The Ghost of Garroid Jarla by Edmund Leamy
In fulfilment of a promise of many years standing,
I went to pay a visit to an old schoolfellow in the
Christmas of the year 185—, and who then resided
within a few miles of the hill called Knock Cord Na
Gur, in the Queen’s County. He was a retired
naval surgeon, named Lynam, to whom a substantial
residence and farm had been left by an uncle whom
he had never seen, and who had been a bachelor,
as was my friend, the doctor. It was a lonely
place for him to settle down in, but he had been for
over twenty years roving in his ship all over the
world, and he was tired of voyages, and he found,
or professed to find, this comparatively lonely spot
an agreeable retreat. Besides his housekeeper, his
only servant was one Terry Brennan, who was at
once coachman, gardener, valet, and butler. The
farm was pasture, and this the doctor let on easy
terms to the neighbouring tenants, and as he was
ever ready on an emergency to give his medical
services, he was very popular for miles round. He
loved a book, a pipe, and could brew a glass of
punch which would “satisfy an admiral,” as he was
wont to boast, for this appeared to him to be the
highest proof of its efficacy and quality; but,
although he had read much, and travelled far
and wide, he was as superstitious as the most
unlettered sailor, and firmly believed in spiritual
visitants, and had many a strange story of what
he himself had seen of the dead returning.
He met me at the station with an ordinary outside
car, which he was driving, having left Terry at
home to have everything ready on our arrival.
We had some miles to go. Night had already
fallen a few hours before, and the sky above was as
black as ink. We made our way, driving
cautiously, all right, until, after going for about an
hour, a bend in the road brought us in view of a
light, not more than half-a-mile ahead.
“That is the house,” said the doctor. “We’ll be
there in five minutes.”
The announcement was very welcome to me, as I
was cold and very hungry, and I was about to make
some reply, when my companion suddenly exclaimed:—
“By ——, there is the light on the Knock.”
And I saw a second light higher up than the
first, and at some distance to the right of it, but it
vanished in a second.
The doctor’s tone was startling.
“What is it?” I queried.
“Quiet, pet; quiet, Molly; easy, girl.” The doctor
was speaking to the mare and did not answer
my question. “Hold on to the car. By heaven,
I felt the car was being overturned. I was flung out
on to the side of the road, and as I was recovering
myself I heard the mare, who had in some way
broken from the harness, clattering down the hill.
I had fallen on the grassy margin near the ditch
and escaped unhurt. The car tumbled into it without
“Are you hurt?” said the doctor, who was by my
side as I was lifting myself up.
“No,” I replied, “and you?”
“All right,” he said, but I detected a tremor in
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Oh, yes! Come, let us get on—away from here.”
I was on my feet. “What is it, Lynam?”
“Do not ask. Come!” and the doctor caught
my arm and hurried me along. I saw he was labouring
under some great emotion and forebore to speak.
We reached the gate leading up to the house. It
was open, and in two minutes we were at the hall
door. That, too, was open, and on the steps stood a
man holding a lamp out from above his shoulder, and
who seemed framed by the doorway. It was Terry.
“Doctor, darlint, did you see him?”
“Where’s the mare?”
“She’s in the yard, doctor. She has not a scratch
on her, but there’s a lather on her all over.”
“Go and rub her down, put her up, and come back
as soon as you can.”
The doctor’s tone had become calm again.
The excitement caused by this incident had made
me forget the hunger and the cold, but when I
entered the doctor’s cosy room with its bright log
fire glowing in the hearth and inhaled my first
breath of the warm temperature I shuddered, and
the doctor, noticing my discomfiture, uncorked a
bottle of champagne and poured out a tumblerful.
I observed that his hand shook as he presented it
to me, and also that he appeared strangely put about.
I tossed off the wine and then accompanied the
doctor to my room, and made myself ready for
When I came down again to the dining-room the
doctor was standing with his back to the fire,
looking still, as I thought, a little distrait.
But he brightened up at once, and saying: “I’m
sure you must be hungry after your long journey,”
he rang the bell for dinner.
It was brought in by the housekeeper in response
to the summons, and shortly after Terry appeared
dressed in the orthodox waiter fashion.
Our talk during dinner was chiefly about old
times and old acquaintances. The wine, which was
excellent, was done full justice to by both of us,
and by the time dinner was over we were in the
best possible humour with ourselves and all the
Then when the cloth had been removed, and
Terry brought in the “materials,” the doctor set
himself to brew two stiff tumblers of punch. This
task accomplished, we lit our pipes, and as often
happens with smokers, we relapsed for a while into
We were rudely interrupted by Terry, who pushed
in the door without knocking, and who cried out
“Doctor! doctor! you’re wanted. Michael Cassidy’s
cart is overturned at the trough below, God save
us from all harm, although the horse was only
walking, and he’s lying under it, and his boy, who
was along with him, has come up for you.”
“Get the lamp at once, Terry, and Jack,” said
the doctor, addressing me, “on with your coat, I
may need your help.”
In a few seconds, preceded by Terry with the
lamp, and accompanied by Cassidy’s boy, we were
hurrying down to the scene of the accident.
We found the cart upset in the middle of the
road, and lying across the body of poor Cassidy.
Terry set down the lamp, and the four of us lifted
up the cart and turned it over into the ditch, close
to where our car was lying. The doctor examined
the prostrate man, Terry holding the light for
“Dead!” cried the doctor. “Dead! My God,
The blood in my veins became icy cold. I felt
I was not only in the presence of death, but in the
presence of a mystery still more weird if that were
“What is it, Lynam?” I whispered hoarsely.
“That is the rattle of a cart coming along,
Terry?” said the doctor, not heeding my question.
“It is, doctor.”
“Show them the light.”
Terry held out the light in the direction of the
approaching cart. It belonged to one of the neighbours.
When the cart came up to where we were
standing around the corpse it halted. A few words
were sufficient to explain what had happened, and
the owner of the cart agreeing we lifted the corpse
on to the cart and it was taken home.
The doctor, Terry and I returned towards the
house. Not a word was spoken by any of us until
we were within a few yards of the hall door.
“Look, doctor, look!” cried Terry, “the light is
on the Knock again!”
I turned round and looked towards the Knock,
which rose to the left about a quarter of a mile
from the house. I saw a blue flame that quivered
for a moment like a flame in the wind, and then
“Let us go in,” said the doctor, “he has got his
We entered the hall and I turned into the
doctor’s room followed by him. I felt like one in
a dream. But the room was bright and cheerful,
and the logs were blazing merrily on the hearth.
I flung myself into a chair. The doctor had closed
the door, and was standing near me.
“I am sorry, Jack,” he said, in a serious tone,
“that your visit has begun so unpropitiously, but
let us forget what has occurred and make a pleasant
night of it,” and he pulled a chair close to mine
and sat down.
He lit a pipe. I followed his example, and we
puffed away for a while in silence, but my curiosity
got the better of me.
“Look here, Lynam, old man,” I said. “There
is some mystery about this business of to-night.
Our car was upset, as far as I know without any
cause, and it was the same in the case of Cassidy’s
cart. What is it all about, and what did you mean
by talking of ‘a victim?’”
“It is a mystery,” he began, “but you saw the
light on the Knock to-night?”
“And that is very strange. The only two about
here who have seen it—at least in our time—are
Terry and myself. I saw it first on Christmas
Eve ten years ago—the first Christmas Eve after
my coming. I have seen it on three Christmas Eves
since, and each time I saw it a man has been found
dead where we found Cassidy to-night.”
The doctor spoke in low, measured tones, and a
creepy feeling came over me as I listened.
“But what connection can there be between the
light and the dead man on the road?” I asked.
“It is a curious story,” he replied. “It was
told to me by Terry. I doubted it at first, but my
own eyes bore witness before to-night to the truth
of part, at least of it. But I had better begin by
telling you what Terry told me. It seems that in
the old times—three hundred years ago or thereabouts—there
was on the Knock-Cord-Na-Gur a
strong castle, in which dwelt one of the offshoots
of the Fitzgeralds, who was known as Garroid
Jarla, or Garrett the Earl. He was a man of
unrestrained passions, who knew no law save his
own will. He was practised in every kind of
devilry, and was dominated by a lust for blood and
gold. Murder was his chief delight. He was
surrounded by a band of villains as unscrupulous
and as bloodthirsty as himself. His name was a
name of terror for miles around, and many a
blackened rafter and blood stained hearth bore
witness to his infamous cruelties. Yet, for all
that, he could be seemingly courteous, and could
easily deceive an unsuspecting stranger into the
belief that he was of a friendly and hospitable
“And it was his wont, especially at Christmas
time, to intercept travellers who happened to be
passing along the road which we have just left, and,
after a courteous inquiry as to their destination, to
bid them stay the night with him at his castle.
Invariably he stationed himself on the spot where
the drinking trough is, of which you heard Terry
speak, and which, perhaps, you may have noticed
when he held the lamp as I was seeing to poor
“I saw something like a stone trough,” I said,
“but did not take particular notice of it.”
“That was the trough,” continued the doctor.
“It was not there at the time I am speaking of. It
was placed there long after the so-called earl had
gone to his account. The times were troublous
times, and many a belated traveller was glad of the
invitation to spend the night at the castle on the
hill. Poor and rich were welcome there. The poor
traveller set out the next day with the pleasant
recollection of a hospitable night, carrying everywhere
he went a good word for his host, Garroid
Jarla, but for the traveller who had money about
him, his night in the castle was his last. He was
never seen or heard of again. But when the earl
was killed, and the castle sacked, the only record
of his treachery was a heap of bones and decaying
corpses in a cellar under the diningroom, the only
entrance to which was a trap door, over which the
unsuspecting victim sat while he was enjoying the
“Garroid Jarla had many enemies, but not one
whom he hated more than Rory O’Moore, who then
dwelt in the Castle of Cluin Kyle, and who, at the
head of the Rapparees, was carrying fire and
sword into the English territories. There was a
price then on the head of Rory, fifteen thousand
pounds of our money now, and many a plot and
plan was framed and laid to entrap the dauntless
Irish captain. Garroid Jarla determined at
any cost to secure the blood money, and tried,
again and again, to entice one of Rory’s followers,
by the offer of a large bribe, to betray his master,
but without success. Still he persisted, and, at
last, he gained, or thought he had, one over to his
interests. The renegade persuaded Garroid that
he was desirous of avenging a grievous personal
wrong he had suffered at the hands of Rory, and
that he was willing to give his life to accomplish
“Garroid’s hunger for gold induced him to believe
that with it he could purchase a man’s soul, and,
therefore, he gave ready credence to Rory’s retainer,
whose name was Teague O’Moore, and
Teague humoured Garroid to the top of his bent,
and denounced Rory in all the moods and tenses.
One night he came to Garroid, and told him
that his chance of overcoming his enemy, Rory,
had arrived. Rory, he said, had come to Cluin-Kyle,
after some desperate and successful fighting,
and was holding high revel in the castle. There
was no watch kept, as Rory felt perfectly secure for
that night at least, and, therefore, he might easily
be surprised about midnight, and Teague undertook
that he would see that the castle gates were
unlocked, and as for signal he would place a
lighted candle in the postern window.
“Garroid eagerly embraced the proposal, and
decided to attempt the surprise of Rory’s castle,
and, calling his retainers around him, he made a
feast, believing that men fought better if their
stomachs were not too empty, and that as there
was stern and bloody work before them, they would
be all the better prepared for it if they imbibed
some draughts of usquebaugh. Teague remained
until the party seated at supper had begun to
enjoy themselves, and then having taken care to
see that the window of the room opposite which
Garroid was seated was not curtained, he took his
leave to go, as Garroid thought, to Cluin-Kyle;
but Teague, having passed out of the castle,
entered the wood that skirted the ford of Dysartgalen.
He had not gone far through the fallen leaves
that strewed his path when he was challenged.
“‘God and Our Lady and Rory O’Moore,’ was his
“‘All right, pass on.’
“‘Is the captain here?’ said Teague.
“‘Here,’ answered a stalwart Rapparee.
“‘I want your best marksman, captain.’
“‘Come hither, Shan Dhu,’ said the captain.
“A man stepped forward with musket on shoulder.
“‘Follow me,’ said Teague, ‘and you captain
and your men keep close to our heels. When you
hear the shot rush straight for the castle. If the
bullet does its work the castle is yours.’
“Teague and the marksman went ahead. They
passed unnoticed within the outer walls, and
advanced close to the uncurtained window.
“‘That candle that you see,’ said Teague to the
marksman, ‘is in a line with Garroid Jarla. Snuff
it and you kill him.’
“The marksman took a cautious aim.
“‘Bang!’ A crash of glass, a fierce yell.
“‘Oh, Captain!’ cried Teague, with a wild shout,
that made the night tremble. The Rapparees
burst in on the startled revellers. But, as the latter
had their weapons ready to hand, a desperate
conflict ensued, and it is said that, until the last of
his followers was slain, Garroid Jarla remained
sitting where he had been shot, and that his face
was black as coal, while his eyes gleamed like fire.
The Rapparees sacked the castle before they left
for Cluin-Kyle with the news of the tyrant’s
“The next day the peasantry entered the ruined
castle, and, finding the body of their arch-enemy,
Garroid Jarla, they dragged it to the Ford of
Dysartgallen, and, having cut it in quarters, they
flung them into the river, and believed they had
got rid, once and for all, of the ruthless tyrant of
“But in this, according to Terry’s story,” said the
doctor, “they were mistaken. For, time after time,
Garroid Jarla appeared at the very spot where he
used to meet travellers during his life, and whomever
he accosted never saw the morning break
“At last a friar coming this way heard of the
apparitions and their fatal results, and he bade the
people bring a stone trough, and place it on the
spot, and this trough was fed with water from a
running stream, and the friar blessed the water, so
that no evil spirit could come near it. And after
this, for generations, no one ever saw the ghost of
Garroid Jarla. But in the dark days of Ninety-eight,
a band of Yeos, coming along the road, broke
the trough, and turned away the stream from it,
and ever since then it is dry, and of no service to
man or beast, and ever since then at irregular
intervals, but always on Christmas Eve, the ghost
reappears and claims a victim, and when he appears
a light burns on the Knock. And that is Terry’s
story,” said the doctor, and he shook the ashes from
“Have you ever seen the ghost?” I asked.
“I have seen the light on the Knock,” he replied,
“and I have seen the dead men. You saw the
light on the Knock to-night; you also have seen a
dead man. Do you doubt,” said he, looking me
straight in the face, “that he is one of Garroid
“Perhaps, after all, doctor,” said I, “there are
more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt
of in our philosophy.”
“It is getting late,” said the doctor, “and I am
sure you must be tired.”
I was tired, and yet when I turned in I could not
sleep. On that night and many a night since I
was haunted by the ghost of Garroid Jarla.