By Patrick Markey
Dracula, the legendary evil vampire who has inspired many gothic novels and films, may have been a Derryman, according to a Celtic history and folklore expert.
Bob Curran, a lecturer at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, has questioned whether Dracula was really a creation based on legends about the Transylvanian Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian folk hero.
Dublin-born civil servant Bram Stoker wrote the first Dracula novel in 1897. But he had never visited Eastern Europe.
Curran said he believes Stocker based his creation on a fifth century Derry chieftain called Abhartach, who is reputedly buried under a large stone at Glenullin, between Garvagh and Dungiven, in an area known locally as the "Giant’s Grave."
Writing in the current issue of the academic quarterly History Ireland, Curran says Abhartach was a tyrant and drinker of human blood in Irish folklore.
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He had tainted blood — "droch fhoula" in the Irish language, pronounced droc’ola — and that might have been where Stoker got the name Dracula.
Abhartach became a member of the "undead" and rose from the grave to demand bowls of blood drawn from his subjects.
Curran says he could not be slain, only restrained, in a grave when buried upside down under a stone after being stabbed with a sword made from yew wood.
"Can we really consign the vampire to some remote part of Eastern Europe. Stoker’s experiences may have come more directly from Irish folklore," writes Curran.
He suggests the Kerry maids in Stoker’s Dublin home and his Sligo-born mother were likely has to have recounted stories to him drawn from the strong tradition of blood-drinking Irish chieftains and nobles.
— Andrew Bushe
A County Clare woman is appealing to the British prime minister to help release her daughter from a Cuban jail cell.
Maureen McGee recently handed in a letter to Tony Blair asking for his assistance in having her 24-year-old daughter released from the Caribbean prison.
The Irish Times reports that McGee, who is 47 and left Kilrush for London more than a decade ago, is trying to have her daughter Rachel freed after she was given a 15-year sentence for drug-trafficking last year.
A human rights group claims the woman’s hearing was held entirely in Spanish, and she was allowed to speak to her lawyer only five minutes before the proceedings.
McGee’s daughter was found guilty attempting to buy £9 million worth of cocaine in Havana. Cuban police said she was part of a plan to ship the drugs back to Britain. McGee and a friend were arrested along with two Britons who were meeting four drug-dealers from Jamaica.
According to the family, Rachel is being held in a cockroach-infested cell, her weight has dropped and she has a kidney infection.
The human rights group Fair Trials group will attempt to lobby Fidel Castro on the issue directly over the next few months.
Getting a bag of chips on the way home after a night of boozing and clubbing is a sacred tradition in some parts.
But in Longford, late-night curry and chips are no longer sacrosanct.
The Longford News reports that gardai have written to late-night fast-food restaurants asking them close up half an hour early at the weekends to help quell an increasingly riotous after-hours brawling problem.
The move is the latest gardaí attempt to crack down on public disorder in the streets by drunken youths at the weekend.
But restaurant owners have fired back. They say they are being wrongly targeted.
"It’s not going to solve the problem," Elio Cence of Deli Burger said. "So what if we close at 2:30? Is this going to stop people getting drunk and fighting?"