the window to keep my sweetpea safe, and by sleep, I mean lie there with my eyes closed and every sense on edge. We woke before dawn, took very quick showers before anyone else awoke and used all the hot water, and then headed out. It had been a very cheap stay, and we’d saved a few Euros but it was the last time we stayed at a hostel.
There was an ancient city to explore and we wanted to get at it. After grabbing a bite to eat at a bakery, something we’d learned to do on our first trip, we were ready to see some of Galway. The best place to start was the tourist office. They were great sources of information and suggestions of things to occupy ones time with. There was a bulletin board with things to do, one of which was a haunted walking tour of the city. Completely intrigued, we were keen to give it a go. It wasn’t very expensive. The lady didn’t know if the fellow would come out for just two people, but when a third woman expressed an interest, we were on.
That haunted walking tour was money well spent. We saw some of the most interesting things and learned a lot of history at the same time. We stood on the thick wall of an ancient graveyard, only to learn that beneath us, was the mass grave of a Spanish armada. On the way back from invading England, a large portion of the one hundred-thirty strong fleet, ended up pushed against the Irish coast by a sudden, intense storm. They had been sent by Philip the second but were defeated in the Battle of Gravelines. Attempting to return home by way of the Atlantic Ocean, there were driven off course towards the west coast of Ireland where as many as twenty-four ships, were wrecked on Ireland’s rocky coastline. The government of Queen Elizabeth the first wasn’t at all pleased with the prospect of a Spanish landing, accidental or not. It was decreed that all survivors were to be handed in to the authorities. Anyone found harbouring any Spanish, would suffer harsh measures themselves. As ships were wrecked from Antrim in the North to Kerry in the South, this meant that there were a lot of men who died, estimates are that six thousand men died or were put to death, including five hundred buried in a mass grave under the wall we stood upon. This happened in fifteen eighty-eight. We happened to be there just after the commemoration of the event by the Spanish, as it had happened four hundred and ten years before. Even the captains and commanders of the ships who were initially kept to ransom were executed. No mercy was given to any. The depth of the tragedy that lay under our feet was extremely poignant. Sure, this sort of thing still happens in this day and age, it’s just hard to imagine the cruelty, the desperation of the Spanish men as they met their ends.
Lost in thought, we were silent for the next little while, until we reached the next site that is. This time a church that had changed hands many times, and housed a finger that was supposed to never decompose until the church returned to the rightful hands and denomination. The strangest thing about touring the church had nothing to do with the finger at all. A huge cathedral that had seen many battles and strife in its time, the evidence which could still be seen here and there on the floors, it was pretty impressive. We were led all the way to the front then stopped. I had the strangest sense as my gaze wandered over the hundreds of bronze tributes to past members of the church. There at eye-height was one, a rather large one that had been put up in honour of the long ago relative, of a friend back in Manitoba. I took a photo of it as when I saw it, I didn’t know if this was a past relative or not, yet the last name wasn’t a common one, especially in Ireland, so I thought there was a strong possibility. When we got back home, we learned that yes indeed, they had a relative who had been in the clergy back in Ireland over a hundred years ago. Talk about happenchance.
From there we did a walkabout the old part of the city and came upon what’s called a tower house. When castles are no longer needed, and get absorbed into a city, often all that’s left are the four corner towers. They become regular homes, and the one we stood before had an interesting history. On the outside were the usual statues, gargoyles and such, but there was also a carving of a monkey holding a baby. Apparently, there had been a fire, and the family’s pet monkey saved the baby. The family had the stone carving added, in tribute to their pet and what it had done. We’d never done a haunted walking tour before this one, and I can honestly say that knowing so many young men had died and were buried under that long wall overlooking the harbour, still haunts me at times.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB