Having hopefully avoided the Púca, you can walk on towards Lough Shannagh, the largest body of water in the Mourne Mountains that isn’t man made. Ten thousand years ago, long after ice had disappeared from the lowlands, patches remained in hollows high in the hills. Located at 390m in a wilderness area of the Mournes, the deep blue waters of Lough Shannagh occupy a corrie at the foot of Carn Mountain, more commonly reached by following an old drover’s road known as the Lough Shannagh Track (or Banns Road). And it’s here you’ll find the ghosts …
According to legend, a long time ago there was a great hunter called Sheelagh, the daughter of one of the Clan Chiefs. On a hunting expedition in the area around Lough Shanagh this skilful rider broke away from the rest of the hunt to chase a fox into the high Mournes where mist closed in and visibility dropped. The fox ran straight into Lough Shannagh and Sheelagh, following it into the water, watched it disappear. Trying to find a way out of the lough, she found herself getting in ever-deeper water, until eventually, with her horse, she drowned. The hunt searched in the mist for many days but never found her. Henceforth the lough became known as Lough Shannagh or the ‘Lough of the Fox’. When the mist closes in, as it so often does in The Mournes, Sheelagh can reputedly be seen in the dark waters of the lough, on her horse, still chasing that fox. Could it have been a black fox I wonder, recalling those spiteful Púca?
More ghosts from the Kingdom of Mourne … Jack Mallaghan, a Private in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who, with brother Sam, fought and died in 1915 at Gallipoli. The brothers were born in Omeath, in County Louth, looking directly across Carlingford Lough to the Kingdom of Mourne. The family later moved to the market town of Newry, the gateway to the Kingdom of Mourne, where descendants of their brothers and sisters still live. Both brothers are buried, not in the Mournes, but far away, at V Beach Cemetery, in Gallipoli, where I accidentally discovered their graves towards the end of the 1990s.
Or, was the discovery accidental? It didn’t feel like it at the time. It was as if the brothers had been waiting ... waiting for someone to tell their sad story and rewrite them into family history. This I did in my novel, Ghost of Gallipoli, which I began writing whilst living in Istanbul. However, on my return to the UK the novel was set aside, many times, as I resumed my busy life working in London. But, each time I forgot about the brothers’ story, strange incidents occurred … old photos turning up, opening a book in a large bookstore at the exact page containing photos of their memorial tablets, being constantly contacted by other writers interested in their story, and long-lost relatives coming out of the woodwork. And so on, and so on. I had no choice but to finish the book. The latest incident happened just this year … 2015, the Gallipoli Centenary Year. Having taken part in the Gallipoli Memorial Parade at the Cenotaph in London, and laid a wreath on behalf of Jack and Sam, I felt it was time for closure, time to concentrate on other things. Nest day I went into my garden to dig a hole for a new tree. When my spade hit something hard I bent and pulled out an old penny. The date? 1915 of course, the date of the Gallipoli Campaign. Well, what can I say? I’m still promoting Ghost of Gallipoli ... the Mallaghan brothers, who hailed from the Kingdom of Mourne, are still haunting their great-niece a century on.
More info on the Mallaghan brothers, and how to purchase Ghost of Gallipoli, on other pages of my website.
Photograph of The Mournes: courtesy of Neil Carey Photography. Available from Getty Images.