Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Of Libraries and Ghosts and the Emerald Isle...a post for St Patrick's Day

So, tis the month of celebrating the wearin' of the green, and I have discovered a story, said
"Marsh's Library" photo by Tim Tregnza via Wikimedia Commons
to be true, of a haunted library in Dublin, Ireland. Wow. I've just mentioned three of my greatest imagination-tweakers in that one sentence: libraries, hauntings, and Ireland. So hang on to your green hats, pull up a chair, and have your cuppa (or pint) ready as I tell you the tale of

The Haunted Marsh Library

On St Patrick's Close in Dublin, Ireland, sits a beautiful, early eighteenth century library tucked in beside St Patrick's Cathedral. It is the oldest free public library in Ireland and looks, today, much as it has for the past three hundred years. It maintains its original atmosphere, complete with "cages"--small rooms in which one was locked inside to prevent theft of its more valuable books.

The library was founded by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh in 1707 on ground belonging to the House of St Sepulchre, then the Palace of the Archbishops of Dublin. It is noted in an official transcript as : 
"An Act passed 1707 for settling and preserving a Publick Library for ever, in the House for that purpose built by His Grace Narcissus now Lord Archbishop of Armagh, on part of the Ground belonging to the Archbishop of Dublin's Pallace, near to the City of Dublin.'"
"Archbishop Narcissus Marsh" by Unknown

Since the archbishop's passing in 1713, there have been consistent reports of a ghostly figure browsing the shelves of the Inner Gallery after hours, pulling out books, thumbing through them, and sometimes angrily flinging them down onto a nearby desk. By morning, however, all the books are neatly replaced in their original positions. So, who is this? The archbishop, perhaps, unhappy with the work of the current library staff? The story was first placed in print in 1914 in a book by St. John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan entitled True Irish Ghost Stories. I have placed its recording of the ghostly tale here for your "3Es" of the day (Education, Entertainment, and Enlightenment.)

--Marsh's library, that quaint, old-world repository of ponderous tomes, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of its founder, Primate Narcissus Marsh. He is said to frequent the inner gallery, which contains what was formerly his own private library: he moves in and out among the cases, taking down books from the shelves, and occasionally throwing them down on the reader's desk as if in anger. However, he always leaves things in perfect order. The late Mr. —, who for some years lived in the librarian's rooms underneath, was a firm believer in this ghost, and said he frequently heard noises which could only be accounted for by the presence of a nocturnal visitor; the present tenant is more sceptical. The story goes that Marsh's niece eloped from
"Marsh's Library" by Tim Tregenza via Wikimedia Commons
the Palace, and was married in a tavern to the curate of Chapelizod. She is reported to have written a note consenting to the elopement, and to have then placed it in one of her uncle's books to which her lover had access, and where he found it. As a punishment for his lack of vigilance, the Archbishop is said to be condemned to hunt for the note until he find it—hence the ghost.--

If I am ever fortunate enough to visit that magical land of some of my ancestors, I will most certainly pay a visit to Marsh's Library. Perhaps I can find a way to procure an after-hours tour and accidentally become stranded overnight in the Inner Gallery. Ghost or no ghost, I can't imagine a better place in which to be locked inside. Better than a candy store!

Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now.  And Happy St. Paddy's Day!
"Irish Soda Bread" baked and photographed by the author KL Wood