A real to life experience, maybe..
|We were young then, at a time when we had just stopped believing in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and fairy tales or other make-believes.
Maybe our average age would have been ten, which now seems so young. We considered ourselves to be almost teenagers, and tried to assume all the sophistication that went with that.
That summer of '58 we had formed a little gang of five, Me, Tonto, Jonjo, Kate and Annemarie. Tonto was not his real name, of course, but like Jonjo he was mad about the horses that belonged to the local gypsies. They would often capture one or two of these horses that roamed our nearby fields, and sometimes come along our road eating the grass and flowers.
Pretending to be Indians or racing jockeys, they rode the horses around the fields until such times as the gypsies saw them and made them get off.
These were happy, innocent days for us. A time when there was no TV’s or record players and our biggest source of amusement came from our imaginations. Imagine that, if you will.
All that summer, the tar melted on the roads from the heat. We made tents and huts in the fields, swam and fished in the near-by canal and played for hours with an old tractor tyre.
Marbles were played along the edges of footpaths, both going to and coming from school.Conkers and rounders was also very popular.
Like myself, Tonto and Jonjo came from large families, there being five boys and two girls in mine. This meant we shared everything, handing down clothes from one to the other. It did not work out to well for my sisters at times. I liked to be thought off as the gang leader.
Tonto was the sixth son of a seventh son and his mother lamented the fact that he missed out on “The Gift” of having healing hands. It was stealing hands he got instead.
Jonjo was more like one of the Gypsies; such was his strange accent, and love of horses.
Kate and Annemarie were more like sisters. They dressed the same and had an annoying habit of speaking at the same time, all the time!
We all lived on the same street, in a corporation housing estate. Compared to most of the overcrowded slum flats in the city we considered ourselves to be well to do.
So, summer gave way to the autumn, and the evenings closed in, getting cooler and darker as the days passed by.
We had taken to gathering on the footpath outside Kelly's house where a large overhanging bush afforded us some shelter from the wind and rain. We would use my dad’s old overcoat and huddle underneath it for comfort.
Then we would try and out do each other by telling tales of bravery and of horror too. The scary stories became the most popular especially between the boys as for some strange reason we found ourselves trying to impress the girls with our alleged bravery.
Then came that fateful night, when Tonto announced that he had heard a banshee in the lane way at the end of our road. This lane connected us to another estate, and as it was a common ground for the local rival gangs to meet for a fight, we never went near it at night time.
However, Tonto's tale of the Banshee grew with the telling so much that the rest of us poured scorn upon him. He became so annoyed at this and we kept it up so much that he suddenly dared us to go with him to the lane and hear it for ourselves.
This only resulted in hoots of laughter from all present to the point that he double-double dared us!
Eventually we agreed to go to the entrance just to shut him up. We would wait till Friday night when we where allowed out a little bit later. This being pay night in Dublin and the fathers would get home late, having treated themselves to a pint or more of Guinness after a hard weeks work.
Of course, and typical for a Friday night in Dublin, there was a fine rain falling. This made every thing and everyone feel quite miserable. The rain could be heard dripping from roofs and trees, drip, drip, drip.
It was about seven o'clock as we headed down to meet the Banshee. When we got there we could neither see nor hear anything resembling either a ghost or a Banshee! We burst out laughing and shouting at Tonto.” Lacrone! Lacrone!” which is Irish for “You fool, you fool”.
The lane was poorly lit by an old gas lamp, and now as we stared into it, the walls suddenly seemed twenty feet high. No escape that way should anything happen and why did it get darker the further along it went?
Just then, a blood curdling scream cut through the night. It made us all jump and Jonjo nearly faint on the ground. We froze to the spot as our ears betrayed us, allowing such a pitiful noise to reach into our young brains.
Annemarie stood there, pointing a shaking finger up the lane.
There it was! The Banshee! Standing against the wall in the darkest place, a long black gown with a hood covering most of her face!
But it did not cover it enough, for we could still see an old, old face, of wrinkles and hairs, with a long pointed nose and chin. A mean slit for a mouth which seemed to dribble as she screeched.
Waving a fist she screamed at us "The curse of the seven Banshee sisters on you all! Get away home with you now before I come and get you!"
This was followed by a long mournful howl, full of agony and surely came straight from hell itself!
Well, never did five pairs of legs move as fast as ours did that night, with the screeching of the Banshee ringing in our ears. We ran and ran till we met old man Lynch, staggering home from the pub, as usual for him.
But he was a giant of a man to us, and a prize boxer too. We walked home with him, telling him of our horrible night.” Now you kids should not be out so late at night, and maybe now you will stop that shouting and roaring on the street when you are playing”
We all went straight home and it was a long time before we stayed out after dark again.
Many years have passed, and the story has been told and retold. Some have pointed out that the lane is at the back of the local nun's house, and it was one of them that we saw.
I don’t think so, no way.
I know what I saw, and I also know four others that will always agree with me!