There is an interesting tale of the old Hackettstown House linking it with Charles Dickens. He apparently was a welcome visitor to the Dublin Town House of Lord Holmpatrick whenever he would come to Dublin to give his readings in the Rotunda. His host told him an old story of a previous owner of Hackettstown House, who prepared a wedding feast there for his young bride who was to arrive by coach.
Tragically the coach overturned near Lusk and the bride was killed. The heartbroken groom ordered the room to be left exactly as it was and locked. He never entered it again. Dickens is supposed to have used this story as the theme of his novel Great Expectations. There is still today a Bride’s Tree in Lusk, perhaps marking the scene of the tragedy.
There are several old houses around this area which have their own interesting histories. One such old house in Skerries belonged to the Johnson family – and is now the Holmpatrick Hotel. This family was quite well off with a staff of maids etc. and a butler. The story goes that when one of the daughters died she was buried in their vault in the grave yard, the coffin being placed on a shelf in the vault. This daughter used to wear valuable rings which were buried with her.
During that night the butler went down to the vault hoping to steal the rings. He tried to get them off her fingers but finding this impossible he drew a knife and attempted to cut off her finger. As soon as he drew blood the “corpse” sat up. The terrified butler ran off.
Some hours later there came a knock at the Johnson’s door. The father said “If she is alive that is my daughter’s knock”. The daughter lived a long and healthy life.
Her father overjoyed with her return offered a large reward to the missing butler but he was never found. Since this startling occurrence, wakes were introduced into Skerries for one or two days. Before this time a person could die one day and be buried the next morning.
I had better state here that I cannot personally vouch for the authenticity of these accounts.
Moira Kelly [SHS, 1982]