Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Bleeding Horse and other Ghost Stories

The Bleeding Horse and Other Ghost Stories by Brian J.Showers was first published in 2008 by Mercier Press. It is an attractive looking book with a suitably ghost looking cover of a Gothic-looking ghost and wafting sheets by Scott Hampton.
An introduction by Jim Rockhill elaborates on the history of the ghost story paying particular tribute to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's skill at capturing the particularities of time and place. This nicely serves as a lead into the book concerning the ghostly goings-on of Rathmines, but he asks, "how much in them is truth and how much is fiction?"

Showers sets the book as if telling tales around a pint in the pub, that pub being The Bleeding Horse in Camden Street, Dublin. Retelling the history of Rathmines and more particularly the 1649 Battle of Rathmines, we learn of a barman's tale hundreds of years after this battle of heavy banging like horses hooves, followed by a great force that knocked the man to the ground, leaving him lying over a red ingrained stain on the floor not previously there.

To Portobello and tales of ghostly happenings in Portobello House- in later years a nursing home and the final residence of Jack B.Yeats, and of La Touch Bridge, named after David Digges La Touche de Rompiers, a French Huguenot from the late 1600s. We learn of some of the tragic tales associated with that stretch of the Grand Canal and we travel on to Rathmines Road Lower and learn the history of Gilbert de Meones who controlled the area in the early 1300s, from his 'rath' or castle and of his defeat of the 'Meones Beast' said to kill livestock and travellers.

The book moves on to the stories of Blackberry Fair and the circumstances causing its closure in 2002, and a slight detour takes us to Dublin Castle to follow the story of the theft of the Crown Jewels in 1907 and the accusation of Francis Shackleton, brother of the celebrated explorer, who came to live in Rathmines in his later years. The book closes with some tales relating to the history of the Church of Mary Immaculate in Rathmines and of the strange discovery in an unearthed coffin, and the (fictional ?) extracts from a Father Corrigan's diary charting his gradual nervous breakdown.

This book is at once an entertaining and fascinating history of the particular area of Southside Dublin, using places as digressions into other historical events. The black and white  print illustrations throughout by Duane Spurlock add to the historic and Gothic feeling of the book and the tales read easily on from one to the next as we are drawn around almost by hand by a writer obviously passionate and thoroughly well-informed about the area he lives in.

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