Famine Field Spirits
Two young hale and hearty men walked briskly along a country road lost in their thoughts in the gloom of the evening. their hands in their pockets and their coats pulled tightly around them to shield them from twilight chill.
Dark clouds were beginning to obscure the setting sun and the birds were growing silent as the evening grew into darkness
They walked past an old famine burial mound lying lonely and forgotten between the fields.
They walked on, never casting an eye or turning a head or suffering a fleeting thought to the tragic story of the nine thousand famine victims that lie within a common grave.
It was hard to believed so many could be buried in such a small space.
As they walked away and headed homeward down the road, they were unaware of the silent movement in the field behind as the evening sun set.
Unaware of the changing atmosphere that disturbed the cool air of the evening as skeletal spectres in slow motion began to leave the famine grave through a dark opening in the mound.
The phantoms walked in slow procession and single file crying out to heaven to release them from their eternal damnation.
Through toothless gaping mouths, their voices emitting a terrible lament that would break the heart of the most hardened of men.
Through the frost that was now descending on the field, more and more poor souls shuffled their way from that horrible place.
Old men with burning eyes and stubbled chins, their shoulders stooped from years of degradation , a keening woman and a large eyed naked child, tears rolling down its fleshless face as its mother knelt on the ground scratching with broken nails for something rotten in the long-gone lazy beds of a forgotten Ireland.
Young, angry men, long dead, screaming to the sky in their tortured voices calling out for revenge, worn out by years of suffering and grieving before their tragic passing.
Suffering their betrayal by the drunken, arrogant and pompous gentlemen in high places, who danced and drank with their bejewelled fancy ladies in their crinoline dresses and their large bosoms, popping in and popping out as they tripped through a gay quadrille in the ballrooms of the “Big House”.
Showing not a sliver of sympathy for the starving people in the devastated country below them.
For after all, these troublesome “Orish” had outlived their usefulness and the right thing to do was to clear the land of these poor, ignorant , bedraggled and poverty-stricken people and leave them to fend for themselves on the roadside or workhouses or even better still let them leave this cursed land forever.
They died in their millions, of hunger, with the smell of putrid disease in their nostrils and the stain of grass on their broken lips.
Like aliens from another world, they wandered lost and lonely through the sleeping trees, withered flowers and scutch grass.
A fox howled in sorrow from across the fields, to be answered by the growl of a badger foraging in the undergrowth, oblivious to the horrors being played out above him.
High above on a tree a coal black, raven sat watching through yellow eyes the ghostly parade below him, calling out to the coming night in rage at the hopelessness of it all as a one-legged crow limped slowly along a dry- stone wall gazing at the sorry sight before him.
The hunched figure of a fiddler stood by a furze bush and played his ancient fiddle sending notes high into the night sky as a thin girl in a mud-stained, tattered dress, tears streaming down her pale and aged face, danced to his jarring melody.
And the translucent children, with pleading and sunken eyes their tangled lice ridden hair hanging on their bare white boned shoulders pleading silently for release from this god forsaken place.
All through the moonless night these troubled spirits wandered aimlessly around the burial ground lost and locked in a time long past into the depths of history.
There was no one to listen to their terrible cries of grief and mourning, no priest to pray for the release of their restless souls or from their eternal agony.
No -one to say,” This is enough”
As dawn crept over the valley and the sun began to rise slowly over the top of the mountain and light up the ghostly scene below, the forlorn figures began to shimmer in the morning light and began to make their desolate and forlorn way back to from whence they came.
One by one they walked their silent way as the mound opened to greet them.
One by one they disappeared into the ground to sleep their troubled sleep and to wait for another night when they will return once again to that hellish field above.
They will wait untill the day of judgment, when before God, the ones from the “Big House” and the men in high places will at last answer for their damned deeds.
Then they were gone.
Only silence followed.