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Ghosts: Traditional tales around Castle Oliver

Nicholas Browne


When Charles Silver Oliver became an absentee landlord, in or around 1812, Galloway became Steward of the estate. Following Charles’s death a few years later, Galloway assumed total control, to the despair of the tenants. His word was law and by all accounts he was a bully. His hobby was wrestling, and he must have been good at it, because he had a fearsome reputation. But at the harvest festival one year, in front of all the estate workers, local farmers and their families, Galloway was beaten by a forester named O’Brian. Although he lived for many more years, he never got over his humiliation, and took his anger out on all those around him. He allowed the castle to fall into such a state of disrepair that it became fit only for demolition. (This much of the story tallies closely to known history).

Eventually he died, but such was his misery in life that his ghost continued to haunt the estate. He wandered the woods and paths looking for revenge. One night O’Brian, tired from a hard day’s work, took a short-cut by the walled garden. Galloway’s ghost pounced on him, challenged him to fight, and with supernatural power, bested his old foe. O’Brian was very badly injured, and never fought again. The ghost continued to haunt the demesne, prowling up and down the drives, gloating and causing mischief.


Local legend has it that when the new castle was first occupied, a number of staff were frightened by ghosts and poltergeist activity. One popular explanation was that Galloway was still on the prowl. Elizabeth Gascoigne, although not personally affected, became sufficiently concerned to summon their local Protestant rector, from the estate church at Kilflynn to perform an exorcism. He failed to quiet the spirit, so the Catholic priest was summoned from Kilfinnane. Apparently he was successful, since no further activity occurred. There is at the Protestant church in Kilfinnane, the grave of ‘Alexander Mitchel Galloway, born 14th Dec 1830 at Castleoliver, died 18th January 1864’. This was very probably the steward’s son.

Lady in Black

In September 2002 the musicians Kevin Hayes and his Japanese wife, Minori, were staying in the large bedroom which is above the small drawing room. When asked the following morning if he had slept well, he said no, that he’d been troubled by a strange dream, which at the time had felt completely real. There were only thin gauze curtains at the window  and there was enough moonlight to see dimly. Something had disturbed him and he’d awoken to see the figure of a woman in black Victorian costume appear through a wall. She paused by the bed and asked him to sing an old Irish song.  He told her he knew the music, but wasn’t sure of the words. She urged him to try, and when he did, interrupted and corrected him several times. Apparently he complied, because his singing woke his wife, who demanded to know why he was singing. When he tried to point at the figure, she had vanished. Kevin was deeply disturbed by the experience and found it hard to get back to sleep. When asked which wall the figure had appeared through, he described exactly the place where a doorway had been blocked up less than a year before. He went quite pale, left soon after and has never returned. (Author’s own anecdote)

In August 2002 Amy Moynihan, 15, of Ballyorgan was sleeping in  the fourth room on the first floor, as approached from the spiral stairs. She woke the other children by screaming. She claimed to have seen a youngish man leaning with his head against the window-case, crying.

An adult relative of Amy’s, Philomena, claims that in 1985 she heard servant bells ringing in the bell passage, and an electrical bell ringing upstairs. There was no electricity at the castle at that time. She firmly believes that there were too many bells ringing simultaneously to be explained, and that the people she was with were all in the cellar at the time.

Between June and October 2002, while in the large drawing room during broad daylight,  the author heard identical sounds on 3 occasions, as of footsteps on the first floor, at the junction of the two corridors. These would be very close to the door through which the Lady in Black appeared.

In the servants’ wing mezzanine-floor, on the back of the door of what was probably a storeroom (nearest the spiral stairs, next to the WC) were chalked the words ‘This room is haunted with spirits’, in a position indicating the writer to have been of adult height. It has been suggested that the spirits referred to were poteen, and certainly a crudely fashioned copper-pipe spiral and various interconnected tubes and bungs- the remains of a ‘still’- have been found elsewhere in the building.

This material was kindly provided by Nicholas Browne from his book ‘Castle Oliver & the Oliver Gascoignes’
copyright Nicholas Browne 2006