Irish Ghosts for Halloween

Dún an Óir

If you’re looking for a part of Ireland to visit, then the natural beauty and traditional way of life of the Dingle Peninsula should be high on your list. But you may feel a chill that doesn’t blow in off the Atlantic at Dún an Óir.

In 1580, an Irish rebellion against English rule had been backed by Catholic troops from Italy and Spain. One force – up to 600 strong – was besieged in the fort at Dún an Óir near Smerwick by English troops led by Arthur Grey, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They had little hope against a much stronger English army and after three days surrendered.

Whether Grey promised them their lives or not is hotly disputed. What isn’t disputed is that the vast majority – mustn’t be slaughtering officers, must we? – were executed, some extremely gruesomely after refusing to abjure their Catholic faith.

A nearby field – Gort a Ghearradh or “the Field of the Cutting” – has recently been excavated and found to be full of 16th-century skulls. Dún an Óir itself maybe a mistranslation of the Irish Dún an Áir, “The Field of Slaughter”.

The ghosts of those Papal troops are said to still haunt the place. Cries in Spanish are heard, skeletons are sighted, and the smell of decaying bodies drifts in on sea breezes say locals.

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