A Kilwaughter Legend

Pray listen to my tale, nor doubt its truth
E'en the lines are crude, the style uncouth.
Seek not poetic skill, artistic flair,
Such natural gifts - I fear I've none to spare.

But to our tale. This tale I must relate
Has ne'er before - by some mischance of Fate
Been told, and still more strange it seems to be
Why Fate should choose a humble scribe like me.

I can but do my best, nor shall I stray
Far from the paths of truth along the way,
I'll choose my words and faithful try to tell,
The legend of a dark Kilwaughter dell.

This period of my tale - it must be known
Was when Victoria graced the English throne:
Against the Boers her armies were in line,
The year 'tis said was eighteen ninety nine.

Far from the Boers or England's mighty throne,
Strange happenings in a wood deep, dark and lone
Were taking shape-a wood we all know well,
Kilwaughter, where once Squire Agnew did dwell.

The Squire - a man whose family herit-age,
Had through the years emblazoned history's page.
He was respected, honoured and renowned,
A self appointed king without a crown.

Although of high estate and noble birth,
He liked the 'common touch' - was 'down to earth.'
Of human weaknesses he had his share,
His vices earned him worries, glum despair.

By eighteen ninety nine, it must be said
The Squire had been a full half century dead.
Kilwaughter Castle, once his regal home,
Its pomp, its pride, its pleasures mostly gone.

But late one night when all was dark and still,
The moon had long since sunk behind Shanes Hill,
There stumbled through the night two cottier men,
Along the lane that leads from Rory's Glen.

They'd been carousing since the evening fell,
No doubt they'd had 'a drap o' thon' as well.
They stumbled on through bracken, moss and fog,
The Plantin' reached - then rested on a log.

Like peasant folk in every clime and age,
Within their breasts burned pride, revenge and rage.
Both spoke in turn in words harsh, loud and vexed,
"Man's inhumanity to Man" - their text.

And as the night wore on, their wrathful ire,
Condemned, cursed, crucified Kilwaughter's Squire,
Repeated tales learnt at their mothers' knee
Of lavish banquets, sin, debauchery.

All this while poor but honest peasant folk,
Lived, suffered, died enmeshed in slavery's yoke.
The ecstasies of life they never knew,
Their hardships great - their sorrows far from few.

These two embittered men had had their say,
And as they rose to tread their homeward way,
They heard the owl up near the Dhu Hole call,
As midnight chimes rang out from Lame's Town Hall.

And then a strange foreboding silence reigned;
The men with anxious look stood still and strained,
As through the thicket swayed a misty light,
No mortal eye beheld ere such a sight.

For there advancing through the midnight air,
Was Squire Agnew astride his big black mare.
Her prancing hooves, accoutrements and gear,
Gave no sound forth to a human ear.

The Squire was clad in cloak and broad cravat,
The family cockade graced his titled hat,
His left hand held the reins - his right a spear,
As though returning from a-hunting deer.

On, on he came, then pulled a sudden rein,
And stopped his steed close by the affrighted men,
Men who had cursed his name, his seed, his blood,
Would trample all his kindred in the mud.

The Squire sat silent, motionless, erect,
His steed - a statue, glossy sleek and black.
The men obsessed with wonder, fear and dread,
Each by some instinct humbly bowed his head.

At this the Squire replied with courtly bow,
Then reigned his steed towards the Arnott Knowe.
Encompassed in a ball of misty light,
He sudden vanished, silent, out of sight.

Instantly from a tree on Matty's Hill,
The mournful owl was heard, so clear and shrill,
From Larne's Town Hall the quarter hour had tolled,
Another day was fifteen minutes old.

With this mysterious incident in mind,
Both men searched anxiously next day to find
Some evidence, yet though they scanned the ground
No sign of horse's hoof marks could be found.

And this strange tale may never have been told,
Had not the one survivor when grown old
Revealed it all in nineteen twenty three
Somehow, alas - it found its way to me

John Clifford (1974)

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John Clifford

It was said that the full facts of the incident which I relate here were never fully known until the two men who were implicated - both locals - had reached a very advanced age. At that particular point of time it would have been damaging to the men and their families had it been generally known what their movements - and their intentions - were on this particular evening.

Both men were well known to the writer of these lines and it was a very near and dear friend of mine who gained first hand knowledge of the incident from one of the men concerned, who in turn with an air of secrecy passed on the tale to me.