The Fifth of December

Fear of the Banshee still runs deep in the Irish country psyche.

I am a hardened Third Millennium guy, who doesn’t believe in that kind of thing, but, as the old storyteller, who didn’t believe either, once told me, ‘they’re there, just the same.’

Woman spirit of the fairies, it roughly translates.  I learned of these creatures at mother’s knee.  They’d hang around the condemned, or those on the point of death, ready to claim their souls.  Often humans could not detect their presence but domestic pets could, and, in the case of dogs, would take to howling, in fear, like wolves, and in the case of cats, they’d begin caterwauling.  I was impressed.

I was much more impressed a few nights later when neighbours’ cats and dogs began their discordant cacophany!  The next morning we learned that a neighbour man had passed away during the night!

A few weeks later, the same whole process was repeated.  I was totally alarmed.  To this day, I cannot tolerate the howling of cats or dogs in the night and will rouse myself to pelt them with water or stones to drive them away.

I’m not saying I believe, mind you.  And I’m not saying I do not believe.

I respectfully reserve judgment.

No point in tempting fate.

Anyway, Peter McGrath Jnr of Rostrevor has a tale to tell in this vein.


The 5th of December                     Peter McGrath Jnr

‘Tis a day I’ll long remember,
And remember it right well,
And I guarantee you, you will too,
After my story I tell.

The wind was howling fiercely,
Blowing a great gale,
But Farmer Dan was out feeding
His sheep, he would not fail.

His wife had seen him leave the house,
With his big grain sack,
But she began to get worried,
After an hour he wasn’t back.

But Dan wasn’t even walking,
He was lying in a ditch,
Remembering the legend of
The auld McWalter’s witch.

McWalter as the legend told,
Used to live along the lane,
One night he said he saw a witch,
And was never the same again.

The local folk all scorned him,
He’s made this up, they said,
But Dan now knew much better,
For he’d nearly lost his head.

As he had started going home,
A branch fell from a tree,
He dodged it falling on his knees,
Thena voice said, ‘listen to me’.

‘McWalter he survived my curse,
Seventy years ago,
And now the same has happened again,
As you’ve lived through my show’.

‘I am the witch McWalter saw,
I tried to kill him too,
I used the self-same method,
That I used there now on you’.

Then a swooping swishing sound went up,
And Dan had to hide his face,
A horrible figure descended,
As if from outer space.

Bloody flesh and some bare bone,
Was of what the witch comprised,
Dan lay for twenty minutes,
Before he opened his eyes.

He quickly made his way back home,
He had to tell the wife,
That he had seen McWalter’s witch,
And escaped with his life.

Well Sally would hardly believe him,
Though he continued to shake,
Couldn’t hold his teacup,
Which he dropped and caused to break.

She quickly tried all that she knew,
To calm her husband down,
And begged him not to tell a soul,
When he went into town.

But Dan he would not listen,
He had to tell a few,
But when he did, just like McWalter,
The others scorned him too.

But Dan he knew much better,
What his eyes had let him see,
The ghost McWalter too had seen,
Was the old Irish banshee.

That night Dan’s brother Micky,
In his sleep he passed away,
The banshee’s curse had struck poor Dan,
On that December day.

His family they all now believed,
And the locals all knew too,
The story Dan had told them,
By God, sure it was true.

No other man would walk alone,
On that road ever again,
Incase the banshee would strike them,
Like McWalter and Dan the same.

A story of old Ireland,
Which I’m sure you will remember,
The banshee appeared to both McWalter and Dan,
On the same night, the 5th of December.


Etta James passed away today.  try this!

I’d Rather Go Blind

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