If you ever walk between Bodyke & Tuamgraney in County Clare you will come across an area called the evicted field, made famous during the infamous Bodyke Evictions that followed the famine. It is across the road from an overgrown area that was used in the time of the famine in Ireland to bury the unfortunate people who died during that time.
It is a place of wonder and we were brought up to respect these pieces of history. However respect was in reality fear and you quickened your pace when you walked that 200 yard corridor of road.
I was walking home after a few sherbets in Tuamgraney (about a 3 mile walk, wouldn’t do it now, but I was young and fit in those days) and I was coming up on the hallowed site. As usual I quickened my step and looked straight ahead. I imagined everything, I thought there was a localised mist, I imagined shapes in the ditch, my senses were heightened to the point of pain. In short I was shiting myself.
I imagined a noise in the ditch, a rabbit, a fox, a badger, the logical side of the brain reasoned, a remnant from the famine, my illogical side countered. I couldn’t help myself and I stopped and strained to hear the sound again. I heard no sound, none at all, which was strange in the countryside, there was always some sound.
I went to walk off, and the sound started again, FFS the illogical side was screaming fingernails on an ancient coffin. Fecking hell, the brain said “Run you stupid fecker”, the feet were deaf to the command. I turned my head slowly towards the sound and it stopped. I looked away and it started again.
Now the brain was really in overdrive but the feet again were impervious to the request.
I strained my eyes towards the perceived location of the sound and I swear that I saw a shadowy figure on the far side of the hedge, it appeared to be a small child. FFS I was bricking it at this stage. All the old stories of starvation in the late 1800’s, the evictions, the deportations all leapt to the forefront of my terrified brain.
Was this a lost soul, destined to wonder the world of the living until he/she was avenged. The scratching now began in earnest, but the figure remained still and haunting. Legs, get a fecking move on I screamed silently. I was rooted to the spot.
Suddenly a car light showed in the distance coming at a very lively pace from the direction of Tuamgraney, I had to get off the road, and no way was I going towards the fecking ditch, I managed to get to the other side of the road and backed into the hedgerow.
My eyes were fixed on the shadowy figure as the lights began to illuminate the ditch. The car roared past and in the light I could see it was an innocent discarded jumper, grey and dirty, snagged on the ditch.
You fecking eejit I said to myself, giggling nervously, when I suddenly felt a hot breath on my neck. FFS, my heart stopped I swear it did, then an evil snort blew wetness onto the back of my head. I am not ashamed to say I screamed at the top of my voice and heard the sound of retreating hooves behind me. The devil – no Jack Treacy’s fecking horse.
I was never so scared in all my life and I never walked past that spot at night ever again.