The lovely Sharon and I were watching TV tonight.  Were we indulging in these operatic soaps or reality TV (which seems far removed from reality to me – at the moment a woman dressed as a bumble bee is trying not to get her head electrocuted)?  No, we just watched a programme called ‘Off the Beaten Track’ about wandering the hills and mountains of Northern Ireland.

So, we were watching and learning about walking along Fair Head and down a gully called the Grey Man’s Path.  I have never been there myself but the lovely Sharon has and is insisting that we visit it soon.  I was always under the impression that it was called the Grey Man’s Path because it makes a man’s hair turn grey.  I was wrong.  The program went on to explain that it is because according to local legend the grey man walks along this area when the mist rolls in from Rathlin.  As soon as I heard this I had a light bulb moment and thought, “hang on, that sounds familiar”.

I wonder if the conditions in this area match a similar legend called the The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui  their is an excellent website and a short film about the legend here (website) and here (film). Is it possible that the grey man of fair head is in fact a brocken spectre?  A brocken spectre is an amazing optical effect that I have yet to see myself:

image by Gerald Davison

The conditions have to be just right but the effect is that you see a ‘grey man’ a little distance away from yourself.  It will follow you and mock you by copying your movements.  It is not hard to imagine that “mist rolling in from Rathlin” are just such conditions.

I am sure it is initially quite frightening, especially if you were walking in these spooky conditions on your own.  Although I must admit that the site of this broken spectre I found on flickr would really scare the wits out of me:

image from hello, i am bruce

Apparently there are several stories that relate to the Grey Man of Fair Head,  one of these states:

“his voice was different and not of the accents she was used too, she noticed too, in the falling light, that the his face was pale and expressionless below his coat hood. She did not want to stare but could almost swear that it was grey”

and

“he noticed that that the stranger had one foot in the shape of a broken horse hoof, now this put the fear into her”


I am not sure this can be explained with a brocken spectre.

Back to ‘reality’ TV now, they are eating insects again.  Forget that!  The lovely Sharon and I are away out for a walk through the fields.  The moon is spectacular, the air is frigid and the sky clear.  And Jack Frost is out playing tonight.

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