A scare at bedtime: The devil tore a hole in the wall and took his soul

Colonel MacNeal's old haunt of Binion.
Colonel MacNeal's old haunt of Binion.

Binion Bay lies just beyond Clonmany and a mile or two from Ballyliffin in County Donegal.

It’s a scene of wild Irish beauty but for centuries there has been another side to this enigmatic place.

You see Binion has harboured tales of tyrannical landlords, sinister happenings, a ghost or two, and even a mermaid thrown in for good measure.

An ancient signpost on Clomany Bridge near the ruin of Straid Protestant Church tells you that Derry is 19 miles away (that’s old Irish miles of course – it’s nearer 24 in today’s miles).

Clonmany is a delightful but melancholy place. Tradition says that you can meet a mermaid on Binion sands, and frequently encounter long dead souls coming and going on the lonely paths around the beach.

Under Binion Hill, so the story goes, a piper entered Poll an Phiobaire (The Piper’s Cave), the cave that some say has no end. Off he went playing a special air, ‘Girls will be old women before I return.’ And that was the last that was ever heard of him.

It’s said that you can hear music come in on the breeze when the fairies rest on Glashedy Island en route to their summer pastures and others with out flinching will tell you that Connla’s crock of gold is hidden somewhere inside the cliffs of Binion.

Binion House was originally the home of Colonel Daniel McNeal, a defender of Derry in the siege of 1689 and later a fighter at the Battle of the Boyne.

McNeal, regarded as a tyrannical landlord, was notorious for abducting girls in the vicinity. In order to placate the local families he would allot them a rood of land – thus you often find what is known as a McNeal Rood on the way from Clonmany to Ballyiffin. McNeal was to perish in 1709, suffering an awful death at the hands of local men in retribution for his villainous ways.

Is McNeal’s ghost also hereabouts? On the night he died in Binion in 1709 it was said that devil tore a wall out of the house as he made off in haste with the unfortunate creature’s soul.