The Tragic Bride of Charles Fort

She walks the ancient ramparts of Charles Fort and may be seen sometimes in the half-light of dusk, a tragic figure in white, doomed forever to glide silently through the place where she found brief love terminated by shattering tragedy.

Charles Fort stands about a mile and a half outside the town of Kinsale, in Co. Cork, at Summer Cove, and is an old garrison that was used as a barracks up to the time of the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

It is, perhaps, not surprising to find a ghost in Kinsale, for this haunted town on the estuary of the River Bandon is rich in history and tradition, with a charter going back to Edward III. Its narrow streets must hold silent memories of its heyday, before the construction of larger ships rendered its docks inadequate.

Once, in 1601, Spanish ships sailed into Kinsale, and held the town against the strength of England's Carew and Mountjoy, but despite the arrival of the armies of the earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell, the Spanish were eventually forced to surrender. A one-time Clerk of the Admiralty Court of Kinsale, one William Penn, was to become the founder of Pennsylvania; his father, Admiral Penn, was Governor of Kinsale.

And from the human drama of all those years of Kinsale’s past, emerges the sad legend of the lady in white of Charles Fort.

The girl's father was Commander of the Fort, and the privileged life of his daughter in the pleasant town on the Bandon was uneventful, until the day she met a handsome young officer who had come on a visit to Kinsale. It was romance from the start. They fell in love and were married.

On their wedding night, the happy couple walked, arm in arm, on the ramparts of Charles Fort, aglow with love and having the promise of a long life ahead of them.

As they reached the land-side wall of the fort, the young bride suddenly stopped in ecstasy, pointing over the rampart to where a solitary white rose grew on a bush below the high walls. A sentry, on duty close beside them, overheard the girl expressing a wish for the rose and immediately volunteered to climb down and get it for her, if her husband would stand in as sentry for him while he was doing so.

The bridegroom agreed to this and took the man's musket. The sentry clambered over the wall and disappeared. Standing at the sentry-post, with his bride beside him, the young husband awaited the man's return, while his bride looked forward eagerly to soon having the coveted rose placed in her hands.

Time passed, but the sentry did not return. Presently, assuming the man had met with some unforeseen delay in securing the rose, the bridegroom sent the bride indoors to their quarters, deciding to wait a while longer himself at the sentry-post.

Leaning on the sentry's musket, the young husband, after a while, dozed off, and a short time later when the girl's father, as Commander of the Fort, came on his tour of inspection, he found him asleep. Without realizing that the nodding man was not the sentry, but his own son-in-law, and in dutiful execution of the severe military code of the day he shot the sleeping man. A moment too late the commander saw that it was not the sentry he had killed, but the young officer whom his daughter had married only that very day. Demented by his discovery, the commander threw himself off the ramparts.

Some time later, the bride, who had emerged from her quarters in search of her husband, found his body on the ramparts and, a little while later, that of her father on the rocks beneath the walls. Idyllic happiness had turned to stark tragedy. The grief-stricken bride, too, jumped to her death.

And on the gray ramparts of Kinsale's historic Charles Fort, her graceful wraith still walks, they say, a pathetic ghost in a grim place of tragedy.

From Irish Ghosts by John J. Dunne.Click here for more information on the book.