The first of the sixteen persons who subscribed to the truth of the above was the Rev. Peter Alley, who had been appointed curate of Killenaule Union (Dio. Cashel) in 1672, but was promoted to livings in the same diocese in the autumn of the year the apparitions appeared.1 There is a townland named Poyntstown in the parish of Buolick and barony of Slievardagh, and another of the same name in the adjoining parish of Fennor. It must have been at one or other of these places that the sights were witnessed, as both parishes are only a few miles distant from Killenaule. Somewhat similar tales, although not so full of marvellous detail, are reported at different periods from the west of Ireland. Such indeed seem to have been the origin of the belief in that mysterious island O'Brasil, lying far out in the western ocean. About the year 1665, a Quaker pretended that he had a revelation from Heaven that he was the man ordained to discover it, and accordingly fitted out a ship for the purpose. In 1674, Captain John Nisbet, formerly of co. Fermanagh, actually landed there ! At this period it was located off Ulster.1
1 Seymour, Succession of Clergy in Cashel and Emly.
Between the clergy and the witches a continuous state of warfare existed ; the former, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, ever assumed the offensive, and were most diligent in their attempts to eradicate such a damnable heresy from the worldó indeed with regret it must be confessed that their activity in this respect was frequently the means of stirring up the quiescent Secular Arm, thereby setting on foot bloody persecutions, in the course of which many innocent creatures were tortured and put to a cruel death. Consequently, human nature being what it is, it is not a matter of surprise to learn that witches occasionally appear as the aggressors, and cause the clergy as much uneasiness of mind and body as they possibly could. In or about the year 1670 an Irish clergyman, the Rev. James Shaw, Presbyterian minister of Carn-money, " was much troubled with witches, one of them appearing in his chamber and showing her face behind his cloke hanging on the clock-pin, and then stepping to the door, disappeared. He was troubled with cats coming into his chamber and bed ; he sickens and dyes ; his wyfe being dead before him, and, as was supposed, witched." Some equally unpleasant experiences befel his servant. " Before his death his man going out to the stable one night, sees as if it had been a great heap of hay rolling towards him, and then appeared in the shape and likeness of a bair [bear]. He charges it to appear in human shape, which it, did. Then he asked, for what cause it troubled him ? It bid him come to such a place and it should tell him, which he ingaged to do, yet ere he did it, acquainted his master with it ; his master forbids him to keep sic a tryst ; he obeyed his master, and went not. That night he should have kept, there is a stone cast at him from the roof of the house, and only touches him, but does not hurt him; whereupon he conceives that had been done to him by the devill, because he kept not tryst ; wherefore he resolutely goes forth that night to the place appointed, being a rash bold fellow, and the divill appears in human shape, with his heid running down with blood. He asks him again, why he troubles him ? The devill replyes, that he was the spirit of a murdered man who lay under his bed, and buried in the ground, and who was murdered by such a man living in sic a place twenty years ago. The man comes home, searches the place, but finds nothing of bones or anything lyke a grave, and causes send to such a place to search for such a man, but no such a one could be found, and shortly after this man dyes." To which story Mr. Robert Law1 sagely adds the warning : " It's not good to come in communing terms with Satan, there is a snare in the end of it, but to resyst him by prayer and faith and to turn a deaf ear to his temptations".
1 O'Donoghue, Brendaniana, p. 301. See Joyce, Wonders of Ireland, p. 30, for an apparition of a ship in the air in Celtic times. See also Westropp, Brasil (Proc. R.i.A.); that writer actually sketched an illusionary island in 1872.
Whatever explanation we may choose to give of the matter, there is no doubt but at the time the influence of witchcraft was firmly believed in, and the deaths of Mr. Shaw and his wife attributed to supernatural and diabolical sources. The Rev. Patrick Adair, a distinguished contemporary and co-religionist of Mr. Shaw, alludes to the incident as follows in his True Narrative: " There had been great ground of jealousy that she [Mrs. Shaw] in her child-bed had been wronged by sorcery of some witches in the parish. After her death, a considerable time, some spirit or spirits troubled the house by casting stones down at the chimney, appearing to the servants, and especially having got one of them, a young man, to keep appointed times and places, wherein it appeared in divers shapes, and spake audibly to him. The people of the parish watched the house while Mr. Shaw at this time lay sick in his bed, and indeed he did not wholly recover, but within a while died, it was thought not without the art of sorcery".
Classon Porter in his pamphlet gives an interesting account of the affair, especially of the trend of events between the deaths of the husband and wife respectively ; according to this source the servant-boy was an accomplice of the Evil One, not a foolish victim. Mrs. Shaw was dead, and Mr. Shaw lay ill, and so was unable to go to the next monthly meeting of his brethren in the ministry to consult them about these strange occurrences. However, he sent his servant, who was supposed to be implicated in these transactions, with a request that his brethren would examine him about the matter, and deal with him as they thought best. The boy was accordingly questioned on the subject, and having confessed that he had conversed and conferred with the evil spirit, and even assisted it in its diabolical operations, he was commanded for the future to have no dealings of any kind with that spirit. The boy promised obedience, and was dismissed. But the affair made a great commotion in the parish, so great that the brethren not only ordered the Communion (which was then approaching) to be delayed in Carnmoney " until the confusion should fall a little," but appointed two of their number to hold a special fast in the congregation of Carnmoney, " in consideration of the trouble which had come upon the minister's house by a spirit that appeared to some of the family, and the distemper of the minister's own body, with other confusions that had followed this movement in the parish." The ministers appointed to this duty were, Kennedy of Templepatrick, and Patton of Ballyclare, who reported to the next meeting that they had kept the fast at Carnmoney, but with what result is not stated. Mr. Shaw died about two months later.