Ballyshannon's Green Lady and Other Ghosts
As one who grew up in a house that had a resident ghost, I have
often wondered why other people have a fascination with what they term the
paranormal. In a previous work, "The Kindly Spot", I
chronicled the attachment of a banshee to a neighbouring family in the Purt of
Ballyshannon. Now, thanks to Denis Noel, a provincial archivist in New
Brunswick, one of Canada's maritime provinces, the story of Ballyshannon's Green
Lady may be told anew, as recorded in a New Brunswick newspaper more than 150
The New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser
Vol.III Fredericton, Friday, April 16, 1847
Note: The following sketch was published three or four years ago in one
of the Provincial Newspapers; but as we can claim it without the charge of
plagiarism, we yield to the wish of a friend for its republication. The present
impression contains one of two additions.
The Green Lady
A Legend of Ballyshannon
by the Editor
Sometime about the beginning of the year 1776 there was stationed in the
little town of Ballyshannon, in the North of Ireland, a regiment of the line,
remarkable in no other way from the many gallant corps that had preceded and
followed it, except in these two points: - namely, that its Commanding Officer
was one of the most hard-hearted and brutal men ever privileged to wear a sword
- and that it contained one of the finest looking fellows, - if our information
is correct - that ever wore the uniform of a private.
For some cause or other which has never fully come to light, the Major - for
such he was by commission - took a particular pleasure in exercising a despotic
degree of harshness towards poor Edward Finlay, whose good looks and still
better conduct seemed only to ensure, and as it were concentrate, the envy and
austerity of his Commander, who himself, a very diminutive and ordinary man,
looked upon all personal accomplishments in others as so many tell-tales of his
own deformity, and never failed to make war against them accordingly.
To Finlay, an extra drill, or a series of laborious duties, were mere
trifles, although frequently singled out from his companions for such
performances, but when he had the mortification of being pointed out in the
ranks day after day, and exposed as a specimen of all that is unseemly to
military equipment and science, his very heart sickened; and the prospect of
years of slavery, rather than of honourable service, threw him into despair. He
had frequently tried to volunteer on foreign service, but in these attempts he
had been foiled by the superior influence of his commander, and at the time when
our legend commences he had almost given himself up to the idea of remaning a
slave for life.
One morning while the Regiment was on parade, and just as the Major had
concluded a severe reproof against our hero, a young lady, habited in a green
silk dress, passed rapidly down the front rank, and casting by the way a look of
supreme contempt at the Major, she stopped in front of Edward Finlay, and in a
quick yet distinct voice, addressed herself to him, while the Major and the rest
of the officers, as well as the men within hearing, were rivited as if by magic
to their respective stations.
"Edward Finlay" she said "are you tired of your life in this Regiment" The
blood rose to Edward’s head while he answered in an audible voice " I am."
"Would you wish to exchange the discipline of the army, and the tyranical
authority of yonder officer, for the soft fetters of a woman’s love, and the
obligations of duty resulting from the same?"
"Meet me at seven to-morrow evening in the Abbey."
The last sentence was uttered in a low whisper, and presenting him with a
well filled purse of gold, she disappeared in a moment at the barrack gate.
It were needless to attempt a description of Edward’s feelings, or to recount
the vast multitude of questions and surmises showered upon him by his comrades,
just as their envy, curiosity or friendship prompted them: but he could give
them no answer save that they knew as much of the matter themselves as he, that
he did not recollect having ever seen the lady before, and that he would
certainly conclude the whole scene to be only a dream were it not for the gold,
which remained to give a strong demonstration of its reality.
"Begorra yer a lucky man Edward" said one, "to get sich a fine hape of goold,
and the purty green lady into the bargain. I hope you’ll do the dacent thing wid
yer ould comrades, and that you wont go away widout trating every mother’s son
"Ye’ll maybe buy a commission yoursel, Finlay," said a Dumfries man, commonly
known among the men by the congnomen of ‘thrifty Jock,’ "and Ise hoping yon braw
leddy will be mair carfa o’ her siller when she bestows it a’ in the right
During this affair the little Major stood speechless, and almost ready to
burst with passion. The first use which he made of his returning powers was to
order the men to retire immediately to their quarters; and choking with
ungovernable rage he withdrew himself in order to plan how he might prevent the
seeming good fortune of private Finlay. A few moments afterwards he was alone
with Terry McPhelim, a desperate fellow who bore the rank of Corporal in the
Regiment, and who, it was whispered, had obtained his promotion by means which,
although not very honourable to the service, had nevertheless propitiated the
good will of the Commander.
"Terry," said that officer, "did you hear the concluding whisper of that
woman this morning on the parade?"
"Anan your honour?"
"Did you hear what the woman whispered to Finlay this morning?"
"Musha’n troth your honour, it's meself that did’nt, but I guessed it
"And what did you guess?" returned the officer.
"Bedad I’m after thinking that she tould him to desert your honour, and to
run away wid her."
"Your right by _____ ," was the Major’ response, "you’re a clever fellow
Terry, and I’ll make a man of you. Mind me, you must follow that fellow, but at
such a distance that he wont suspect you the whole of the time until you detect
them together. You must creep in some way near them unobserved. You must listen
to every word of their treason, and then tell me the whole of it. But if you
should think that there would be time enough to lead me to the spot, you must
fly and let me know where they are, that I may be a witness of the fellow’s
villany. McPhelim! Here’s a guinea."
"Long life to your honour. I’ll ferret them out if they should hide
themselves twelve turf deep in the bog of Allen." So saying Terry withdrew,
leaving his superior in rather better humour than he had found him.
The Major’s orders were faithfully obeyed, and when Finlay separated himself
from his comrades in order to go to the Abbey, he was traced at a distance by
the wily corporal who was determined that on this occasion he would earn his
It was one of those nights so frequent in the "Island of Saints," when the
moon as it is struggling between heavy dark clouds fitfully throws her light
upon the earth, and then in a moment withdraws it again, like some haughty and
highborn damsel who has detected herself smiling upon some humble suitor; and
then, as if angry at her own condescension, hastily puts on one of her gloomiest
looks in order to put a stop to any further familiarity. Thus, while Edward
passed on, an occasional glimpse of his red coat enabled Terry to pursue his
footsteps until he at last disappeared behind the Abbey wall.
The village, (which takes its name from this old ruin) is situated about a
half a mile from the outskirts of the Town, and is inhabited principally by
fishermen, whose families during the summer cultivate such vegetables as will
command the readiest sale in the Town. It is supposed to be a place of uncommon
sanctity, as it contains a ‘Holy Well,’ and the aforesaid ruin, which (to speak
the truth) at present presents nothing more for the research of the antiquary
than a single fragment of wall, well covered with ivy, and which, if it were not
for the numerous traditions of the natives, might be easily mistaken for the
gable end of some old castle "where lords, not friars, spent the giddy day."
Be that as it may, it afforded sufficient place and solitude for young Finlay
to meet the Green Lady, who immediately joined him; and also for McPhelim to
creep along unobserved until he could discover the retreat of the lovers.
"You have been true to the time, Edward Finlay," said the lady, who was
dressed exactly as she had appeared at the Parade; "and I have only one request
to make of you, which is a very natural one considering our situation. It is,
that you approach not any nearer to me than you now stand during our present
interview. Remember on your peril that you conform to this wish. Now tell me
what I can do to relieve you in your present circumstances."
"First may I ask to whom it is I am indebted for the friendly act of
yesterday, and for the more than friendly words which have brought me here this
"Please, soldier," retorted the lady, "you have not yet known me long enough
to warrant you using any language save that of caution and friendship. I will,
however, answer your question. I am the daughter of General Folliard who owns
yonder large building down by the warren; but I do not reside there at present."
"But lady, you yourself at our first short meeting, and in the presence of
hundreds, made use of the word love."
"If I did", replied the lady,"you must remember that I coupled it with
another. Are you willing to assume the responsibility attached to my favour if
conferred on you? Are you willing to forsake the world and to share alone with
me the happiness of one sole attachment, unequal tho’ it may be, now and in
"Methinks", said Finley, "that your terms are far from being hard. To be
redeemed from my present bondage is to me a great consideration; but coupled
with the thought of possessing the only one who has ever seemed to take an
interest in my welfare, I cannot for a moment hesitate. I am yours on your own
"Very well’, said the lady, "you may now withdraw. To-morrow I will take
means for getting you out of the army."
At this moment a dark cloud concealed the moon, and when it had passed over
Finlay looked up, but the green Lady was gone.
"You are my prisoner", roared out the enraged Major, who now stood at his
elbow; and in a moment Edward found himself secured in the cold embrace of a
pair of handcuffs. The truth is, that although we have taken upon ourselves to
report the above conversation, not one word of it was heard by McPhelim who had
at the first ran off at full speed for the Major. A party of soldiers had
followed, and in half an hour Edward Finlay was the sole occupant of the dungeon
beneath the guard house.
It is impossible to conjecture how Edward Finlay spent the night. He was
ignorant of the nature of the crime for which he was confined and, like some
wretch in the cells of the Inquisition, he reflected more upon the probable sort
of treatment which he might receive than on the cause which led to his
imprisonment. He knew well the brutal character of his accuser, and although he
thought it quite natural that the daughter of General Folliard might possess a
good deal of influence, he yet knew not how such interest might be used on his
behalf without an infringement of that maidenly reserve and modesty which a
woman of fine education and high connexion would, of course, value more than her
life, and which must suffer dreadfully in the event of a public declaration of
At nine o’clock next morning agreeably to the summary course of justice as
administered in those, days, the prisoner was brought to trial.
The reader may have anticipated the nature of the evidence elicited on the
occasion. McPhelim swore that he saw him in the act of changing clothes with a
country-man, and likewise forming plans necessary to facilitate his desertion:
and further, that he had caught him while in the very act of making his escape.
The Major said little, but confirmed Terry’s evidence.
The Court pitied the poor prisoner, and several of the officers expressed
some doubt relative to the truth of some part of McPhelim’s statements; but the
extraordinary appearance of the woman on parade the preceding day, her
conversation with Finlay, and above all the conjecture that after all it might
be a man in woman’s clothes - (this was the Major’s opinion) - these
circumstances put together induced the Court to pronounce sentence against the
prisoner; and that sentence was--‘Immediate death!’
I should have mentioned that old General Folliard attended at the Court
Martial. He was dressed in deep mourning, in consequence of the recent death of
one of his family. He took no part in the proceedings, but in consequence of the
extraordinary exigencies of the times - it being a little previous to the
breaking out of the Irish Rebellion - he confirmed the sentence, and the poor
soldier was led forth for immediate execution.
"You had bether lave yer money to yer comrades, Edward", whispered McPhelim,
"for faix I’m thinking you wont be after wantin it ’fare you're goin."
The Regiment was drawn out to witness the execution, the firing party was
ordered to prepare for their painful duty, and every thing was in readiness for
the fatal word which was to consign Finlay to another world.
There is something awfully impressive in the scene of a military execution.
Preceded by the mournful dirge and muffled drum, the marked victim of death is
marched forth under an escort, to a spot selected for the fulfillment of his
sentence. The whole disposable force of the Garrison is there awaiting his
arrival, in close columns, forming three sides of a square, into which he is
led; and by the side of his coffin, which is laid in some instances within a few
paces of his grave, he stands pinioned, while the rigid paraphernalia of
military etiquette is proceeding around him.
His crime, his trial, and his sentence, are next read in the deep and gloomy
silence, where not a movement is made, not a voice raised, save that which seals
as it proceeds the last scene of his mortal destiny. This dreadful ceremony
accomplished, a slight movement is heard as the soldiers selected as his
executioners, file past, taking their station with loaded muskets within six
paces of their doomed comrade, who now kneels down, supporting his pinioned arms
on the lid of that coffin which is so soon to receive him.
His spiritual comforter kneels beside him, and in that way which he deems the
best, exhorts him to repentence, and encourages him to trust in Him "who gave
his life in a ransom for many", who died, "the just for the unjust," that he
might purchase salvation and eternal life for those "who truly repent, and
unfeignedly believe his Holy Gospel."
The poor victim has now heard the last word of comfort or sympathy which he
is ever to hear in this world, - the Minister of God takes his final leave of
him; - his eyes are bound - not to hinder the dying soldier to look death in the
face, but to prevent his last look from affecting his executioners.
The signal is given - the guns discharged - and what was a moment before a
living, breathing man, tortured with despair and apprehension, is now an
inanimate piece of clay from which the yet warm blood pours forth in numerous
torrents as he lies extended by the side of his coffin.
The parade ground in Ballyshannon is situated on the sloping bank of the Erne
Water, a large river which flows from a lake of the same name, forming one of
the most beautiful sheets of water in the whole country. After passing slowly
thro’ the dark and narrow arches of the slovenly bridge, which at that time
scarcely afforded accommodation for two wheel carts to go abreast, it continues
its course until it comes in the vicinity of the parade ground, where, all at
once, the whole river, being about two hundred yards wide in this place, is
precipitated down a fall of about twenty-four feet, presenting a spectacle to
the eye, which when once seen can never be forgotten.
At this moment the eyes of the whole Regiment were directed to another
object; - leaning over Finlay, and clasping both his hands in hers, her slender
form and womanly attire presenting a strong contrast with the bold and masculine
forms around - there stood the green lady!
A faint scream from another quarter now broke upon the stillness of that
scene. General Folliard had just fallen to the ground, and with the wild
exclamation, ‘Merciful Heaven! My Daughter!", lay insensible on the grass.
She had died about a month before.
Meantime the spectre bride, clasping Finlay in her arms, flew about half way
across the river, and descending a little above the falls sat with her lover for
a moment on the surface of the water as it rushed on to the fall. It was but a
moment. Then both floated sublimely over the brink of the watery precipice and
were lost forever in the awful whirlpool below!
"But what became of the parties?"
General Folliard slowly recovered and lived for several years after; the
Major died with the fright, and shortly after Terry McPhelim was drummed out of
the Regiment, the command having devolved on the oldest captain.
Often does the fisherman in the calm moonlight of that lovely climate see, or
fancy he sees, the forms of the soldier and his betrothed, playing strange
gambols on the surface of the Erne Water; and it is further said that she has
lately changed her green dress for a white one. But the older inhabitants deny
this latter opinion, remarking at the same time that, should it get credence,
the next report might lead to a belief that the supernatural appearance was
nothing more than a heap of white froth -- an idea too absurd to obtain credit.
The name Folliard in the newspaper account is suspiciously like that of
Folliott, a planter family granted usurped lands in the area which is the
setting of the story. Further research may be required.
It should be added that Mr. Noel concludes his e-mail to which the article is
attached with these words:
"A number of New Brunswickers can trace their ancestry to immigrants who left
from Ballyshannon during and before the Famine."
No doubt their ancestors carried the story of the Green Lady with them.
The version in the New Brunwick newspaper differs only in minor detail from
that prevalent in my youth, when the lady's reappearances were associated with a
particular building known as The Barracks, on Main Street, just north of the
bridge spanning the River Erne. It should be noted that The Barracks housed the
town's only wholesaler of spirits. Sceptics may choose to make their judgments
on this fact alone. But a word of caution to readers--when dealing with the
paranormal, choose wisely!
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