Monday, November 9, 2015

Mayo Folk Tales.

Those magic words “Once upon a time” have been spoken around the flickering flame of the turf fire by storytellers for thousands of years.  Within these pages you will find gathered together tales of County Mayo to ignite your imagination. Tales of Highway men and ghostly figures that roam the woods. Monsters that inhabit the deep waters of Lough Mask and creatures of the night that suck the life from those they visit. Stories that are part of the rich tapestry that makes up the folklore, myth and legend of County Mayo.

You will be taken on a journey through the rugged landscape of the west coast of Ireland, to its holy mountain Croagh Patrick known locally as The Reek and across the waters of Clew Bay. Here you will read of Gráinne Uialle the Pirate Queen, the spectre known as the Fír Gorta who roamed the famine villages of west Mayo, and the Matchstalk man of Straide.

Within theses covers you will find the story of The Love Flower and two young lovers, the land of eternal youth known as Tír na Nog and the Night of the Big Wind and many more. So why not pull up a chair and sit awhile, you know you’re never too old for a story.

Mayo Folk Tales now available in all good bookshops, on Kindle, or through Amazon. So why not pull up a chair and sit awhile, you know you're never too old for a story.  A perfect size for fitting into your Xmas stocking or posting to your friends and loved ones for the festive season.  A little taste of home.

Irish Ghost Tales and Things That Go Bump In The Night.

Irish Ghost Tales and Things That Go Bump In The Night will be officially launched on November 14th at 4-30pm - 5-30pm in The Bookshop, Bridge Street, Westport, County Mayo.  It is included in the itinerary of The Rolling Sun Book Festival.  If you can make it then I look forward to seeing you there. 
Irish Ghost Tales and Things That Go Bump In The Night  and Mayo Folk Tales are available in all good bookshops or they may be purchased online through Amazon and downloaded as a Kindle.  Great presents for your family, friends, loved ones or even as a treat just for yourself. So why not pull up a chair and sit awhile, you know you're never too old for a story.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Irish Ghost Tales and Things That Go Bump In The Night.

Irish Ghost Tales and Things That Go Bump In The Night.
Due for release in October 2015.

Do ghosts exist, do supernatural beings walk the land and do creatures linger in the shadows.  Are legends of blood sucking creatures based on some truth found on the edges of reality?  Within these pages Tony Locke will take you on a journey through the magical land of Erin.  As you turn the pages you will find a whole host of dark spectral beings just waiting to take you by the hand. From the banshee to the undead, witches and warlocks or the vengeful druid who guards a tomb.

You will explore castles and graveyards; you will be introduced to the spirit of a child that possesses a doll, the horror of being buried alive, and the cannibal woman who enjoyed eating children.  As night time approaches and darkness descends you may turn on the light but remember this, it is within the light that shadows exist and things that go bump in the night. Old stories told by the ancients around camp fires right up to the present day storyteller sat by the hearth are here waiting for you to begin your journey. So why not pull up a chair and sit awhile. You know you’re never too old for a story.
Saint Swithin’s Day.
St Swithin is not an Irish saint but he is well known in Ireland because of the folklore associated with his name. This Wednesday is the 15th July and in the Christian calendar it is also known as Saint Swithin’s Day. According to an ancient tradition, if it rains on St Swithin's Day, it will rain for the next 40 days.
Saint Swithin was the Bishop of Westminster in England in the ninth century between 852 and 862. He was well known for building churches and restoring old ones, anonymously repairing them at his own cost.
He was reported as being something of a humble man who preferred to travel on foot rather that in a grand carriage which befitted the style of Bishop’s and when he hosted banquets he would invite poor peasants rather than the rich. Just before he died in 862, he asked to be buried outside the walls of Winchester Cathedral, so the rain would fall on his grave and the people of Winchester would walk above him. He wished to be buried as an ordinary man in the graveyard and not a fine tomb. His wishes were granted.
However, nine years later on 15 July 971, following the orders of King Edgar, Bishop Ethelwold and his monks moved Swithin’s remains to a new shrine inside Winchester Cathedral. A great storm was said to have developed during the moving of his body and it continued to rain for 40 days.
The countryside was flooded and the monks beseeched St. Swithin to intercede for them. It's said that he appeared to one of his monks and revealed to him how displeasing it was to God to spend their time in useless expenditures of time and money which might easily be spent with more advantage in the relief of the poor and needy; he also forbade the monks to ever interfere with his remains again.
People said that the saint in heaven was weeping because his bones had been moved away from the ordinary people. For going against his dying wishes it was believed that his curse was forty continuous days of rain.  In AD 963, the work on the mausoleum was finally completed, but, by then, the legend of St. Swithin as a rain-saint was firmly established. The shrine was destroyed in 1538 by King Henry VIII' s men during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The legend made its way to Ireland during the middle ages and is still remembered today in the words of the following rhyme.
St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t'will rain no more."

While most of us would rather not see rain on July 15th, apple-growers hope for it on this day, as it is believed that the saint is watering the crops. Some apple growers will tell you that if it fails to rain on Saint Swithin’s Day, the apple-crop will be a poor one. They also suggest that no apple should picked before July 15th and all apples growing at this time will ripen.

So if you are praying for sunshine, then may your prayers be granted. However, if you're in an area of drought, may you be blessed with a wet St. Swithin’s Day!
Sadly for those who like the romance of such folklore, there is no evidence to back up the prophecy.  It has been put to the test on 55 occasions by the Meteorological Office in the U.K., when it has been wet on St Swithin's Day and 40 days of rain did not follow.
However, the legend remains popular and even if no one takes it seriously, it usually gets an airing every on St Swithin’s Day every year.  So my advice to you would be:

If on St Swithun’s day it really pours
You’d be better off to stay indoors.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Spiders and Tinsel.

Spiders and Tinsel.

There was a time when animals were allowed into the house at Christmas, even the milk cow and the family pig, this was said to be because Jesus was born in a stable amongst the animals.  However, housewife’s kept the spiders out because as everyone knows spiders are a bit messy leaving cobwebs all over the place.  It appears no one noticed the cow pats, pig droppings etc. 

When Santa arrived on Christmas Eve the spiders were very upset at being excluded and appealed to him for his help. Santa let them in so they could see the Christmas tree and they became so excited that they began to spin webs all over it.  Santa decided that the webs looked so pretty as they glistened in the moonlight he turned them into tinsel, the housewife’s were delighted and from that day onwards spiders have lived with humans.

And that is the story of how we came to have tinsel upon the Christmas tree.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Noreen the Ghost Doll.

This is a story that I’ve adapted from the many stories written concerning possessed dolls. Simply called:


A few years ago a woman that I’ll call Mary, bought an old doll that she saw in a charity shop window, it was worn and a little sorry looking but it seemed to have a certain attraction that she couldn’t the time.

When Mary returned home she put the doll on a chair in her bedroom and went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea.  All went well for a couple of weeks but one night Mary had difficulty sleeping, she kept waking up from a nightmare, this was to happen night after night.  Mary said that in her dream she was starving and her clothes hung loose and ragged from her thin body.

“I remember looking out through a small window into the yard and seeing other people, they had the appearance of skeletons covered with yellow looking skin. They didn’t walk it was more of a shuffle. It was then that I would wake up with a terrible thirst”.

Mary started to leave a sandwich and a drink on her bedside table so that she could eat if she woke up in the middle of the night but even though she ate a big meal before bedtime and even consumed the sandwich and drink when she woke through the night it didn’t seem to work. She still woke up in the morning starving hungry.

A visit to her doctor didn’t help either; she was given sleeping pills and told that she was suffering from anxiety brought about by some as yet unknown cause. The doctor told her to try to think of any changes that she may have made in her life recently, any new people she may have met or new foods that she may have eaten but Mary couldn’t think of any reason that would account for her strange dreams.  She began to look very drawn, dark shadows appeared under her red bloodshot and tired looking eyes. She became nervous and was afraid to sleep and soon people who knew her began to comment on her appearance, some even began to suspect that she was suffering from some illness. 

Her best friend eventually decided to question Mary to see if she could offer her any help. They sat at the kitchen table and one of the questions she asked her was about anything new or different that Mary may have brought into the home recently. The only thing Mary could think of was her purchase from the charity shop, the old doll. Her friend asked Mary if she could see the doll, of course Mary thought that her friend had lost her mind but nevertheless she went to her bedroom and brought the doll into the kitchen.

As soon as she saw the doll her friends face changed, she began to cry and she looked incredibly sad. She told Mary that the doll was extremely sad and didn’t know where she was. She desperately wanted love and missed her mammy.  Over the next couple of weeks things got worse, cold air, unexplained noises, and the sound of a young child crying. Mary called her friend.

Her friend suggested that they call on the services of a local woman who had a reputation for being sensitive to those who have gone before; some suggested that she had psychic abilities.  Mary didn’t really believe in that sort of thing but to be honest at this stage she was willing to try anything so she agreed. 

When she arrived she instantly knew there was a spirit in the house. She decided to conduct a séance and found that the spirit was willing and eager to communicate.  The spirit was within the body of the doll, it said that her name was Noreen and that she was only six years old when she died. Her father had left her and her mammy to find work on the roads scheme but didn’t come home so after a week or two her mammy had gone to look for him. She was left with what little food they had and her mammy promised to be back shortly and told her to be a good girl. But even though she had been very good her mammy and daddy didn’t come home.  Eventually Noreen decided to go and look for her parents as she had no food left, no water, and was very hungry. She walked for days but the only people she saw were also starving, there was a very bad smell in the air and it made her feel sick.

Eventually she reached a small town and there she saw a big stone building. She thought it was bigger than the Landlords house and was not surprised when she saw some nuns outside. They were handing out bowls of something hot as Noreen could see smoke rising from the bowls so she joined the long line. She said she was afraid that it would all be gone by the time she got to the front but eventually she was given a bowl of thin soup. The nun asked her where her parents were, Noreen didn’t know so she said the nun took her into the building and there she remained. She couldn’t get out, she said that shortly afterwards she began to feel very cold and everything was dark.

Mary couldn’t understand this until the medium explained that Noreen was describing her death. After some research Mary and her friends discovered the place that Noreen described, the stone building turned out to be a workhouse long gone now. The people who died there were buried in a mass grave, men, women, and children all thrown in together with no proper burial service. No record was kept of the children who died and were buried there so nothing could be done for Noreen’s spirit.

 She still sits on her little chair in Mary’s bedroom but now she appears to be a little happier. Mary talks to her every night and Noreen feels loved at last. Sometimes Mary can hear singing at night, it is the sound of a child’s voice and Noreen no longer feels lonely and afraid.
Happy Halloween.

Island of the Dolls.

The Island of the Dolls.

Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a good ghost story.   In the 1950s a man by the name of Don Julian Santana Barrera left his wife and family and went to live on a small Island on a lake just outside of Mexico City. The Island is known as The Island of the Dolls.  The Island has a legend connected to it that began in the 1920s, three young girls were playing on the island when one of them fell into the deep dark waters and drowned.  The locals believed that the young girl’s spirit was trapped on the island and it soon gained a reputation of being haunted, the local people even refused to go near the island at night.  Why Santana began to believe that he was connected to this legend in some way is unknown. Perhaps he was suffering from some delusion or is it possible that the spirit of the dead child reached out to him in his dreams.  We will never know.

One story suggests that Santana found the girl’s body but was unable to save her.  Shortly after this event it is said that he found a doll floating just off the island, it most likely belonged to the little girl.  Santana picked the doll from the water and hung it upon the branch of a nearby tree as a way of showing his respect for her spirit. It is said that he began to dream of the girl and that she began to haunt his sleep and that he then began hanging more dolls in an attempt to please her spirit.  However, he soon realised that the dolls themselves were possessed by the spirits of other dead children and he started to place dolls on trees all around the island.

Another story tells us that Santana claimed that shortly after he made his home on the island the spirit of the little girl began to talk to him.  She told him of her tragic death and asked him to get some dolls for her to play with.  She told him that the dolls would ward off evil spirits that roamed the wetlands of the island.  Santana agreed and he began to acquire dolls for her which he hung from the branches of the trees.  He fished some old dolls out of the waters that ran past the island, he returned to the populated areas on the mainland where he visited rubbish dumps for discarded dolls and he even began to swap fruit and vegetables which he grew on the island with local people for old dolls they no longer wanted. 

Santana never cleaned or fixed the dolls, he left them as he found them, covered in dirt or missing limbs or eyes.  Even when the dolls were in good condition they soon succumbed to the effects of the weather and began to crack and distort as if suffering the stages of decomposition.  He kept his cabin filled with dolls which he dressed in clothes and sunglasses and although visitors to the island found it a little frightening he would offer to show them round and take their photographs. A service for which he charged a small fee.

As the years passed Santana lived a hermit like existence. However, in 1990 the Mexican government invested over a million dollars to clean up the area around the island. This brought more traffic onto the water way and as people travelled past the island they couldn’t help noticing thousands of mutilated dolls hanging from the trees upon the island.  Some people thought Santana had gone mad living as he did all alone on the island but most people just thought he was a harmless odd old man.  It was at this time that the island gained the name ‘The Island of Dolls’

If anyone asked about the dolls, Santana would explain about the young girl’s spirit and how no amount of dolls seemed to satisfy her need.  In April 2001, Santana told his nephew that it was becoming harder to resist the voices that called to him.  He told his nephew that the voices told him that he must join them in their watery grave.  That same day as his nephew was returning from doing some shopping for Santana he found him floating face down in the water.  His body was in the same spot near the pier where the little girl had drowned seventy years previously.  Santana’s family believe that he never got over finding the little girl’s body and his inability to save her life.  It was if he was driven by some unseen force that completely changed him.

Some people who visit the island today hear the dolls whisper to them; others will tell you that the soulless eyes of the dolls glare at you as though they resent your presence. Local people will tell you not to go near the island after the sun goes down.
Happy Halloween.