6 August is the feast of the Holy Transfiguration
of Our Lord on Mount Tabor.
It's also the 212th anniversary of the death in 1801 of Robert Cuninghame, 1st Baron Rossmore
, soldier and Irish politician. He fought at Culloden, but alas, on the wrong side. Well, morally the wrong side. For purposes of personal advancement, very much on the correct side. He died quite a wealthy man, a peer, and commander-in-chief of the military forces in Ireland.
And I'm telling you this, because. . .?
His death involved one of the great banshee stories in Irish lore. The following is from Personal Sketches of his Own Time
by Sir Jonah Barrington, Member of the Irish Parliament, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty of Ireland. In two volumes. 1871.
Herewith, the death of Lord Rossmore:
This intimacy at Mount Kennedy gave rise to an occurrence the most
extraordinary and inexplicable of my whole existence -- an occurrence
which for many years occupied my thoughts and wrought on my
imagination. Lord Rossmore was advanced in years, but I never hard
of his having had a single day's indisposition. He bore, in his
green old age, the appearance of robust health. During the
viceroyalty of Earl Hardwick, Lady Barrington, at a drawing-room at
Dublin Castle, met Lord Rossmore. He had been making up one of his
weekly parties for Mount Kennedy, to commence the next day, and had
sent down orders for every preparation to be made. The
Lord-Lieutenant was to be of the company.
"My little farmer," said he to Lady Barrington,
addressing her by a pet name, "when you go home, tell Sir Jonah
that no business is to prevent him from bringing you down to dine
with me to-morrow. I will have no ifs in the matter -- so
tell him that come he must!" She promised positively,
and on her return informed me of her engagement, to which I at once
agreed. We retired to our chamber about twelve; and towards two in
the morning I was awakened by a sound of a very extraordinary nature.
I listened. It occurred first at short intervals; it resembled
neither a voice nor an instrument; it was softer than any voice and
wilder than any music, and seemed to float in the air. I don't know
wherefore, but my heart beat forcibly. The sound became still more
plaintive, till it almost died away in the air; when a sudden change,
as if excited by a pang, altered its tone. It seemed descending.
I felt every nerve tremble. It was not a natural sound, nor
could I make out the point from which it came.
At length I awakened Lady Barrington, who heard it as well as
myself. She suggested that it might be an Eolian harp, but to that
instrument it bore no similitude. It was altogether a different
character of sound. My wife at first appeared less affected
than I; but subsequently she was more so.
We now went to a large window in our bed-room, which looked
directly upon a small garden underneath. The sound seemed then
obviously to ascend from a grass-plot immediately below our
window. It continued. Lady Barrington requested that I would call
up her maid, which I did, and she was evidently more affected than
either of us. The sounds lasted for more than half-an-hour. At last
a deep, heavy, throbbing sigh seemed to issue from the spot, and was
shortly succeeded by a sharp but low cry, and by the distinct
exclamation, thrice repeated, of "Rossmore--Rossmore--Rossmore!"
I will not attempt to describe my own feelings; indeed I cannot.
The maid fled in terror from the window,and it was with difficulty I
prevailed on Lady Barrington to return to bed. In about a minute
after the sound died gradually away, until all was silent.
Lady Barrington, who is not so superstitious as I, attributed this
circumstance to a hundred different causes, and made me promise that
I would not mention it next day at Mount Kennedy, since we should be
thereby rendered laughing-stocks. At length, wearied with
speculations, we fell into a sound slumber.
About seven the next morning a strong rap at my chamber-door
awakened me. The recollection of the past night's adventure rushed
instantly upon my mind, and rendered me very unfit to be taken
suddenly on any subject. It was light. I went to the door, when my
faithful servant, Lawler, exclaimed, on the other side, "O Lord,
sir!" "What is the matter?" said I hurriedly. "Oh,
sir!" ejaculated he, "Lord Rossmore's footman was running
past the door in great haste, and told me in passing that my Lord,
after coming from the Castle, had gone to bed in perfect health, but
that about half after two this morning his own man, hearing a noise
in his master's bed (he slept in the same room), went to him, and
found him in the agonies of death; and before he could alarm the
other servants, all was over!"
I conjecture nothing. I only relate the incident as unequivocally
matter of fact. Lord Rossmore was absolutely dying at the moment I
heard his name pronounced. Let sceptics draw their own conclusions;
perhaps natural causes may be assigned; but I am
totally unequal to the task.
Atheism may ridicule me; orthodoxy may despise me; bigotry may
lecture me; fanaticism might burn me; yet in my very faith I would
seek consolation. It is, in my mind, better to believe too much than
too little; and that is the only theological crime of which I can be
This link should open to the correct page of the on-line volume
If you're in the mood for a leisurely 19th century reminiscence, this link should take you to the main page where you can select among several formats.
Labels: From Ghoulies and ghosties -- and long-legged beasties: Good Lord deliver us