A story of a 100 year-old spirit living on the site of a new distillery in West Donegal was revived earlier this week.
The ‘Ghost Whiskey’ appeared at the historic Crolly Whiskey Company building just months after it became the first to successfully distil whiskey in Donegal for more than 180 years.
Spirits were first raised after the building’s burglar alarm was mysteriously triggered in the early hours of Tuesday morning, reviving memories of a tragic event on the site from 100 years earlier.
On May 18, 1921, a solider Charles Harsant (21) was accidentally shot dead. A member of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, he is buried in Bunbeg Church of Ireland graveyard.
Workers and visitors have long since held the belief that the building is occupied by at least one resident ghost, with many reporting strange noises, sudden chills and banging doors throughout the years.
Letterkenny-based businessmen Joe Devenney, Conor McMenamin and Kieran Davis are behind the new whiskey distillery and visitors’ centre on the former Crolly Doll factory site.
Mr Devenney takes up the story.
“At 1.16am on Tuesday (May 18), the intruder alarm went off. John Casey responded but he could find no evidence of human or animal movement when he arrived on site. There was nothing on the cameras to suggest what could have triggered the alarm. The only thing in the warehouse was whiskey spirit or at least that is what we thought.
“One hundred years ago to the day a young soldier (Charles Harsant) was shot dead. He had been down at a local hostelry (Fisherman’s Inn which is now Paddy Og’s) and on his return to the barracks (located on the distillery site) it is said that he failed to identify himself and was accidentally shot and died there.
“I’ve been told that ladies who subsequently worked in the factory would never go upstairs to where the shot was fired. They always feared that his ghost was there. There were footsteps to be heard and yet no one could be seen walking the floors.
“Maybe there’s more than just our Crolly spirit in the factory these days. Could the Crolly spirit from yesteryear still be there too?” he asked.
“We started distilling in November and things are going well. We’re a little over two years away from having Donegal Irish whiskey. Crolly Donegal Irish whiskey will be the overarching brand but within that there will be different expressions,” Mr Devenney said.
Údarás na Gaeltachta
Donnchadh Ó Baoill, Údarás na Gaeltachta, said that he too had heard stories over the years from people saying that there was a ghost in the building. He referred in particular to a recurring stain on the floor near where the soldier was shot.
“It’s now part of the fabric of a historic building from the War of Independence and the Congested District Board era which provided employment for woman. It’s since been used as the Crolly Doll factory and, more recently, by transformer company Nuvotem.
“Over all that time the ghost story has existed. I can’t say if it’s true or not but Údarás, as owners of the site, are aware of the stories of the building which have become part of the rich fabric of its heritage,” he said.