Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

The headless horseman of Belfast


Every city has its ghosts and Belfast is no different, but some are more famous than others.

There is a wealth of folklore in the city relating to the supernatural, and you whether believe the tales or not, they all make great stories.

Some can be quite area specific, so you could be forgiven if, like Belfast native Wendy Austin in the attached piece of BBC archive media, the name Galloper Thompson is new to you.

Mary Rooney tells Wendy that she is an ancestor of the ghost and explains how she found a ghost in the family tree.

Galloper trots through the imagination of people in north Belfast, an apparition on a ghostly steed.

In Belfast legend the story begins with Gordon Thompson telling his friends that if he did not find a place in heaven then he would return and haunt Jennymount, off York Road.

In the Victorian period the tale would involve the ghost borrowing horses from stables at night and leaving them back by the dawn, filthy and tired, to the bemusement of their owners.

In some versions of the story he is headless, after being decapitated in an accident in Jennymount Mill, which he owned, while fixing one of the weaving machines.

The modern era has seen the horse borrowing side of the tale die off, but generations of children in the area were warned that the galloper would get them if they were home late.

Now the Galloper is a less scary piece of folklore, with even a local sandwich shop being named in his honour.


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