The Devil at Damerville—And at Ballinagarde— Taverner and Haddock's ghost—Hunter and the ghostly old woman—a witch rescued by the Devil—Dr. Williams and the haunted house in Dublin—Apparitions seen in the air in co. tlpperary — a clergyman and his wife bewitched to death—Bewitching of Mr. Moor— The fairy-possessed butler — a ghost instigates a prosecution — Supposed witchcraft in co. Cork—The Devil among the Quakers.
From the earliest times the Devil has made his mark, historically and geographically, in Ireland ; the nomenclature of many places indicates that they are his exclusive property, while the antiquarian cannot be sufficiently thankful to him for depositing the Rock of Cashel where he did. But here we must deal with a later period of his activity. A quaint tale comes to us from co. Tipperary of a man bargaining with his Majesty for the price of his soul, in which as usual the Devil is worsted by a simple trick, and gets nothing for his trouble. Near Shronell in that county are still to be seen the ruins of Damerville Court, formerly the residence of the Damer family, and from which locality they took the title of Barons Milton of Shronell. The first of the family to settle in Ireland, Joseph Damer, had been formerly in the service of the Parliament, but not deeming it safe to remain in England after the Restoration, came over to this country and, taking advantage of the cheapness of land at that time, purchased large estates. It was evidently of this member of the family that the following tale is told. He possessed great wealth, and 'twas darkly hinted that this had come to him from no lawful source, that in fact he had made a bargain with the Devil to sell his soul to him for a top-boot full of gold. His Satanic Majesty greedily accepted the offer, and on the day appointed for the ratification of the bargain arrived with a sufficiency of bullion from the Bank of Styx—or whatever may be the name of the establishment below ! He was ushered into a room, in the middle of which stood the empty top-boot ; into this he poured the gold, but to his surprise it remained as empty as before. He hastened away for more gold, with the same result. Repeated journeys to and fro for fresh supplies still left the boot as empty as when he began, until at length in sheer disgust he took his final departure, leaving Damer in possession of the gold, and as well (for a few brief years, at all events) of that spiritual commodity he had valued at so little. In process of time the secret leaked out. The wily Damer had taken the sole off the boot, and had then securely fastened the latter over a hole in the floor. In the storey underneath was a series of large, empty cellars, in which he had stationed men armed with shovels, who were under instructions to remove each succeeding shower of gold, and so make room for more.
Another story 1 comes from Ballinagarde in co. Limerick, the residence of the Croker family, though it is probably later in point of time ; in it the Devil appears in a different role. Once upon a time Mr. Croker of Ballinagarde was out hunting, but as the country was very difficult few were able to keep up with the hounds. The chase lasted all day, and late in the evening Croker and a handsome dark stranger, mounted on a magnificent black horse, were alone at the death. Croker, delighted at his companion's prowess, asked him home, and the usual festivities were kept up fast and furious till far into the night. The stranger was shown to a bedroom, and as the servant was pulling off his boots he saw that he had a cloven hoof. In the morning he acquainted his master with the fact, and both went to see the stranger. The latter had disappeared, and so had his horse, but the bedroom carpet was seared by a red-hot hoof, while four hoof-marks were imprinted on the floor of the horse's stall. What incident gave rise to the story we cannot tell, but there was a saying among the peasantry that such-and-such a thing occurred " as sure as the Devil was in Ballinagarde" ; while he is said to have appeared there again recently.
1 Furnished to the writer by T. J. Westropp, Esq., M.A.
A most remarkable instance of legal proceedings being instituted at the instigation of a ghost comes from the co. Down in the year 1662.1 About Michaelmas one Francis Taverner, servant to Lord Chichester, was riding home on horseback late one night from Hillborough, and on nearing Drumbridge his horse suddenly stood still, and he, not suspecting anything out of the common, but merely supposing him to have the staggers, got down to bleed him in the mouth, and then remounted. As he was proceeding two horsemen seemed to pass him, though he heard no sound of horses' hoofs. Presently there appeared a third at his elbow, apparently clad in a long white coat, having the appearance of one James Haddock, an inhabitant of Malone who had died about five years previously. When the startled Taverner asked him in God's name who he was, he told him that he was James Haddock, and recalled himself to his mind by relating a trifling incident that had occurred in Taverner's father's house a short while before Haddock's death. Taverner asked him why he spoke with him ; he told him, because he was a man of more resolution than other men, and requested him to ride along with him in order that he might acquaint him with the business he desired him to perform. Taverner refused, and, as they were at a cross-road, went his own way. Immediately after parting with the spectre there arose a mighty wind, " and withal he heard very hideous Screeches and Noises, to his great amazement. At last he heard the cocks crow, to his great comfort ; he alighted off his horse, and falling to prayer desired God's assistance, and so got safe home".
1 Glanvill, Sadducismus Triumphatus, Rel. 26.
The following night the ghost appeared again to him as he sat by the fire, and thereupon declared to him the reason for its appearance, and the errand upon which it wished to send him. It bade him go to Eleanor Walsh, its widow, who was now married to one Davis, and say to her that it was the will of her late husband that their son David should be righted in the matter of a lease which the father had bequeathed to him, but of which the step-father had unjustly deprived him. Taverner refused to do so, partly because he did not desire to gain the ill-will of his neighbours, and partly because he feared being taken for one demented ; but the ghost so thoroughly frightened him by appearing to him every night for a month, that in the end he promised to fulfil its wishes. He went to Malone, found a woman named Eleanor Walsh, who proved to be the wrong person, but who told him she had a namesake living hard by, upon which Taverner took no further trouble in the matter, and returned without delivering his message.