Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman Castle situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim. Sitting atop a jagged outcrop it is an imposing strategically positioned fortress whose origins stretch back to 1185.
The History of Carrickfergus Castle
John de Courcy, the conqueror of Ulster was the first to start building work on the Castle, and over some 800 yearsCarrickfergus Castle has been extended and strengthened to resemble the structure it is today. It was even used as a prison in the 18th century.
Carrickfergus Castle has played an important military role until 1928, and over the centuries has seen a much military action, having been at one time besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and the French.
Today, Carrickfergus Castle is maintained by the Environment and Heritage Service and is one of the best preserved mediaeval structures in the whole of Ireland.
The Haunted History of Carrickfergus Castle
One of the ghosts which is said to haunt the Carrickfergus Castle today is that of a young soldier known as ‘Buttoncap’. There are a few different tales how this poor soul met is violent end. The most common being a tale of mistaken identity and murder.
Robert Rainey was a soldier stationed at Carrickfergus Castle in the 1760’s. He was said to have a reputation of being a bit of a bad boy, but this all changed when he met and fell in love with a local girl named Betsy Baird. If Betsy would agree to marry him, Rainey promised to change his ways. He was overjoyed when she consented.
Unbeknown to Rainey, Betsy was also involved with the brother of his commanding officer, Colonel Jennings. Rainey is said to have discovered his fiancés infidelity somehow, throwing him into an uncontrollable jealous rage. When Rainey came across his love rival in the road outside he ran him through with his sword before calmly sheathing his weapon and returning to his quarters.
It just so happened that there was another soldier stationed at the castle who bore an uncanny resemblance to Rainey, his name was Timothy Lavery. Before Jennings died he was able to tell his brother what had happened, although he insisted that Lavery (not Rainey) had been the perpetrator. The unfortunate Lavery was charged with murder and, despite his protestations of innocence, was found guilty and sentenced to death.
As the noose was placed around Lavery’s neck he addressed his executioners and vowed to haunt the castle forever more. Rainey apparently confessed to his crimes many years later, but this did nothing to please the spectre of Timothy Lavery who’s ghost continues to hover around the old well in the Castle grounds, which some call “Buttoncaps Well” in his honour.