The Harp Banshee

Nae's Nest —  October 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

The Reverend Charles Bunworth was rector of Buttevant, in the county of Cork, about the middle of the last century. He was a man who was highly respected. His heart was pure and he held his piety close-by and holy. He was intelligent and benevolent. The rich respected him and the poor found him beloved. The Reverend loved one and all equally, whether rich or poor, whether educated or not. He was blind when it came to race or creed. He was the person all would come to in tough times and distress. All were confident of receiving good advice, assistance and discretion. Father Bunworth always had time for his flock. He never allowed one of his lambs to stray too far without approaching to see if there was a problem and if so, he was always there to help. He was the friend and the benefactor of two men, Curran and Yelverton who were from the neighboring town of Newmarket. They too, often came to him for advice and instruction, previous to their attendance to Dublin College. Unfortunately, upon going to college they both felt to continue to go to the Father for advice was beneath them as they considered themselves much more educated.

Perhaps the one thing about Father Bunworth that stood out the most was his famed ability to play the Irish harp. He would receive poor traveling musicians into his home. Not only did he offer to set them up with paid musical performances, he also provided food and shelter free of charge. This enabled the musicians to stay in the area for a while to build up a name for themselves while playing all over the county. The musicians very much appreciated Father Bunworth and were grateful for his generosity. As a result, they would write songs and sing his praises all over the county. They always made sure to have the harp for accompaniment in honor of their inspiration.

One could not doubt their gratitude was sincere, when, at the time of Father Bunworth’s death, many traveled miles to show their reverence. Having nothing else to give, many of the musicians left a harp in place of money. A total of fifteen harps were bequeathed to him by the last members of a dying race. There was no doubt, the value of the old, beaten and bruised harps was trifling. However a gift of the heart is priceless. Father Bunworth would have wanted a place of honor to present the harps publicly to show his gratitude.

Upon his death, the harps were broken apart, each and every one. A nincompoop member of the flock thought the harps worthless and would be better served as firewood. The fool was left temporarily in charge of the house. He thought he would impress others with his decorating skills.

There are witnesses to this story still alive today, who can attest to the authenticity of the surrounding circumstances of the death of Father Bunworth.

About a week or so before the death of Father Bunworth, the sound of sheep shears could be heard down the hall. At the time, no one really thought anything of it.

Later that same night Kavanagh, the herdsman, returned from Mallow. He had been on an errand to get medicine for Father Bunworth. Upon his arrival, he was found to be in a state of frenzy with his bones visibly shaking.

Noticing his condition, Miss Bunworth inquired what was the matter? At the moment, her father was not in danger. Therefore she could not understand the tears flowing from Kavanagh’s eyes.

“What is the matter, Kavanagh?” asked Miss Bunworth

Poor Kavanagh’s throat was tight in fear. He was barely audible in is reply. “Fffather Bunworth- he is to dddie;” He stammered, overcome with grief. He burst out into tears. Miss Bunworth, who was a “no-nonsense” type of woman, wanted to know what happened in Mallow to induce him to think such a thing.

“Kavanagh, you have been drinking. I never would have suspected you to drink at such a time as this. I am very disappointed in you. I thought I could depend on you. I thought you could be trusted. What would we have done had you lost or broke the medicine? The doctor stressed Father must start taking it tonight. I will speak to you in the morning. When you are sober.”

Kavanagh looked toward Miss Bunworth with a stunned expression which did nothing to remove the impression of his being drunk. His eyes were dull and watery after the flow of tears. His voice, however, was not that of an intoxicated person.

Miss”, he said. “I hope you will believe when I say I have not had even a nip since I left the -”

Speak softly,” Miss Bunworth interrupted. Father is sleeping.

Glory to God”, replied Kavanagh. “But Miss! He is going to pass on. We are going to lose him!” Kavanagh wrung his hands together.

What on earth do you mean?” questioned Miss Bunworth.

The Banshee appeared. She has come for him, Miss! Tis not I alone who heard her.”

Tis an idle superstition,” said Miss Bunworth.

“Maybe so,” replied Kavanagh,

“Maybe so, but as I came through the glen , the banshee was with me swaying, screeching, and clapping her hands. She was by my side, every step of the way. Her long white hair, streaming below her shoulders. I could hear her calling Father’s name as plain as ever I heard it. When I came to the old abbey, she turned toward the pigeon-field next to the berry patch. She folded her cloak about her. She sat under the tree that was struck by lightning, and began shrieking bitterly. It went through my heart like a dagger to hear it.”

“Kavanagh,” said Miss Bunworth, who had listened attentively to this remarkable relation, “I believe Father is better. Nevertheless, I do not want you to mention what you have told me. For there is no reason to frighten your fellow-servants with this story.”

Father Bunworth was visibly weakening. Nothing in particular occurred until the night before he died. On that night both his daughters, who were exhausted, needed to seek some repose. An elderly lady, a near relative and friend of the family, remained by the bedside. Father was laying comfortably in the parlor per his request. The change of scenery afforded him some relief. In an adjoining room, sat some male friends. The kitchen was in a bustle where many of the followers had assembled.

The night was serene with the moonlight glistening. The poor sick man slept. The stillness suddenly stood out. The evening turning melancholy and utterly silent. Suddenly the door to the adjoining room slammed shut. A loud noise could be heard at the window next to Father’s bed. A rose tree grew just outside the window. It too, grew suspiciously still as it touched the glass. The branches resembling long crooked fingers. A low moaning was heard. Gradually growing louder and shrill followed by the clapping of hands. It was so loud and clear, it was as if an ill woman was in the room with them. Bunworth managed to find the strength to call out to his friends in the adjoining room (the old woman at his bedside was sound asleep). He inquired whether the gentlemen had also heard the Banshee? .

Full of skepticism, two of the men went outside to find out what had caused the sounds, which they also had distinctly heard. They walked all round the house, examining every bit of land, particularly near the window from whence the voice had come forth. The rosebed was left undisturbed. There were no signs of footprints. The earth surrounding the bush looked untouched.

They continued their search anxiously along the road. The fullmoon provided needed light among the shadows. They were able to see some distance around them. All was silent and deserted, so they returned surprised and disappointed.

However, to their amazement while they were outside searching those who remained in the house had heard the Banshee again! It was even louder than before. No sooner was the door of the room closed on them, than they again heard the same mournful sounds!

Every hour that ticked on by, the sick man became worse. At the first glimpse of the morning, Father Bunworth expired.

A band of harps echoed throughout the glen. To this day, they continue to echo at first dawn of the morning following each fullmoon.

Renee Robinson

Nae's Nest


I find myself "Dancing With Cancer", problem is...I can't dance. I stumble, bumble, and get pulled along. To keep my sanity, (humor me), I write short stories, a journal, musings and poetry....just about anything goes.

One response to The Harp Banshee


    Once again, a great use of words by you to hold us from the first word to the end. Great work! 😀

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