*Reader discretion advised
Have you ever had that gut wrenching feeling that eyes are on you? A feeling that you need to move on and be quick about it? I will never forget the sensation I experienced as a seven year old in Sheepland.
I could never put my finger on why, there was just something very ominous about this section of road. I never wanted to be alone on it, I always cycled faster here to get away from the bad sensations. My great grandmother was from a farm just around the corner but even that didn't evoke warm sentiment. It was about age 25, I discovered the reason why; it chilled me to the bone.
For this next section I will quote directly from my great-great-great-great uncle Dr. William Hamilton Smyth who wrote the Ordnance Survey Memoirs:
The Methodists were once numerous in this parish, which is remarkably connected with the rise and progress of that sect, as it was at a place called Ringawiddy they held their first meeting, from whence their meetings and principles and mode of worship were diffused over the country. At that period and for some years after, the minds of the people were kept in a state of continual agitation by the supposed miracles performed, the appearances of angels, visions, etc.; people falling into swoons and some into fits. Their numbers are on the decrease, their zeal much abated and the extravagances cited above have entirely ceased.
In the 1770s there was a radical preacher in the area called Rev. Edward Smyth, he was a great friend of John Wesley. The priest too, Rev. Daniel Clinton, a local man, was convinced by him. The parishioners were upset by this and they, for reasons unknown, went to his house one night and put a sack on the chimney and nailed the door shut. Rev. Clinton was unable to escape and suffocated to death. His house was on this stretch of the road!
As I recanted this story to a group on a walk with me in 2022, a local woman, Margaret, filled in the rest of the horrifying detail. The ruins were famous for a phenomena known as the Will of the Wisp. Sparks of light would emanate from the ruins and land nearby in the hope of luring an unsuspecting person to their doom. Margaret explained to me, the wisps only ever landed on Clinton land.
Despite my great grandmother being a member of that family, they were always distant: kept themselves to themselves. Chillingly, it was explained to me that they had been socially ostracised as it was believed they had let one of their own die.
I dedicate this post to the memory of Rev. Daniel Clinton, may his soul rest in peace.