ANN MASSEY O’REGAN looks at some of the most haunted places in Limerick, Ireland
Old Barnagh, Newcastle West, Limerick
In this small rural area is an old railway tunnel and in the tunnel wall is a face. The face of Sprid Na Barna (Spirit of Barnagh).
In the late nineteenth century a woman called Moll O’Shaughnessy lived in Barnagh. A seemingly normal wife and mother, one night in a fit of rage she murdered her husband and child in cold blood. Moll was tried and sentenced to death by being placed in a nail lined barrel and rolled from the top of the highest hill to the bottom. She was seen long after her execution in various forms around Barnagh causing as much chaos and fear as she could. Her murderous ways were not finished as one night in the tunnel she jumped on top of a horse being ridden by a lone horseman and during a struggle, he fell to his death. Finally a holy man from the Parish of Athea was sent for and he gave her penance of emptying the Red Sea with a thimble full of holes. Was that the last of her? Locals will say differently.
Glin Castle, Glin, Limerick
Standing on the banks of the River Shannon Estuary is Glin Castle, over 700 years old and home to the Fitzgerald family and the Knights of Glin. The 29th and last Knight of Glin, Desmond Fitzgerald died in September 2011 and the title was laid to rest with him.
The Castle is the subject of reported hauntings and poltergeist activity over a number of years. Many of the hauntings are thought to be the souls of those who fell during the many battles on the site and still roam the 500 acre estate. On the third floor of the castle, poltergeist activity witnessed has included lights flicking on and off and doors rapidly opening and closing. A frayed rope was found hanging from a ceiling where a worker was killed some years previously when the rope on his safety harness snapped. A builder called Henry appears on the staircase just to pass the time and the 20th Knight of Glin himself can be found sitting in his favourite chair.
Formerly used as a hotel, Glin Castle is still available for private hire if you can afford it!
St Katherine’s Abbey Ruins, Shanagolden, Limerick
Saint Katherine’s Augustinian Abbey was one of the first nunneries in Ireland, founded in 1298. It is now just ruins, with the remains of the Abbey church and Refectory still evident. It is believed that the last Abbess prior to the Abbey’s dissolution in 1541 practiced witchcraft in a room south of the Church, which became known as The Black Hag’s Cell.
The ruins themselves are haunted by the Countess of Desmond. The Earl and Countess were fleeing an assault and during their escape the Countess was wounded by an arrow. Believing her to be dead, her husband buried his wife in haste beneath the altar at St Katherine’s. The Countess regained consciousness only to find herself buried alive. A shadowy figure is seen among the ruins and the Countess’s screams still ring out in the night as she cries for her husband to realise his mistake.
Castle Matrix, Rathkeale, Limerick
Castle Matrix is situated about a mile from the centre of town. Built by the Fitzgerald Dynasty in 1420 for the seventh Earl of Desmond, the name itself is believed to derive from ‘Madres’, the triple-mother goddesses of the Pagan Celts. In 1487 the castle was owned by James, Ninth Earl of Desmond who was not a popular master among his servants. On the 7th December his servants decided they would be rid of the Earl and together they brutally murdered him. Upon hearing this, James’s brother Maurice avenged his death by executing every single servant they had. Although Castle Matrix has been a family home for many years, James still haunts the castle to this day. If you can find Castle Matrix and dare to knock on the door, you may be lucky enough that a member of the O’Driscoll family will show you around!
Desmond Castle and Hellfire Club, Askeaton, Limerick
As you follow the River Deel out of Rathkeale a short distance to Askeaton, in the centre of the river is an island and on it stand the remains of Desmond Castle. The site of failed assaults by English Forces, the castle finally succumbed to Cromwell’s army in 1652, not without leaving many deaths in its wake. Beside the castle ruins stands what’s left of the Hellfire Club. The Gentlemen’s’ club, like other Hellfire Clubs was a place of debauchery and many believed, dark practices and sacrifice. These rumours were fuelled by the Friary being abandoned as soon as the Hellfire Club opened and remained so throughout the club’s 60 year history.
Whilst there are no specific documented hauntings here, a place this rich in history is still full of dark energy and that has to manifest somehow – right?!