Book Picture The Grey Pooky

Ardara was one of our most enjoyable stays in Ireland. We booked a week in a cottage not far from the beach. In fact we walked to the beach called locally "Round Stone Beach". Once you got there it was easy to see where the name came from. The beach was literally covered with round stones about three inches in diameter. All of the stones were the same size and there was not much sand to speak of. It was as if the beach was a pile of big marbles and difficult to walk on. You wouldn't be throwing down a towel to stretch out on either. Since the rocks were round they didn't skip at all. Not much to do since we weren't prepared to fish or swim.

Four young children followed us down to the beach and were frolicking at the water's edge. Something they probably did every day. When we left they stayed accompanied by their dog. To get to the beach we had to pass through a horse pasture where two horses were busy munching on the lush green grass. The other side of the pasture led to the back of a neighbor's yard. The children were playing there and once we braved our way past the barking dog assisted by the children's curious mother who came out to see what the commotion was about. We simply asked if this was the way to the beach. We are staying in the cottage over there. She smiled and said, "Liam show the man the way to the beach". Suddenly we were six and a dog headed down their driveway to a small road that ended fifty yards away at the beach. Another cottage across the road and at the very end of the road would be the perfect place to rent if available. They were right above the beach and had wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean. We trouped along introducing ourselves to such a cute little band of pirates. On the way back we picked wild flowers, some of which were on the driveway, now that I think of it. Patricia made a beautiful bouquet for the kitchen table. Later it became a subject for her still life.

It rained off and on and we painted at the kitchen table. We could see the ocean from there and I painted one painting after the other as the colors of the ocean continued to change hour after hour. In the evening we would have a bite to eat and drive into Oliver's for a pint and some traditional Irish music. One night coming home very late the moon was full and surrounded by lacy silver clouds. It was so big and it looked like an evil yellow eye. It was spooky and the landscape was lit in an opaque grey. Everything was grey.

We were sleeping above the kitchen in the second bedroom back. What that means is at the top of the stairs there was one bedroom to the right and you went through the bedroom to the left to get to the second bedroom. It was an arrangement that was not familiar to me. The room we selected was the furthest away from the front door. There was another room to the right of the front door that could have been slept in but it was obviously a man's den with leather overstuffed chairs and a sofa. A place of comfort for a man but the wife objected and preferred the bed. I hardly blamed her but I did feel very manly in that room. It was full of a man's possessions: wet suit, swim fins, surf board, a pipe and other memorabilia.

In fact the man that rented the cottage to us stayed there most of the time. He was a lawyer from Belfast and was spending the night in a small trailer behind the horse barn. He had come over for a few days work on a new enclosure for the horses he kept there. He came to the door one afternoon and introduced himself and asked if he could retrieve a tool he needed. Well sure but it felt funny knowing the man who owned the place and had keys to the front door was less than fifty yards away. A man we knew little of except what he had told us while he retrieved a level from one of the closets. It put us on edge and sleep was a long time coming for both of us.

Finally I was sound asleep when all of a sudden there was this loud pounding on the door. Both of us were instantly awake and afraid. It was exactly 2:00 a.m. I crept down the stairs and looked out the front. The entry was boxed in with glass and you could see if someone was at the front door. No one was to be seen and suddenly there came the sharp pounding again. I crept into the kitchen and just outside was a very large grey horse. I am thinking it is the white horse I saw earlier in the day only basked in the moonlight it appears grey. It is looking through the window at me when it made the pounding noise again. I move another window where I can see his right rear hoof come squarely down on a piece of wood, a long 2x4 and every time he pushes down on the 2x4 it causes another piece of wood to bang against the wall underneath the kitchen window. I run back to the kitchen window, open it a bit and yell at the horse to go away. It trots off across the pasture its mane flowing out behind its neck and its tail flashing up and down all in a ghostly grey. Another horse, black as the night prances off in the same direction with same majestic gesture.

I am in awe of what I have seen and can only barely explain it when I get back in bed. There was not much sleep that night and in the morning there was no grey horse either. I could explain the noise but how and why did the horse line up the way it did and proceed to make this noise. I could not explain how this horse would use his right rear hoof to make the noise. It still baffles me today.

Fortunately it was our last night in the house and as I handed the keys to the owner I asked him if he had a grey horse. He said no, only a white one, but it was much smaller than the one I saw. He said he puts them in the barn at night but they may have been out later than usual because he was working. We said goodbye and left the area.

Now fast forward two years and we are sitting in my living room talking with an Irish friend visiting for the day. We are telling stories and I tell her about our last trip to Donegal and the big grey horse in the night.

She was instantly very serious and the look on her face was one of alarm. In a very serious tone she said to me, "You are so ever lucky you didn't go out into the night to scare off the horse or you may have found yourself face to face with the Grey Pooky".

"What is a Grey Pooky?", I ask. She tells me it a very evil spirit which will do one great harm. She wasn't kidding.

I related this story to another Irish friend and he said the Irish have always been superstitious and sometimes with great cause. It wouldn't be wise to discount the knowledge of things that were developed over hundreds of years. The Irish know things that others do not. The Irish have a thin veneer of Catholicism over a very pagan soul.

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