I was up the lane to the old Bay Bulls Cemetery a couple of weeks ago. It was raining and nearly dark. That was an odd place to go but Bay Bulls is where my family spent several summers. We rented from three different families over the years – the Aspells, the O’Briens and the Lynchs. It is all part of my childhood.
The cemetery is one of the places we went as children. It was a wonderful place for blueberries. Grandmother Malone, who was from Bay Bulls, refused to eat blueberries from that cemetery, even though the berries were as big as grapes. Without going into the obvious science of it, Grandmother thought it was a form of sacrilege to eat them.
In those wonderful days of the mid 1950s there was tradition and there was myth – and there was magic afoot in Bay Bulls. It was up on ‘The Ridge’ and in Gunneridge and in Bread and Cheese and down in Blacks Hollow. The Bay Bulls Cemetery was up back of the town in those days and as children we often walked up there along what was then a dirt lane in to the country. My great-great uncle James is buried there. On the way to the cemetery, we passed through an area known as ‘The Green’. Green is a name often given in Ireland to common grassy pastures. St. Steven’s Green, the marvelous park in the center of Dublin, springs to mind.
Grandmother Malone (nee Walsh) warned us about ‘The Green’ in Bay Bulls. She told us that the fairies danced there when darkness began to fall. Bay Bulls and the Southern Shore is every bit as Irish as Dublin. The fairies are part of that. In those days we were told that the fairies – “the little people” – were impish. They weren’t killers but they could grab you, carry you off, and keep you for a few days. Part of the fairy myth was that you could protect yourself from them by keeping a piece of bread in your pocket. It warded the fairies off. There were some kinds of mushrooms that grew on ‘The Green’ as well. We called them “fairy caps” because of their shape. It was part of the tale that kept us youngsters in line. That, plus little circles of stone that were put there by the fairies. I forget what they were for but they were dance circles of some kind. On top of all that was the seldom heard wail of the banshees. The sound signaled an impending death.
I thought about all of that as I drove up Cemetery Lane in the light rain and gathering darkness of a July day. I never considered going to the store for bread, but I did observe a pizza crust in a box on the back seat of my car. I figured that would do me and I guess it did. The road has changed. ‘The Green’ is gone now, replaced by neat houses and manicured lawns. It is a lovely area. I drove my car in through the cemetery gates and walked around a little in the rain. I saw familiar names on the gravestones but not the grave of my great-uncle James. That will keep for another day.
A car slowed down outside the gates. Those in the car must have thought it odd to see an old man standing alone in the rain in the nearly dark Bay Bulls cemetery. Perhaps that will become part of their story. I stood for a while and listened for the banshee. There was no wail, so I went home. The wife asked me where I had been. I told her I was out for a drive on an old country road.