Petticoat Loose

A tale of supernatural mischief and banishment from Slievenamon into the depths of the Irish Sea from the Irish Schools’ Collection.


The school book for Newtown in County Tipperary contains the tale of Petticoat Loose, a woman spirit or revenant thought to haunt certain places across the southern half of Ireland. The tales, although diverse, detail her evil deeds, confrontation with a holy man, and banishment. This version was collected by Phil Shanahan, age 13, of Shanballyduff from his father William.

The lore always features a priest banishing Petticoat Loose beneath the ocean, either for seven years, or for eternity until Lá an Luain (Doomsday or the Day of Judgment). Her prison is the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, or a similar location. William's version, however, has a different spin and a unique set of supernatural antics:

Three hundred years ago Petticoat Loose lived in Ireland. She lived on the mountain of Slievenamon. She used to do an enormous amount of damage. On a flag stone beside the lake of Slievenamon the mark of her scissors, thimble, and stool, and where she sat are to be seen to day. One of her customs was to sit up on a horse and car and at that moment the horse would refuse to move. Finally the horse would die on the road under the car.

The parish priest who was in the vicinity where she was living could stand this no longer and he decided to put an end to her life. He banished her, and compelled her to live beneath the waters of the Irish Sea for seven years. When the seven years came to an end she appeared, and was doing her evil spells as usual. There was a different parish priest in the vicinity at that time, and he decided to end her life altogether.

He banished her to the bottom of the Irish Sea saying: - 'She will never come up until she is able to make ropes of the sand from the bottom of the Sea to the top of the water, and then she will climb up but it will take centuries and centuries.'

The situation of Petticoat Loose on the slopes of Slievenamon and the replacement of her aquatic prison with the Irish Sea generates a more localised expression of the lore, exploring the depth and impenetrability of the space between Ireland and Wales and a perceived sense of vast distance between mountain and sea.

When the customary seven days was over, she returned and was banished to a realm that was more distant still: the bottom of the sea. So great was the depth of this imagined abyss that it may as well have been for eternity, requiring centuries for the spirit to once more return and plague the surface.