Excerpt - The Tales of the Wicklow Hills by Richard Marsh

These are some of the stories I heard and experienced when I lived in the Vale of Avoca in County Wicklow, Ireland, during the 1980s.
From Tales of the Wicklow Hills, 2007, by Richard Marsh

Bob Pyne

The Meetings pub is at the Meeting of the Waters, where two rivers, the Avonmore and the Avonbeg, meet to form the Avoca River. Bob Pyne, who lived near the pub, was a seasonal agricultural worker by day and a well-loved amateur singer in local pubs in the evenings. He sang old music hall and traditional songs, as well as some of his own composition. A moderate drinker, he would gesture during his performance with his trademark small bottle of Guinness, always ending with a shy grin. He has been greatly missed since he died at the age of 61 in 1987.
As a local pet character – I never heard a harsh word from or about him – Bob was the subject of many stories. His mother had been “silenced by the priest”, they say. There are two interpretations of what this meant. One is that his mother had “seen something” and had been told by the priest not to speak of it. The other is that she had a sharp tongue, and the priest told her not to speak at all for her penance. Whatever the reason, she was thought by one local boy, Mick Howlett, to be dumb. He told me years later how he was shocked when he discovered that she was not.
“One day she said to me, ‘You’re Tom Howlett’s son, aren’t you?’ and I nearly fell over, because I had never heard her speak before.”
Bob’s mother was said to be “touched”, that is, given special powers by the fairies. Bob was likewise believed to be touched – he was called the King of the Fairies, though not to his face – and two stories are told in illustration.
One day, a local man was standing in the doorway of the Meetings pub waiting for the heavy rain to let up enough so that he could dash to his car. He saw Bob Pyne get out of a car near the bridge over the Avonbeg River, about 50 feet from the pub, and walk toward the pub. As Bob passed him in the narrow entrance, the man noticed that Bob did not have a drop of rain on him, and he had not been carrying an umbrella.
“Why did you not ask Bob how he managed to stay dry in the rain?” said one of the man’s friends when he told the story.
“I didn’t want to be asking, because I was afraid of what he might be telling me.”
Another time, a man was walking along the narrow back road where Bob lived near the Meetings when he saw Bob, who he knew well, walking down the road towards him. They said Hello to each other and went on their separate ways. A quarter of a mile further along the road, the man saw Bob walking toward him again. There was absolutely no way Bob could have doubled back in the time between the two sightings.
I said to Bob one time, “I hear some queer stories about you. What do you think of them?”
Bob replied, “Ah, you don’t want to believe everything you hear.” But he never denied them. Or offered an explanation.

The Avoca Non-leprechaun

Mick Howlett reports that when he was about 10 he and some friends were out snaring rabbits one day, and they saw a creature running away through the underbrush on two legs. It was not a rabbit or a hare, and Mick is adamant that he and his friends never claimed it was a leprechaun, though others may have used that term. They knew what they saw, they all saw it, and they had never seen anything like it before or since.

The Tigroney Ghost

In 1980-1, I lived at Tigroney House just outside the village of Avoca. At the time it was a community of writers and artists. A friend of mine was in the large communal kitchen in the Big House – part of which is some 300 years old – preparing breakfast one day about noon. She saw a male figure pass by the kitchen door wearing a brown robe with a hood over his head. This would not have been unusual garb for some of the residents, but she didn’t recognise him, and she wanted to introduce herself to what she assumed was a visitor or a new resident. It took her perhaps ten seconds to cross the kitchen from behind the counter to the doorway. When she looked into the hall, she could see no one. She checked the nearby rooms and outside the house and found no trace of the stranger. She asked the other residents if there had been a new arrival or visitor, but there hadn’t. She told me about the incident, and it remained a mystery to be enhanced at the garden party a few months later.
Residents and friends from outside the community were gathered for a tea party on the lawn next to the drawing room one fine summer evening. A young woman visitor saw a male figure wearing a brown robe with a hood over his head pass across the lawn in the growing dusk and slowly vanish into thin air. She insisted that he had not walked out of sight behind a tree or bush. All residents and visitors were accounted for, and no one had been wearing anything like the costume she described.
I stumbled across the information that solved the mystery to the satisfaction of most of the residents, although the owner of the house once said, apropos of nothing: “About that ghost – there is no ghost here.” It seems that the site had once been occupied by a Franciscan monastery. Franciscans wear brown robes with hoods.

The Cherrymount Fairy

The 1987 Avoca Local History Guide tells about an encounter two local girls had “many years ago” with “a very pretty woman all dressed in white, and sitting on the stump of a tree” in the woods near Tigroney House. “She was very small and kept smiling at them and beckoned to them to come closer,” but they ran away. One of the girls, a woman still living in the area in 1987, said she believed the little woman was either a fairy or the Blessed Virgin.

Jimmy Treacy

Jimmy was a postman in and around Avoca for 47 years. He always seemed to have time for a few words with the people he met as he putted through his rounds on his motorbike. And he had the ability to make a person feel that the encounter was the high point of Jimmy’s day.
After he retired, he recalled, “Some days I’d be sitting in the warm kitchen having my breakfast, and I’d look at the rain lashing against the window and listen to the wind howling around the corners of the house. And I’d say to myself, ‘I can’t go out in that.’ But of course I had to, and you know, I always found that it was never as bad once I got out in it as I thought it would be.”

From Tales of the Wicklow Hills, 2007, by Richard Marsh