New television show looks at Ulster-Scots ghost stories originating in Ballymena, Coleraine and Larne

A new series on BBC Northern Ireland looks at the cold, hard facts which gave rise to some of the most celebrated Ulster-Scots ghost stories.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 4:31 pm
Ballygally Castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Isabella Shaw

Entitled ‘Afeared’ the three-part programme begins on Sunday night with historian Dr David Hume and writer Darren Gibson visiting Sharon Rectory in Donegal.

The pair unveil the story of a double murder at the site in 1797 and go on to uncover why this violent event became such a dramatic flash point in Ulster-Scots history.

During the second programme, David and Darren travel to Galgorm Castle to investigate the life of one of its most infamous owners – a clergyman from the 17th century named Alexander Colvill, plagued by rumours of witchcraft and devil worship.

In a new Ulster-Scots series writer Darren Gibson and historian David Hume investigate the true events associated with some of Ulster's most haunted places. Afeared begins on Sunday 31 January, BBC Two Northern Ireland at 10pm.

In the final programme they investigate the ghost story that is associated with Ballygally Castle on the Antrim coast and the real woman who has inspired this tale for generations – Lady Isabella Shaw.

Discussing the world of the paranormal David said: “I’m always intrigued by these things, but I have no fixed view. I’m open-minded.

“Some things you can explain when you begin to delve into it, other things you can’t.

“Some of it could be down to autosuggestion. If you know that there’s a story behind it does that make you suspectable to sensing something?”

He added: “I did have an experience on a battlefield site in America at one time when I appeared to see the ghost of a horseman coming towards me out of the corner of my eye.

“It could have been a ghost or it could have been my imagination working overtime because I was at the battlefield. ”

He said that during the filming of Afeared he didn’t sense anything paranormal but he said the film crew did have an unusual experience: “There was one situation where they were filming in a room and the camera battery went down. It usually lasts about four hours but it drained after about 30 minutes. That was somewhat unusual from the film crew’s point of view.”

As well as Donegal, Galgorm and Ballygally there are some supplementary ghost stories in the series.

David said: “There’s Redhall House at Ballycarry and we also go to Coleraine to explore the story of highwayman called Cushy Glen who preyed on travellers going between Limavady and Coleraine.

“All of the stories are linked to Ulster-Scots to varying degrees. You can imagine in bygone days in Ulster-Scots communities there was no television, no radio, there was a lot of storytelling going on. The scarier the stories all the better I imagine. These stories would have been told when the weans were put to bed.”

• Afeared begins on Sunday on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 10pm. It is also available on BBC iPlayer.

The series is an Alleycats TV production, made in association with the Northern Ireland Screen Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.