By Michéal De Paor
At Halloween in 1957 or 58, as a young child, I accompanied my father and Joe O’Grady, who was then the Laois County Engineer on a journey from Portlaoise to St Jarleth’s College in Tuam to bring my eldest brother home for the Halloween break.
As I was only 4 or 5 at that time it was a huge thrill to be allowed to go on such a journey. In addition I idolised my brother and was really looking forward to seeing him.
From my memory it was a woeful evening with driving rain and wind hitting against the car all the way there and back.
The journey itself was uneventful until we were approaching Athlone on the way back. As we approached a railway bridge with steep block walls on each side, something or someone flew across the road and disappeared. My memory is of someone wearing a white sheet about the height of a man. I remember and even to this day can still feel the hair standing on the back my neck as Joe O’Grady jammed on the brakes.
When the car stopped we got out to see whether we had hit someone, expecting to find a body. However, there was no sign of anyone or anything. My father and Joe discussed about the chance that given the time of the year, was it possible that someone had carried out a prank to scare us. Yet, however, they analysed it they could find no explanation – given the size of the walls of the bridge- as to how someone had suddenly appeared as if through one wall, crossed the road and vanished through the other wall.
Many years later telling stories with a group of colleagues while having a pint, one of them Paddy Gorman from Athlone, stated that the bridge was known for having a Ghost.
My mother, shortly before she passed in 2005, was amazed that I still remember what had occurred on that night and confirmed that it tallied with the story she was told by my Dad and Joe.