Castles rank high when it comes to tales of hauntings.
The thought of an ancient building that contains many rooms, darkened halls, possibly secret rooms and dungeons thrills the heart of those who seek chilling tales born of centuries of memories. There are also those tales and lore of the land that are not so chilling, but nonetheless haunting. The lore of the Foxes of Gormanston Castle is one of the less chilling stories, but odd in its own way. The castle itself does not seem to be haunted, it is the behavior of the foxes in the area and their haunting ways that bewilders everyone.
Much like the Irish Banshee, the foxes show up to pay tribute to a dying Lord of the family and mourn the loss until the family member is safe in Heaven.
The estate lands of Gormanston Castle sits in the beautiful area of County Meath, Ireland, near the mouth of the River Delvin, and the border with the Fingal part of old County Dublin. It is a peaceful setting with the river meandering through the pastoral scenes. These beautiful lands are steeped in legend and historical sites.
A group of passage graves (tombs known as the Bremore/Gormanston group) on either side of the mouth of Delvin River is believed by most experts on the passage grave culture in Ireland to mark the arrival of that culture from the Iberian peninsula and to be the precursor of later developments such as the Newgrange cluster. Legend also associates the site with the first landings of both St Patrick and Oliver Cromwell. The Gormanston area is outstandingly rich in artifacts from the neolithic and all later periods.
Historical features in the county include St Brigid's well in Tobersool. It is an ancient holy well associated with a cure for diseases of the eye.
Several ancient cob cottages still exist in the village under more modern surfaces. Cob cottages are built of clay, sand, straw, water, and earth, which is similar to an adobe house.
The Cock pub at Gormanston Cross has good claim to be the oldest public house in Ireland.
Gormanston Castle was built around 1768 by the Preston family. It was the seat of the Preston family from the time it was built until it was sold to the Franciscan Order of Friars in the late 1940's. Since 1478, the head of the Preston family is known as Viscount Gormanston, premier Viscount of Ireland. The castle is enormous and very impressive, in a quadrangular shape with a tower in each corner.
Then there are the foxes. Legend tells that the first Viscount Gormanston once saved a nursing mother fox from maurauding predators. Since that time, the foxes pay tribute to each Viscount as he lies on his death bed.
Tradition ordains that when the head of the family is in his final hours, the foxes of County Meath, except for nursing vixens, emerge from their earth dens and make their way to the door of Gormanston Castle to keep vigil until his Lordship has passed from this life. This tribute is in thanksgiving for the deliverance and protection of their ancestor. This strange phenomenon has been witnessed many times over by people of the village near the castle.
Records centered on this supposed phenomenon were captured in Preston family logs that date back to the 17th century where it was stated that around the approaching death of the 12th Viscount – foxes appeared around the residence for several days. They were seen sitting underneath the Viscount's bedroom window, barking and howling throughout the night. Following the death of the Viscount, the foxes were still seen in front of the house and only returned to their normal routine after the conclusion of the funeral.
The behavior of the foxes is strangely odd as well. Witnesses claim that they have walked through scores of poultry without killing them and the dogs of the premises did not dare attack. Some believe it is because the foxes were phantoms and could not be touched. Whether they are phantoms or not, it is strange because the fox is a solitary animal. For them to gather in large numbers is very unusual.
The crest of the Viscounts Gormanston has a fox on it.
© Copyright Kieran Campbell and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/730378
Bridge over the Delvin River
© Copyright Kieran Campbell and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License. http://www.geograph.ie/photo/1764571
For further reading on Ireland's folklore and castles: