An Irish ghost story for Halloween - the tragic tale of the young bride who haunts Charles Fort in County Cork.

In the south west of Ireland, the medieval fishing port of Kinsale stands at the mouth of the River Bandon in County Cork. With a rich and varied history, this quaint tourist village with its labyrinth of narrow streets is set firmly between the hills and shoreline, little had changed in centuries.

Built in the late 17th century, Charles Fort in the Summer Cove part of Kinsale was designed as a star fortification by the Surveyor-General of Ireland so as to maximize defense against cannon attacks from the water or land. This stronghold was witness to many historical events and battles from the Williamite War of 1689/91 to the War of Independence, all taking place in its shadow.

An aerial shot of Spike Island, home of Charles Fort.

An aerial shot of Spike Island, home of Charles Fort.

Of particular note is that it played host to Admiral Penn, the Governor of Kinsale, placed there by force after turning traitor to the crown, taking orders from Cromwell and failing in his task to take the West Indies cleanly for the Commonwealth.

The Admiral had a son called William who became the Clerk to the Admiralty Court of Kinsale during his time in Ireland, after which he journeyed to America and became the founder of Pennsylvania.

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An interesting sidebar, however, I digress as Kinsale has its own stories, and I am about to tell you one of its most famous – that of the Lady in White.

The Commander of Charles Fort at the time in question was believed to be named Warrender. He had a daughter who led a life of privilege in the town of Kinsale and remained mostly within the garrison itself.

Two young lovers

Under English rule, the barracks had a turnover of soldiers and a young touring officer fell in love with the Commander’s daughter and she with him. After a whirlwind romance, the two were betrothed and married.

After a wedding day of festivities, later that night duties returned to normal as Charles Fort was still, of course, an operational garrison. The newlyweds took an evening walk along the parapets and the young bride was soon distracted by a single white flower growing below.

An eager young sentry stated he would climb down the ramparts and fetch the flower as a wedding gift if her officer husband would mind his post. The groom took up the post with the sentry’s musket and waited … and waited …

With no sign of the sentry, quite possibly an absconder, the newly married officer sent his dear wife to their chambers while he stood guard. Tired after a day of drinking and excitement he gradually dozed off, leaning on the musket.

Tragedy strikes the heart

Later that night the Commander took to his rounds and found the sleeping soldier. As the offense demanded immediate resolution and penalty, the Commander raised his gun and fired, realizing at the moment he released the trigger that he was shooting his own son-in-law in the heart.

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Distraught over his actions and unable to face the grief and judgment of his daughter, in a split second decision the Commander threw himself from the battlements.

In search of her love

The young wife awoke from a short sleep and went in search of her husband, only to find his bloody corpse. In despair, she looked out over the ramparts and saw the broken body of her father below. This was all too much for the new bride to take in and so she leaped, broken-hearted, to her death.

From that day her lonely spirit, dressed in her wedding gown, wanders the parapets of the fort, desperate and forlorn. She can be seen as the evening turns to night. Her eerie presence casts fear and sorrow into those who see her. Until the fort was abandoned, even the battle-hardened soldiers would lock all the doors to try to keep her from entering.

A futile gesture, as this grief-stricken widow who lost the two men she loved, has nowhere else to go.

This documentary, shot by students from Co. Cork, brings the tale of the Lady in White to life: 

White Lady Of Kinsale from LB Frames on Vimeo.

* Ann O'Regan is a blogger, writer and the Irish correspondent for Spooky Isles, a site dedicated to ghost stories and tales of horror from the UK and Ireland. More of her work can be read here

* Originally published in May 2014.