The Gormanston Foxes

A curious legend attends the Viscounts Gormanston of Ireland. It is said that when the head of the house dies, the foxes leave the surrounding countryside and congregate at the door of the castle. The following statements, collected at the death of Jenico William Joseph, the 14th Viscount Gormanston, on Oct. 28, 1907, appeared in the New Ireland Review of April 1908:

  • Lady Gormanston: “At the time he was dying, foxes were seen about the house and coming towards the house for some days before. His valet who was sleeping in his room heard what he thought was a dog barking, and on going over to the window found that it was a fox sitting under the window and barking. … At the death of Edward, 13th Viscount, the foxes were also there. He had been rather better one day, but the foxes appeared, barking under the window, and he died that night contrary to expectation.”
  • Lucretia P. Farrell, daughter of the 13th Viscount: “On the day before my grandfather … died, the foxes came in pairs (an unusual thing) into the demesne from all the country round; they sat under his bedroom window, which was on the ground floor, and howled and barked all night, although constantly driven away only to return. … At my father’s death, in 1876, I had nursed him till the end, and before he died I fell ill, and my family told me that the foxes appeared in the same way, but not so many. … The Preston crest is a running fox, which we were told no other family has. This is all I can tell, and very creepy it was in those days.”
  • Anthony Delahan, coachman, and Patrick White, steward: “On Monday night, the 28th October, at about 8 o’clock, I saw two foxes in the chapel ground and five or six more round the front of the house and several more in the cloisters, which were circling round in a ring, crying all the time. I saw them continuously from then till about 11 o’clock when I went to bed. I took White with me who also saw the foxes.”
  • Richard Preston: “On Wednesday, 30th October, 1907, at about 10 p.m., I went down to the chapel at Gormanston Castle to watch by the remains of my father. … About 3 a.m. I first became consciously aware of a slight noise without the chapel. … [When I opened the side door,] sitting on the gravel path within four feet of where I stood was a full-grown fox. Just in the shadow, sitting close up against the walls of the chapel, was another. I could hear several more moving quietly about within a few yards, and was almost sure that I saw some of them. … Neither of the two which saw attempted to move until I left the chapel and took a step towards them. They then walked quietly off into the shadow.”

“We venture no comment on the evidence,” the editors write. “Our readers will appreciate it for themselves. Whatever be their interpretation of the facts, they will, at least, allow that in them there is something of the marvellous.”