Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey as yn Moddey Doo - Peel Castle and the Moddey Doo: A Manx Story of the Supernatural

Peel Castle

‘Ta scanjoon 'sy cashtal shen! Drogh - cur twoaie da (That castle is haunted! Evil - beware of it)!’ Jimmy, looked down at the old woman who was clasping his arm with her cold, boney, white purple veined hands. Bright blue intense eyes stared into his, piercing like shards of Nordic ice. Her warning in Manx Gaelic was clear and there could be no mistaking that the message was meant to be taken seriously. Not sure about how to respond, he watched as she walked away from the entrance of the castle and across the narrow breakwater that separates St Patrick's Isle (Manx: Ellan Noo Perick) on which Peel Castle (Manx: Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey) stood from the town of Peel (Manx: Purt ny h-Inshey) on the Isle of Man (Manx: Mannin). 

Oh well! That was one thing about the Manx, superstition ran deep within them and always had. After all, he was a born and bred Manxman so he should know. This castle did have stories of ghosts attached to it. But then so did many of the sites they had visited in all of the Celtic lands. Manx views of supernatural entities should not have surprised him really. However, he had been off the Island for many years now and forgotten how deep they were embedded in peoples psyche here. Work had taken him abroad and he had spent the last ten years living in New Zealand. A place of outstanding beauty and perfect for his passion for photography. Mannin always drew him back though. It is the same with all Manx people; a connection to their homeland that could never be broken. Just like with all of the Celtic peoples he had met around the world; a sense of belonging to these ancient lands on the very edge of northwest Europe.

Dark deeds and death at Carrowntryla House

Carrowntryla House

Dunmore (Irish: Dún Mór) is a village in the north of County Galway (Contae na Gaillimhe). It is the place where I grew up, on a farm that is on land that was once part of the Carrowntryla estate. Carrowntryla House was one of the ‘Big Houses’ in the area. The house was originally owned by the Catholic Burke family, who supported King James II at Aughrim. The Battle of Aughrim (Irish: Cath Eachroma) was one of the last and bloodiest battles on Irish soil. The protagonists were the army of King James II and the army of King William III. The deposed Catholic King James II fled to France in 1688 but sought to regain the throne. In 1689 this War of the Two Kings, or Cogadh an Da Ri moved to Ireland when James landed in Kinsale, County Cork. Two years later, an estimated forty five thousand soldiers from eight European nations fought a battle at Aughrim, at the end of the day of 12 July 1691 nine thousand, predominantly Irish, soldiers were killed. James’s army had to retreat. The name of the battle is taken from the nearby village of Aughrim (Irish: Eachroim) in County Galway. These events ultimately led in 1753 to the Burke’s having to sell and the house passed into the possession of the Protestant Henry family. Their only daughter, Anne married William Handcock, son of Reverend Elias Handcock of Cavan in 1802.

St Andrew Patron Saint of Scotland and the Scottish National Day

St Andrew

St Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland from at least the mid tenth century and legend says long before. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee in the early 1st century and is the brother of St Peter. According to the Gospel of St John, Andrew was a follower of the preacher John the Baptist and then became a disciple of Jesus who he recognised as the Messiah. A messiah is associated with Abrahamic religions which originate in the Middle East. Christianity is one of these religions and Jesus Christ in that religion is seen as the son of god. Andrew was one of the twelve apostles who was present at the Last Supper. Interestingly his name, Andrew, is not Hebrew in origin as might be expected, but Greek. St Andrew is thought to have died in the mid to late 1st century and was said to have been crucified on a diagonal or X-shaped cross which is now known as St Andrew’s cross.

The spread of Christianity to Scotland mainly came from Ireland in the fifth century. The national flag of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Bratach na h-Alba) is a white cross against a blue background. It is known as the Saltire and legend dates its origins back to King  Óengus mac Fergusa (Óengus II) who defeated a force of invading Angles in the ninth century. The legend is that in 832 AD the Scottish King prayed to St Andrew for help to defeat the English.  Against the blue sky the diagonal white cross appeared and it was on such a cross that St Andrew had been martyred.  The English were beaten and honouring his promise prior to the great victory Óengus made St Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. The association of St Andrew with Scotland goes back further than the reign of King Óengus II to Óengus I who was King from 732 to 761 AD. Legend also says that relics of St Andrew were brought from Constantinople in about the middle of the tenth century to the place where the town of St Andrew’s (Scottish Gaelic: Cill Rìmhinn) now stands.

Ireland’s Love of Leann Dubh and the Fame of Guinness

Irish language Guinness advert

Irish Pub’s around the world are known for selling Guinness. Seeing the Guinness sign when outside of Ireland is a reminder of home. This is very much known as an Irish tipple of choice. The beer is sold in over 100 countries worldwide and brewed in almost 50. There are other breweries associated with the dark Irish stout known in Irish as leann dubh (black beer), including the Murphy’s and Beamish beers from Cork (Irish: Corcaigh) in Ireland.

The history of Guinness, with its distinctive harp logo, goes back to the Irish brewer and founder of the Guinness brewery Arthur Guinness (1725 – 23 January 1803). He established the St. James's Gate Brewery (Irish: Grúdlann Gheata Naomh Séamuis) in Dublin in 1759 and started producing Guinness soon after. The symbol of the harp is associated with Ireland. It is on the coat of arms of Ireland (a gold harp against a blue background), on the Standard of the President of Ireland using the same combination of colours and the flag of Leinster (a gold harp against a green background). However, you will notice that the Guinness harp faces in the other direction.

Kingdom of Galloway a Gaelic Stronghold

Threave Castle

Dumfries and Galloway (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Phrìs is Gall-Ghaidhealaibh) is a unitary council area in south-west Scotland. It is an area known for its natural beauty made up of forests, coastline, shores, hills, estuaries and winding rivers all with an abundance of wildlife. It has Scotland’s most southerly point, the Mull of Galloway (Scottish Gaelic: Maol nan Gal), from which can be seen clear views of the nations of Ireland and Isle of Man. The part of Dumfries and Galloway that is Galloway (Scottish Gaelic: an Gall-Ghaidhealaibh) is now made up the the historic counties of Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire. The area  has a rich history and the remains of prehistoric monuments and carvings can be found, including the Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Carvings, Drumtroddan Standing Stones and neolithic chambered cairn of Cairnholy. It also has some  place-names derived from the Brythonic Celtic language and links to the Pictish people.

Kingdom of Galloway

At one time it was known as the Kingdom of Galloway. A Kingdom which at periods covered a much larger area than the present area that we know as Galloway. Including parts of southern Ayrshire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir), Carrick (Scottish Gaelic: A' Charraig), Nithsdale (Scottish Gaelic: Strath Nid), The Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (Scottish Gaelic: Cille Chuithbeirt), Nithsdale; Scottish (Gaelic: Srath Nid) and beyond. The Gaelic origins of the name of Galloway gives an indication of the influence of Norse-Gaels (people of Gaelic and Scandinavian origin). As such, for a significant period it was associated with the other Norse-Gael lands of the Hebrides, Isle of Man, Dublin and the Kingdom of Man and the Isles.

Mysterious Stones under a Celtic Dome of Darkness


Ruined castles and ancient monuments can be mysterious places. Often their remote locations contribute to the sense of being in the presence of something beyond modern comprehension. Perhaps a feeling of something special, magical and unearthly, as if the stones themselves are trying to communicate with us. It is something as a Celt that touches you; that drags a memory from deep within. A secret message passed on to us by our ancient ancestors that remains in the hidden depths of our mind, struggling to emerge from our subconscious.

Around the Celtic world there are many cairns, stone circles, standing stones and carvings in rock from times of prehistory. Anyone visiting megaliths such as, to mention just a few, those found in Carnac in Brittany, Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, Newgrange in Ireland, Cashtal yn Ard in Isle of Man, Bry Celli Ddu in Wales, Hurlers Stone Circles/An Hurlysi in Cornwall, can feel the spiritual importance passed down through the centuries. Made by our ancestors in the dark Celtic lands of north-west Europe, we are their direct descendants. No surprise really then that the monuments that they created with such effort, care, skill and reverence should reach out to us from beyond the grave of their original creators, for we carry within us their genes.

Greetings on the Celtic Celebration of Halloween 2014

Halloween turnips

The Celtic festival Halloween is celebrated on the night of 31st October and 1st November every year.

In the six Celtic Nations, Halloween marks the end of the summer and the beginning of winter. The festival is associated with the Celtic feast of Kala-Goañv (Breton), Calan Gwaf (Cornish), Samhain (Irish), Sauin (Manx Gaelic), Samhuinn (Scottish Gaelic) and Calan Gaeaf (Welsh).

Entirely pagan in origin, Halloween was traditionally a time of year when the worlds of the living and the dead were seen to be at their closest. It is a time when the creatures of the 'Otherworld' make their presence known to the people of 'this world'.

Halloween is now a globally celebrated festival, particularly in the 'New World' where its traditions were brought by waves of Celtic emigration. The lanterns, fires, costumes and belief in the supernatural remain deeply rooted in Celtic culture and tradition. So greetings on this Halloween or Hop tu Naa as it is known on the Isle of Man. Remember to enjoy this festival, but take care, spirits and entities not of this world arise on this night as our ancestors knew only too well. Pay respect to the creatures of the 'Otherworld' or there maybe a heavy price to pay!

If you haven't already, we recommend reading our exclusive interview with Dr Jenny Butler on the Celtic Folklore Traditions of Halloween.

Mysterious Halloween in Ballantrae - A Scottish ghost story

Ardstinchar Castle

Ballantrae (Scottish Gaelic: Baile na Tràgha) is a village on the south-west coast of Scotland. It is in South Ayrshire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir a Deas). Ballantrae is famous as the setting for the novel The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson published in 1889. In the distance can be seen the magnificent uninhabited island of Ailsa Craig. Formed from volcanic remains it is some ten miles from the Scottish coast and rises to a height of 1,110 feet (338m).

As Robbie walked from his home in the village he looked out across the sea towards the Ailsa Craig, but the mist had shrouded the small island. It felt strange not to see it looming in the distance so dominant is it on this part of the Scottish coastline. Robbie had finished work early today the 31st October. He had arranged to meet up with some friends in the evening to celebrate the night of Halloween. However, with time on his hands until then, he decided to use this opportunity to take some exercise and wander around the many paths that made this area such a ramblers paradise. Ballantrae is sometimes referred to as the gateway to Carrick. Carrick is a name derived from the Scottish Gaelic word Carraig meaning rock or rocky place. It is a district that was part of the old Kingdom of Galloway. This Kingdom is associated with the same Norse-Gael world of Isle of Man, Hebrides and Dublin. These old Norse colonies and the Vikings that had settled there had been subject to Gaelicisation. They had integrated into Gaelic society and adopted the language and customs of the Gaelic people who lived in these lands.

The Thing Sites: A Norse - Celtic trail


A Thing or þing in Old Norse and Icelandic was the form of governing assembly found in the Scandinavian world that was also introduced into some Celtic societies. It is an assembly of the free men of a country or province and is located in specific sites identified for that purpose. At ‘the thing’, decisions were made  and disputes settled. Although presided over by a king or chieftain in theory it was a democratic assembly in that each person had a vote. The decisions made were recited by the speaker to everyone at the thing. Probably the most famous thing site in existence today is the Manx Tynwald (Manx Gaelic: Tinvaal) said to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The name Tynwald is derived from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr,meaning the field of the thing.

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