THE BERESFORD GHOSTRecorded in the Blacker manuscripts within the Public Record Office in Belfast is the story of the Beresford Ghost, a poltergeist that appeared to Lady Beresford in the latter part of the seventeenth century. The story has been passed down through the family generations and has found its way into the archive at the Armagh County Museum. Although TGF Paterson, the first Curator of the County Museum cast doubt on the dating of events, the story is still related with some relish.
Lord Tyrone and Lady Beresford (nee Nichola Sophia Hamilton) were born in Ireland but both being orphaned at an early age were given into the care of the same person. Under the tutelage of this guardian both accepted the principles of a religion called Deism. This beloved guardian died as the two entered upon their teens and they were placed in the care of another guardian who used various means to attempt to convert them to the revealed religion. Though these attempts failed to convert the youths, it shook their faith in Deism to the extent that the two made a solemn pact.
The substance of this pact was that whichever one should die first would, if permitted, return to the other and reveal which religion was the most acceptable to the supreme Being. Some time later Miss Hamilton married Sir Tristram and became Lady Beresford. In turn Lord Tyrone married and the two families enjoyed a warm friendship, often spending several weeks in each others company.
A short time following one such visit Lady Beresford attended breakfast looking tired and pale. When Sir Tristram inquired as to her health and for the reason as to the black band around her wrist she assured him that she was well and entreated him to ask no further. Sir Tristram raised his eyebrow again at his wife’s continual inquiries as to the whereabouts of the post. He asked what it was she expected to hear. Lady Beresford replied that she expected a letter informing her of the death of Lord Tyrone in the afternoon of the previous Tuesday. When the post arrived Sir Tristram discovered a letter the particulars of which matched his wife’s statement exactly. Lady Beresford then informed her husband that she could assure him without a doubt that she was with child and the baby would be a boy. Events of a number of months subsequent proved her correct.
Four years later Sir Tristram died having maintained his vow never to inquire further particulars as to Lady Beresford’s continual wearing of a black band upon her wrist. Upon his death Lady Beresford withdrew from all society save only a close friendship with the family of a trusted clergyman.
Despite her intention to withdraw from society Lady Beresford soon found herself the object of the affections of the clergyman’s son, then but a youth. Though she attempted to dissuade his intentions the force of her emotions allowed her to entertain the prospect of a union and she was thereafter married to the young man. The marriage was fraught with difficulty and the young man behaved in a shocking manner towards his wife. The pair separated for some time but were soon reunited following his declaration to amend his ways. Lady Beresford bore another son and a short time afterward celebrated her birthday.
On the occasion of her birthday, a clergyman she had long been acquainted with came to visit and found Lady Beresford to be in the best of spirits. She told him that this was her forty-eighth birthday and that she would like him to celebrate with her. The clergyman informed her that he had long had a dispute with Lady Beresford’s mother as to the year of her birth. Having done some research into the matter he found his notion correct that Lady Beresford was in fact only forty-seven this year. At his words Lady Beresford turned pale and bid the clergyman leave her presence. She said, “You have signed my death warrant today. I have not long to live, I must therefore entreat you to leave me immediately as I have some things of importance to settle before I die”.
The clergyman having retired from her presence Lady Beresford called for her trusted friend, Lady Betty Cobb, and her eldest son Sir Marcus, the son of Sir Tristram. In their presence she revealed to them the truth of a meeting with the ghost of Lord Tyrone. She revealed how she had awoken on night to see Lord Tyrone sitting on the edge of the bed. This apparition had reminded her of the solemn oath they had sworn and that having died the previous Tuesday he had been permitted to return to Lady Beresford and counsel her that the revealed religion was the most acceptable religion to the Supreme Being. Further he had informed her that she would shortly bear Sir Tristram a son but that four years hence Sir Tristram would die. This son would live to be married to the daughter of Lord Tyrone. The ghost also revealed that Lady Beresford would once again marry and that in that following the birth of a son she would die in the forty-seventh year of her age.
Pale and trembling Lady Beresford told all to her son and friend and of Lord Tyrone’s attempts to convince her of his existence. The apparition had moved objects and scrawled notes but still she had remained unmoved until he had touched her wrist causing the muscles and sinews to wither. From that day forth she had worn a black band upon her wrist to hide the scar. In an attempt to thwart fate Lady Beresford had withdrawn from all society following the death of her first husband and had discouraged the intentions of the clergyman’s son. The marriage we know took place but there again Lady Beresford diced with fate when following a short separation she was reunited with her husband.
Having thus revealed all the events of the meeting of Lord Tyrone’s ghost, Lady Beresford entreated her listeners to leave her to rest. This they did only to return a number of hours later to find her dead, in the forty-seventh year of her age as Lord Tyrone had predicted. On finding her dead, Sir Marcus removed the black band from his mother’s wrist and found her wrist exactly as she had described.
Subsequent to his mother’s death, Sir Marcus was indeed married to the daughter of Lord Tyrone as the ghost had revealed to Lady Beresford even before his birth.
Lady Betty Cobb who had attended Lady Beresford on the day of her forty-seventh birthday, narrated the facts of this story to the Blacker family who preserved it in their family papers.
REFERENCES Paterson, T.G.F., ARMACHIANA (Volume 25, pages 174-212)