Buttoncaps Well

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Carrickfergus Castle has a deep and dark well, where frequently the Ghost of Buttoncap appears, all because of a tragic history of love and betrayal…

Timothy Lavery was a soldier, stationed at Carrickfergus Castle around 1760. He was the tambour of the regiment, who got his nickname “Buttoncap” as a result of the large button he was always wearing at the centre of his cap. He was befriended with another soldier, a man called Robert Rainey. They sure were not twins, not even brothers, but they bore an uncanny resemblance to each other.

Robert fell in love with a girl named Betsy Baird. He had a reputation, but if Betsy would marry him, he would forsake his wayward ways. Betsy consented and Robert was overjoyed. He did not know that Betsy was also involved with the brother of his commanding officer, Captain Jennings. One dark evening, when he left Betsy’s house, Robert met his rival and discovered the infidelity of his fiancé. In an uncontrollable fury he ran the poor Captain through with his sword. Robert washed away the incriminating bloodstains in the sea, returned to the castle and went to bed as if nothing had happened.

Some soldiers found Captain Jennings, who was able to tell his brother what had happened… and then died. Unfortunately, the Captain thought his assailant had been Timothy Lavery… So, the tambour of Carrickfergus was charged with murder and although he insisted that he was innocent, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The only man who was able to save him, was his good friend Robert Rainey, but Robert did not say a word…

As the noose was placed around his neck, Timothy “Buttoncap” Lavery vowed to haunt Carrickfergus Castle ever more. Many years later, Robert confessed the truth on his death bed, but that did not stop Buttoncap. His indignant spectre is still hovering around the old well, beating the drum and shouting out his innocence…

There is also an old Irish folk song about Carrickfergus Castle, that made the place famous. You’ll find here a beautiful Bryan Ferry rendition:


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