Paddy Plant is one of the oldest Ballyyahooians and he loves to tell a story, especially on a dark night when he is sitting by a turf fire toasting home-made bread, slathering it with butter and sharing it with his friends.
The story below is one of his favourites and he tells it as many times as he can get people to listen.
It all happened back when he was a boy.
The trouble started where all trouble started; in the neighbouring town of Ballyuseless.
It was rare, even back then, that anyone from the town of Ballyuseless ever strayed into Ballyyahoo.
They knew they weren’t welcome because they were lazy vagabonds, robbers, villains, layabouts, wasters, gombeens and pure and utter scoundrels.
If the Ballyyahooians caught them around their town they’d tie them to the tree below and pelt them with rotten tomatoes.
When the intruders had learned their lesson they would propel them back to Ballyuseless on the ends of their pitchforks.
Ballyyahooians keep their pitchforks exceptionally sharp!
After finding nothing but locked doors and barred windows he sneaked into Ballyyahoo in search of money.
The thief’s name was Conall and he was tall and strong with a face set with sharp and angry lines earned after many years scowling and frowning.
Conall avoided being seen by crouching down and creeping along in the darkness of the hedgerow at the side of the Ballyyahoo bog in order to sneak into the town without being seen.
Since there was never any crime in Ballyyahoo, people used to leave their doors and windows open.
Conall had no problem getting into the house of an old woman known locally as Ina the knitter.
Ina was a poor widow who earned a little money by knitting gloves and socks to sell at the market.
It just happened that the day Conall came calling her purse was unusually full of coins.
You see, that day had been particularly cold and for the first time in a long time Ina had managed to sell every single one of her thick, warm gloves and socks.
Ina was sitting by the fire warming her toes and enjoying a cup of tea with a piece of bread, butter and homemade blackberry jam when she heard her back door opening.
She thought it must be one of her neighbours, Brigid, coming in for a chat as she often did in the evenings.
But Brigid had gone to bed early to fight off a chill, so when Ina turned around to greet her neighbour she got the fright of her life.
In front of her stood Conall, his face darkened with hatred and greed and his sharp teeth bared as though to bite her.
‘Get out! Get out!’ she cried as she stood up to face him.
Conall just laughed and then shouted, ‘Give me your purse old woman, or this will be a sorry day for you.’
‘No, that’s all I have,’ she cried, holding her purse as tightly as she could.
Conall pushed poor Ina aside and ripped the purse from her little hand.
He emptied the coins into his pocket and threw the purse in the fire.
Ina went to grab her purse but the heat of the flames stopped her.
‘Stupid old woman,’ mocked Conall, laughing as he left Ina’s house .
Once outside he broke into a run, determined to get back to Ballyuseless and spend Ina’s money before the good people of Ballyyahoo gave chase.
Poor Ina was left in despair. Without that money she couldn’t buy food and she didn’t know how she was going to manage.
THE CRUELTY OF CONALL
Conall, who drew pleasure from other people’s misery was still laughing his horrible mean and screechy laugh as he made his way towards the Ballyyahoo bog.
He laughed even more when the stolen coins in his pocket jangled as he ran.
As he drew close to the bog of Ballyyahoo he saw what looked like a wisp of dark smoke coming from behind a large rock.
He stopped for a second to look and in an instant was confronted by a beautiful woman with long red hair and deathly pale skin who floated towards him on a cloud of mist.
‘Come with me,’ she whispered.
Conall knew immediately who, and what she was and for the first time in his life he could feel the fear-filled beats of his own cold heart.
He stepped backwards and turned as though to run but found himself circled within a low cloud of mist that came straight from the hand of the Banshee herself.
The more he tried to escape the more the mist entwined him.
Soon Conall was completely trapped within the thick mist.
As the Banshee drew him towards her he found himself unable to speak or move.
That was the last anyone ever heard of Conall.
According to Paddy, not a single trace of his body was never found, although that could have been because nobody ever risked the wrath of the Banshee by disturbing the bog of Ballyyahoo.
It is thought that Ina’s money sank with Conall and that he is doomed to stare at it for eternity.
As for Ina, as soon as the Ballyyahooians heard what happened they started leaving things on her doorstop.
First it was eggs, then milk and butter, then a lovely basket of fruit and vegetables. All fresh from their own chickens, cows and gardens.
Ballyyahooians are as kind and generous as they come and between them all they made sure Ina never had to worry again.
To read more stories from Ballyyahoo click here.