The Legend of Abhartach

Updated: 3 days ago

When you think of Vampires, Dracula is perhaps the defining image. Unlike other European folklore, there is little abundance of vampires legends in Ireland. Bram Stoker's masterpiece is without a doubt a character inspired directly from the infamous Prince of Wallachia (Romania) however, Stoker may have been influenced somewhat from a lesser-known king and much closer to home.

Clock Tower in Garvagh town

The story begins in Glenullin (Glen of the eagle) an area in Co. Derry. In an age of petty kingdoms and scattered clans, one such kingdom was ruled by a chieftain known as Abhartach. Little is known about Abhartach except that he was ruthless and feared among his subjects and neighbouring kingdoms. In a time where kings were strong, brave warriors, Abhartach must have possessed great charisma to inspire such hatred and fear despite, been allegedly suffering from a deformity or was a dwarf. Apart from his evil ways, he was also said to be very jealous and in an attempt to catch his wife in the act of infidelity he fell to his death while attempting to spy on her.

He was buried in an upright position, which was custom at the time for kings or those of kingship. The townsfolk must have bread a sigh of relief with the loss of this tyrant. However, this new feeling quickly turned to horror when the following day Abhartach returned and demanded blood from his subjects. In fear, they surrendered to the king's demands. This became a daily ritual of bowls of blood used to sustain the life of their taunting king.

BlackThorn Tree growing atop the Tomb

The townsfolk rejected a life of perpetual fear of the living dead so they decided to take action. They convinced a neighbouring chieftain to slay this monster and Abhartach was again buried like before. But this had no effect and Abhartach returned the following day. The neighbouring chieftain tried again and as before buried Abhartach in his same isolated grave. But for a third time, Abhartach returned. Lost for answers, the chieftain turned to a druid in the Gortnamoyagh Forest for answers to kill the not living. The Druid advised the chieftain that Abhartach was sustaining an un-dead existing by drinking the blood of humans and such a creature another be slain. However, could be restrained.

Taken this advice, the chieftain impaled Abhartach in the heart with a sword forged from yew. Abhartach's body was buried upside-down. Thorns and Ash twigs were sprinkled around the corpse, and a large slab tomb was erected directly on top. (The Druid warned, that should this rock be moved, Abhartach would return to earth)

Today little remains of the tomb. Two slabs still remain. A tree has grown around the site. There is much suspicion from locals about this area and few dares go near it. It is considered "bad grown" with misfortune for those who interfere with it. Families are have known to have fallen out over it while attempts to clear the site have been futile. Chainsaws have mysteriously broke while attempting to cut the tree, while chains break when attempted to live the slabs.