The Exorcism of Bobby Bawn of County Westmeath

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The ghost of Bobby Bawn terrorised a County Westmeath community for many years until he was exorcised, says JOHN AMBROSE MARTIN, from Púca Paranormal

Dunboden House, pictured about 1900, was burned down in the 1920s.
Dunboden House, pictured about 1900, was burned down in the 1920s.

Here is a story that I heard ‘many a time’ from my own childhood.

My father was from Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath. Born in 1934, he grew up in a much different world than we live in today and he would talk of his memory of the first radio coming into his parish. How everyone gathered after Mass to listen to the early GAA broadcasts at someone’s house, so many people in fact that the congregation over spilled to the outside windows and doors all while the overwhelmed housewife rushed and raced to boil enough water to make ‘Táe’ for the men as they listened intently, taking long drags on their clay and homemade pipes.

Even though my father came from this bygone era, I always thought he was unique because he wasn’t superstitious, or I should say, he was the least superstitious person from his family. I’m telling you this because he was the kind of man that had a logic and creditability about him so when he would tell you a story about ghosts and ghouls you would listen and pay close attention to his words.

This brings me onto the Exorcism of Bobby Bawn…

Who was Bobby Bawn?

Robert Rochfort also known as ‘Bobby Bawn’ because of his snow white hair colour, was born in the mid 18th Century. Named after his father, he was the son of the first Earl of Belvedere House which can be visited to this day.

The story begins that Robert Rochfort (Bobby Bawn) had wrongly accused a man by the name of Peter Dalton of burglary; Dalton was tried and sentenced to death by hanging. There are some stories that the motive may have been jealousy on the part of Rochford – possibly to rid himself of a competitor as there were rumors of a lovers’ quarrel over the heart of a young maiden.

As Dalton was being led to the gallows he apparently mocked Bawn, spat at him and cursed him with the chilling words “It’s me today, but it will be you tomorrow”.

While curses and treats from a prisoner were not uncommon and rarely taken seriously this one stood out to the locals and helped form the ledged. Almost one month to the day, there was a majestic and outlandish display of wealth and grandeur at stately Dunboden House.

In the late evening the butler opened the main doors to a stranger asking to speak to the Master of the house. Robert Rochfort was summoned by the staff and he went to welcome this guest to his lavish party.

Not long after a blood curdling, chilling scream rang through the halls of the mansion. Rochfort was found laying in a pool of his own blood, his throat slit from ear to ear, the stranger had vanished…nowhere to be seen or heard from, ever.

The bloodstains from the vicious murder were said to reappear time and time again after multiple attempts to clean over the years.

Shortly after his funeral, sightings of a man with white hair could be seen wandering near a whitethorn tree and for the next thirty years the ghost of Bobby Bawn terrorised locals.

The community were quick to learn of the spirit of Bobby Bawn, and stories soon followed of crops dying and animals being mutilated with their throats cut and found laying in a pool of blood just as Rochford had.

The legend of Bobby Bawn grows

Decades passed by and the legend and the strength of Bobby Bawn grew. One night Father Timothy Stanley was coming home from giving last rites to a member of the Fahy family. He set off on the road home from Carrick to Kilbride, before unexpectedly returned back to the Fahy household, proclaiming in great terror that he had met ‘the devil himself’ on the road.

Together with the head of the Fahy family, armed with their faith in God and a Bible made their way back down the road towards the whitethorn tree where they encountered Bobby Bawn.

Both priest and Mr Fahy stood close to one another as Father Shanley surrounded them in a circle of holy water in an effort to protect the men from the evil spirit. Father Shanley opened his book of prayers and began the rite of exorcism on the devil incarnate. The furious spirit tried to enter the circle but was unable to, as the fires of hell surrounded both men but they were protected by their faith and circle of protection. 

Bobby Bawn burst into a hellfire ball, rolling and burning a path through hedges, trees and grasslands towards Lough Ennell.

My father told me that the spirit of Bobby Bawn was laid to rest, “between the froth and the water” at Rinn Point, in the parish of Moyliscar. There is a whirlpool where the tortured spirit is said to reside.

The exorcism was said to have taken its toll on Father Shanley who was said to have aged quickly and died, his hair turned white as snow. Mr Fahy had promised the doomed priest not to tell the story of what happened this night, to keep it a secret until after his passing which he did.

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