Saturday, 11 April 2015

Otherworld shenanigans in Ballygillaheen.

Jim's reminiscences of the old days included some tales set in Ballygillaheen, a townland half a mile away where he went to National School as a child.  
Ballygillaheen is now a scattering of houses but back then many families lived there and although
the walk to school was an easy one for Jim it took him past the dreaded Comb Field.
This field was renowned because it was here that the Banshee's comb was found. 

The Comb Field today.
The Banshee, Bean sí, or female dweller of the fairy mound, is a supernatural being said to follow certain old Irish families. She brings the message of approaching death to family members by visiting them or by wailing at night near their homes.  

This particular Banshee frequented Ballygillaheen dressed in white and could be seen on certain nights combing her long grey hair with a comb fashioned from white bone. 
One time her visits became more numerous, as though she was searching the area for someone or something. No deaths occurred so it was finally understood that the Banshee had lost her comb. 

Ancient Irish ornamented Combs, made of bone, now in the National Museum.
Pic ©libraryireland.com

A local lad found it in the field not far from the school and he had sense enough to leave the comb where it was. He knew that if he took it home she would visit him that night to retrieve it 
and no one wanted a visit from the Banshee.

A woman not far from the area was not so lucky and the story, recorded in 1976, was recounted by her granddaughter, Bridie Dunn:

" ... my grandmother ... was telling me that she was going home from town one day. 
She picked up a lovely comb and brought it home with her. And that night there was an awful noise at the door and the old man said he would get up and see who it was. So she told him not to. 
And he suddenly saw the comb and he put the comb on the tongs, you know, and sure he put
the tongs out the door with the comb and the tongs were broken in his hands."*

In many places similar tales are told concerning the Banshee searching for her comb and it is well known that you should not face her directly and never touch her. 
The best way is to pass her the comb through a window or a partly open door and always to place it on tongs, a shovel or any iron implement which gives protection against Otherworldly forces.

The best advice was given to me by Jim, "if you do find a comb, it is better to leave it where it lies."

As far as I know the Banshee of Ballygillaheen finally found her comb as the area has been quiet
and she has not been seen now for several years.


* This tale is local to where I live and was recorded under "Comb Legends" in Patricia Lysaght's excellent. in-depth study of Banshee folklore in Ireland - 


"The Banshee - The Irish Death Messenger" available here:



The 'Otherworld Shenanigans' posts are based upon the tales and reminiscences of my elderly neighbour, Jim, who lived his life in the same house he was born in.
Jim died several years ago and is remembered as a real character by those who knew him.

4 comments:

  1. This sounds like a fascinating book, will now go investigate xxx

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  2. Yes, Fran it's a great study - hope you enjoy it!

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  3. What a great legend and story. I am also going to investigate further!

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  4. Thanks Valleypee - I agree, the legend of the Banshee is fascinating & there's more to come from Jim's tales!

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