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A True Ghost Story From Ireland: Buttoncaps Well

by Patrick Bernauw on 28/12/08 at 9:09 am

Carrickfergus Castle is famous because of an old Irish folk song recorded by Van Morrison, Joan Baez, Bryan Ferry and many others… and because of a tragic history of love and betrayal that resulted in the Haunting of Buttoncaps Well.

Carrickfergus Castle, in the Northern Irish County of Antrim, is an imposing 12th century fortress and the oldest intact stone castle in Ireland. It was built by a Norman Lord, John de Courcy, who believed in the prophecy that Ulster one day would be conquered by a white knight on a white horse. De Courcy, who was fair-haired, mounted upon a white warhorse and, together with a bunch of well-armed soldiers, started a bloody campaign and consolidated each conquest with a castle… In 1210, Carrickfergus Castle was taken over by King John and made into an English governmental centre.

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Two tales have made Carrickfergus famous. The first tale is in fact an old Irish folk song, translated in English and recorded by many well known performers, such as Joan Baez, Charlotte Church, Declan Galbraith or Van Morrison. Here is a beautiful Bryan Ferry rendition:

The second tale is the true ghost story of Buttoncap…

Buttoncaps Well

Carrickfergus Castle has a deep and dark well, where frequently the Ghost of Buttoncap appears, all because of a tragic history of love and betrayal…

Timothy Lavery was a soldier, stationed at Carrickfergus Castle around 1760. He was the tambour of the regiment, who got his nickname “Buttoncap” as a result of the large button he was always wearing at the centre of his cap. He was befriended with another soldier, a man called Robert Rainey. They sure were not twins, not even brothers, but they bore an uncanny resemblance to each other.

Robert fell in love with a girl named Betsy Baird. He had a reputation, but if Betsy would marry him, he would forsake his wayward ways. Betsy consented and Robert was overjoyed. He did not know that Betsy was also involved with the brother of his commanding officer, Captain Jennings. One dark evening, when he left Betsy’s house, Robert met his rival and discovered the infidelity of his fiancé. In an uncontrollable fury he ran the poor Captain through with his sword. Robert washed away the incriminating bloodstains in the sea, returned to the castle and went to bed as if nothing had happened.

Some soldiers found Captain Jennings, who was able to tell his brother what had happened… and then died. Unfortunately, the Captain thought his assailant had been Timothy Lavery… So, the tambour of Carrickfergus was charged with murder and although he insisted that he was innocent, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The only man who was able to save him, was his good friend Robert Rainey, but Robert did not say a word…

As the noose was placed around his neck, Timothy “Buttoncap” Lavery vowed to haunt Carrickfergus Castle ever more. Many years later, Robert confessed the truth on his death bed, but that did not stop Buttoncap. His indignant spectre is still hovering around the old well, beating the drum and shouting out his innocence…

Read also:

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11 Comments

Glynis Smy

Dec 28th, 2008

That was really interesting, thanks for sharing, I learned something new today.

ur guide

Dec 28th, 2008

another interesting story……. i liked it.

HatedNation

Dec 28th, 2008

I am loving all these ghost stories, where were they at Halloween..lol

Debra.

Dec 28th, 2008

I love this creepy stuff!

Excellent read, Patrick!

Lauren Axelrod

Dec 29th, 2008

Intriguing story Patrick. Thanks for bringing new haunts to the page.

R J Evans

Jan 1st, 2009

Spook stuff – love it!

Angie0000023

Jan 2nd, 2009

I love ghost stories!!!
Goodjob!

check out my stuff?

john thompson carrickfergus resident

Jan 24th, 2009

good story but different version from what i was told..buttoncap was on sentry duty and feel asleep when the castle was about 2 be attacked and did’nt sound the alarm,luckily the castle was saved but buttoncap was beheaded 4 falling asleep on duty..2 this day a ghostly figure walks the castle walls believe 2 be buttoncap

Lost in Arizona

Mar 15th, 2009

Tragic like a good love story, but also very engaging.

Elizabeth Abbott

Jul 14th, 2009

This is a tragic story. I love the mystery and truth surrounding it! A very good read. I would love to have a book full of stories such as this! I must dig a little deeper in your portfolio! Thank you to Cassandraantares for Stumbling this!

brianberu

Jul 29th, 2009

An interesting story, and a great song, recorded by many many artistes, too numerous to mention, I myself have several copies by varios artists. once again thanks for sharing.

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