The Ghosts of Heywood Ballinakill

A Tale from the Schools' Collection

It seems the fascination with Heywood, Ballinakill, is not just a  modern conviction! 

In the late 1930’s, a primary school student, named Nicholas Delaney, from Bray, Co. Wicklow, wrote of Heywood, for a schools project. His information had been sourced from Mr. Thomas Delaney, living at the same address as Nicholas, so it is safe to assume this man was his father. 

It does make one wonder, if Thomas Delaney was originally from Ballinakill, or if not, how did he come to know so much about Heywood, whilst living in Bray, in 1930’s Ireland. 

The Schools’ Collection

Between the years 1937 – 1939, over 100,000 primary school students, in 5,000 schools across Ireland, were encouraged to talk to their parents and grandparents, and record their folklore, and tales.

The result was a collection of over 740,000 pages of manuscript, known as the Schools Collection, which is now housed at UCD, as part of the National Folklore Collection.  

Recently a project to digitise the entire collection, was undertaken at Dú

It is a truly fascinating archive, and it is from this resource, that our tale of Heywood comes. What is unusual about Nicholas’s contribution is the fact that he writes of the folklore of a place, far from his own hometown of Bray; whereas in most cases the children nearly always wrote of local lore. 

Nicholas’ Story

From Dú

Join us on our Guided Historical Walk of Ballinakill & Heywood, which takes place on August 22nd, at 11am.

From Dú


In a place called Heywood, Ballinakill County Leix in an estate owned by the late Sir Hutchison Powe. This estate was owned by the trenches and next by the Donvilles. It is now the Leix county Hospital. The court stood on an acre of ground and there were stables for twenty coach horses. There are also two ponds, the Masklock and the Black Pond. There is also a church called the Black Church where lie it is supposed, the bodies of the family. Queer things have been known to happen in it. The dead coach is supposed to been driven backwards and forwards. It used to start at the hall-door down the back road out on to the Main Street back through the Main gate and back up through the hall-door. It is said the horses had no heads and used to travel very fast (sic)

From Dú

Transcribed by a member of the volunteer transcription project.

The above piece is transcribed, directly from the school book. The estate was owned by the Trench family, the original house being designed by Michael Frederick Trench in 1773, possibly with the help of his friend, and renowned architect, James Gandon. The estate was inherited by the Domville family, in 1886, and was later inherited by the ‘Sir Hutchison Powe’ mentioned in the article, which is of course, Colonel William Hutchinson Poe. It was Poe who commissioned the leading architect of the day, Sir Edwin Lutyens, to design the gardens at Heywood. Work began in 1906, and Heywood Gardens were completed in 1912. 

The “church called the Black Church” is the Trench family Mausoleum, which is situated in woodlands, close to the Masslough. Michael Frederick Trench, who died in 1791, and his wife Anna Helena, are buried there. Access to the tomb was gained by raising a four foot by four foot flagstone, and descending a flight of steps to the chamber.

The ‘Masklock pond’ mentioned, is what we know as the Masslough Lake, and no doubt the Black Pond, is what we refer to today, as Gills Pond. 

Of the ominous ‘Dead Coach’ we know little, other than it was a tale of folklore, passed from father to son, in a time when such demonic stories were deemed far less dubious than they are today. 

Thanks to Nicholas Delaney, from Bray, we know that the Dead Coach, pulled at pace by headless horses,  is said to have galloped from the hall door of Heywood House, down by the Masslough Lake, through the village of Ballinakill, out the Coatch Road, and back into Heywood, through the main Entrance Gate, and disappear where it had originated, through the hall doors of the estate house. 

Route of the 'Dead Coach' Walk

Heywood House is long since gone, having been badly damaged by fire on January 31st, 1950, but its tale of the Dead Coach, has left behind a route for a very picturesque looped walk of Ballinakill.  

The map below outlines the route suggested in the story, and starts at Heywood, but no matter where you choose to begin this looped walk/run, it will include the beautiful Heywood Demesne, taking in the old Entrance Gate, Heywood Gardens, the Masslough, and then Ballinakill Village, past the Huguenot Gate Lodge houses, the Twin Trees, and the Coatch Road.

Please note that sections of this walk, are on busy roadways, so take due caution, wear appropriate high visibility, and enjoy!


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