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  • Turkey Horror in Ireland November 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Beach would like to introduce to the sheer unadorned horror of the Irish turkey. Let’s start slow and, then, gradually crank up the volume.

    Willie Reilly of Gelsha was going home… It was fairly late: when he came to where Johnnie Connor lives now, there was a bend in the road and there was at that time a gate in the other side of the road. When Willie came to the gate he saw a turkey-cock standing on the top of the gate. As he was going past the turkey-cock jumped down and stood before him in the road. He blessed himself and went on and the turkey-cock did not follow him. The place is still called the Turkey Cock by young and old.

    Your first reaction reader may be to think that a place that hands out placenames so easily was not a particularly exciting locale: but here you are missing the hinterland of horror behind the Irish turkey. Consider what these things could actually do to you. Here is another tale:

    About thirty years ago an old man was coming from town at twelve o’clock at night. He went into a house on the side of the road. When he left it was one o’clock. When he was half a mile on the road three turkey cocks came before him. He started fighting with the turkey cocks. One went up to his shoulder and another went up on his neck and the third one went fighting with him. The three turkey cocks killed the man and he was buried there.

    Beach has more than a passing acquaintance with the turkey and he finds them one of the most attractive of farm animals: second only to goats. Yet this was not the case in Ireland where they were promoted into the first rank of scary supernatural monsters. In fact, the implication in the Willy Reilly story is that the turkey was a ghost or an omen of death: a banshee with feathers; and the second story is entitled ‘the Turkey Ghosts’ so there is no ambiguity. Beach had, once before, come across turkey ghosts in the Republic: but he’d assumed it was a small time thing. Not a bit of it. Practically every Irish county had its turkey horror.

    Once upon a time long ago a man was going to the fair of Ballyhaunis and as he was going up by Carrownedan a turkey cock came out before him on the road. He tried to pass but the turkey cock would not let him. The man took out his tobacco for he heard that tobacco was blessed. He asked in the name of God who was it. As soon as he said that the turkey cock flew inside the fence. Then the man kept going as fast as he could, but he had not gone very far when he met a man with his sleeves turned up to his elbows that was dead a long time.

    No, no the sleeves rolled up!

    In Mr O’Gorman’s farm there is a field called ‘Poll a’ Tureaighe’ and in this field a very large turkey was seen there many times. One evening a boy was returning from school and he met the turkey which flew at him and the boy was paralysed for his life after that.

    And again… Three men are in a house haunted by a serpent who changed into things:

    At the same moment a terrible noise was heard upstairs, then the men looked around them and what did they see coming down the stairs but a turkey-cock. The three of them ran for the door but one of them fainted and the other two got away.

    There is also a turkey as big as a horse, and ‘a massive turkey with wings trailing along the ground’. Turkeys also seem to have guarded treasure. Turkeys were, in Ireland, above all, part of the repertoire of the shape-changer. Beach has an example where a puca becomes a turkey, where a leprechaun becomes a turkey and there are often fairies around.

    At last it appeared in the form of a pig and at last into a bag of feathers. It kept in front of him to Ballintra and it then disappeared until he came through the town. The next time it appeared it was in the form of a turkey and at last into the shape of a coach.

    The real question here is why did the Irish choose a turkey as one of the facets of the supernatural: or perhaps better why did the rest of Europe not choose the turkey? Likewise why did the Irish not tell stories about shape-changers becoming headless bears, such as were common in England? Drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    All of these references from Duchas.ie If you have sins to work off they are glad for help with transcribing their massive archive.

    PS Great minds… Haunted Ohio Books has just done the ghost turkey…

    30 Nov 2017, Ruth in OK, Well, being curious by nature, and thinking that I had heard another bird referred to as a Turkey I had to go digging. The wiki article on turkeys was very interesting and I had not realized they’ve been in England since the 1550s! Wild turkeys are very intelligent and exceedingly bad tempered, as in, give them a wide berth. I don’t know if they will actually kill an adult human but they would certainly make said adult very, very sad if they attack. They have some very nasty spurs on their legs and a tendency to peck. That being said, our turkey holiday is something I look forward to most years (I’m not real big on most other holidays, frankly, except July 4th). Modern cooking methods make it fairly easy now, and I don’t fool with the whole bird, turkey breast is enough for our smaller family. We won’t be doing much this year, hubby is down with a back problem and the kids are going to their older sister’s house for the big do. (I am not subjecting anyone to the moaning currently going on.)