An area just outside the county Cork town of Youghal has a sinister, eerie feel about it. It is situated along the banks of the river Blackwater in a remote, tranquil setting. There are lots of stories of strange goings on and ghostly appearances linked to this ancient outpost, known as Temple Michael and linked to the Knights Templar since the twelfth century. A ruined church, dating from 1825, stands on the site beside an old graveyard. Among the ancient, weather beaten headstones we came across one of polished black marble. It stood in stark contrast to the rest, someone having replaced the original.
Recently, I brought some visitors to Temple Michael. As the light was fading on a particularly calm autumn evening, we took a walk around the old church and grave yard. If you have the nerve, you can peer inside a crypt, I gave that one a miss. Quite a number of the graves belong to the Halroyd-Smith family, many of whom died in very strange circumstances. Five of them in one family, four brothers and a sister, on the thirteenth day of the month, each death years apart. The story is that they were cursed by a local woman during the famine years.
Sightings of an old man wearing a black trench coat abound, his hands clasped tightly behind his back. He has been known to frighten visitors with his unfriendly manner. A level grassy area near the river was used for duelling in the past, contributing to the sombre reputation of a serene but eerie landscape.
The location was used to film a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s movie ‘Barry Lyndon.’ As the sun was going down, the autumn colours along the riverbank became more vibrant but the camera on my phone did not do justice to the wonderful show that nature displayed. Fortunately, we never got to meet the grumpy old man in the black trench coat but we did witness a duel, of sorts. A fisherman, standing on the bank next to us, landed a very large cod. “Fish and chips tonight,” he said, which set our taste buds off. You can probably guess where our next port of call was – the local chipper. A satisfying end to a lovely autumn day.