Mary Mageau, one of our most productive contributors has ventured into a completely new area in the following story – she has tried the paranormal for the first time, and if this story is anything to go by, then she has found one of her many strengths – Read on and you shall see.
Last night I dreamed again of Coleraine.
In my waking memory its image is fleeting, but I still recall a sign near the long driveway, displaying its name. Set in acres of open range with its blazing floral gardens, and the elegant homestead with sweeping verandas on three sides – what could the dream signify? It has aroused such an aching within me I’d better talk to Geoff about it at breakfast.
partner is a successful vet who specializes in large animal diseases.
Geoff travels the length and breadth of the countryside, helping
station owners and breeders with their livestock problems.
Occasionally when I’m free I join him on these trips. We both love
the Australian outback—so vast and empty—such intense colours—The
I had a strange dream again about a place called Coleraine. I looked
up the name on a search engine and found that Coleraine is a large
town in the Irish county of Londonderry. In Gaelic, its name means,
nook of the ferns. There is a town by that same name on the Glenelg
Highway in Victoria and another in Itaska County in Minnesota. But
none of these places seem to fit into my dream.’
what a coincidence! I was just going to tell you that I’m leaving
again tomorrow morning, to visit a remote station. Can you come along
with me?’ Geoff had that open, hopeful look on his face I loved so
much. ‘I’d really appreciate your company as we’ll be away for
several days. And by the way, the place we’ll be visiting is
called, Coleraine.’ I could barely contain my excitement as I
replied, ‘Absolutely, I’ll join you. I have a deadline to meet on
a piece of writing, but I’ll bring along my laptop and work on it
at the station. Oh Geoff, this might be the place I dreamed about.’
We packed that
evening and found ourselves on the road just before sunrise. On the
second morning Geoff remarked, ‘Our destination isn’t that far
away now. We should reach the outside gate of Coleraine in a few more
minutes.’ I squeezed his hand with excitement.
sign marked its dusty road. We followed an endless track until I
experienced a hint of recognition as we passed a windmill. Excitedly
I cried out, ‘Geoff, after this hill crests, you should catch your
first glimpse of the house. It’s very large and elegant. There is a
circular drive filled with flowers near the front door. In its centre
is a fountain set in a small reflecting pool.’
as we reached the hill top, only the run-down shell of an old house
appeared below. It was unpainted and the large verandas had been
removed. Neither a flower nor a fountain was in sight. The working
sheds scattered behind it were all in the same state of disrepair. I
was in shocked disbelief as we reached a dusty circular drive and
pulled up near the front entrance. The entire homestead looked
dilapidated and uncared for. What could have happened here to change
things so drastically?
I’m sorry to disappoint you but this can’t be the house you saw
in your dream. It may have been splendid long ago but it’s recently
seen some hard times. Let’s get out and find the station owners.
Don’t fret, sweetie – we’ll still have an enjoyable time here.’
we walked toward the entrance a woman’s voice called out, ‘Welcome
to Coleraine! I’m Mary O’Neil. Bill and I have been looking
forward to your visit.’ A tall raw-boned woman appeared, held out
her arms and gave us each a big hug. I warmed to her immediately.
‘You’ve been on the road a long time and I’ve got the jug
boiling. Come on in for some morning tea and let’s get acquainted.’
we entered the kitchen a strong, burly cattleman put out his hand.
‘Gwen and Geoff is it? I’m Bill, and you are both welcome.’ As
we tucked into Mary’s country-style cooking he shared their story.
‘Two years ago this property came on the market and it was in our
price range so we grabbed it. The house isn’t much to look at but
there are acres of prime grazing land. Mary and I run several hundred
head of cattle here on agistment.’
added, ‘Thomas Hanlon built the original house in 1882 for his wife
Marie, and their five daughters. It must have been grand in its glory
days. Everyone regarded it as the showplace of the district.’
what happened to the house since then, Mary?’ I asked.
the fire of 1895, the back of the house and most of the verandas had
gone. Two of the Hanlon daughters perished in the flames. The rest of
the house was saved but the family was so destroyed by it all, they
just upped stakes and walked away.’
your tea, Geoff, then we’ll saddle up.’ Bill rose from the table.
‘One or two of my steers aren’t doing so well and I need the
advice of a vet.’
have a look at them.’ Geoff left the table, took out his medical
bag, and the men departed. Mary and I cleared the table and washed
up. “What do you plan to do with yourself, Gwen, while I carry on
in the yard?’
brought my laptop together with some work. Can you set me up at a
table next to a power point, Mary? I’m finishing a piece of writing
that’s due next week.’ As soon as I had settled down Mary moved
outside to weed her vegetable garden.
flew by until I heard the clock chime three. Geoff and Bill had
returned. The first scent of a baked dinner wafted through the rooms.
We all met in the dining room for afternoon tea, and Mary’s
buttermilk cake covered with rich chocolate icing.
is a good vet, Mary, and he put my mind to rest. The cattle will be
fine and some antibiotics will fix up the steers that worried me,’
Bill explained. ‘Now we can all relax.’
‘We eat just before sundown,’ Mary told us. ‘Bill and I turn in early because we get up with the chooks. After your long drive you might enjoy a quiet evening too. And we also found something I know you will both enjoy looking at.’ Mary passed a ragged cardboard folder toward us. ‘Not long ago Bill found this, covered with dust, on the shelf in a back shed. When we opened it, we discovered several pictures that probably belonged to the original Hanlon family. In a few days the Charleville Historical Society is coming to collect them, but before they go you’ll both find these old photos interesting.’
Mary removed three sepia-tinted photographs my hands suddenly began
to shake. Why did I feel a sudden sense of apprehension? Bill passed
the first picture across the table to us.
at this family all gathered in the parlour. Thomas Hanlon and Marie
are seated in the centre. She’s such an elegant woman in her lace
trimmed dress and pearl necklace. Standing behind them in a
semicircle are their five daughters. They were such beautiful girls.’
Geoff exclaimed, ‘Gwen, look at this daughter, the third from the
left. She is the exact image of you.’
she could be your twin, Gwen!’ Mary called out in amazement. I
looked carefully at her and had to agree that our likeness was
you rolled your hair back and pinned it away from your face you could
be this young woman.’ Bill remarked.
Mary added, ‘Turn the picture over, Bill, as there are names
written on the back. The date, 1890, is inscribed on the front of the
photograph so this picture was taken before the fire. There is a list
of names on the back, written in a darker ink. Most likely these were
added later. Read aloud what it says, Bill.’
names start at the left and move across. Emma, Fanny, after her name
it says RIP, Georgina, also RIP, Edith and Margaret. It seems that
Fanny and your look-alike, Georgina, must have both died in the
fire,’ Bill nodded toward me. ‘On the next line it identifies
Thomas Hanlon and Marie Hanlon.’
took up the next picture, a smaller photograph in a slim oval frame.
It featured a young man dressed in full military uniform, mounted on
a horse. Mary read from the back, ‘Lieutenant Patrick O’Neil.
Isn’t he handsome!’
kept the best for last.’ Bill held up a large photograph of
Coleraine, taken from the road in front of the house. I cried aloud
as there it was—the elegant white house behind a floral bed. In the
centre of the circular driveway was a two tiered fountain.
That’s the house I saw in my dream. It’s Coleraine, exactly as I
dreamed it.’ Then for no reason I burst into tears as Geoff came to
my chair and put his arms around me.
was only a dream of something that happened long ago. Let it go,
Gwen. What is really important is that you and I are here with Mary
and Bill, these two wonderful people. Thanks to you both for sharing
your pictures with us. Perhaps the time has come to close the folder
now and put it away.’
composure returned and sometime later, we enjoyed a delicious dinner
over a bottle of red wine we had brought along. We all had a good
laugh over Bill’s tales of his early days as a cattle drover. After
the table was cleared and the dishes washed, Bill and Mary excused
themselves. ‘Breakfast is on at 6:00 tomorrow morning. We’ll see
you in the dining room.’
night was so peaceful we decided to step outside to admire the sweep
of stars spread above us in the shining heavens. The Milky Way traced
its meandering ribbon of white through the darkness, as far as the
eye could see. All this beauty took our breath away. It was a perfect
end to the day.
never dreamed of Coleraine again: not the station surrounded by acres
of open range, with its dilapidated old house and dry, dusty roadway,
or the beautiful white timber home with its floral gardens and
gracious fountain. Yet I know that in the distant corridors of time
past, many years ago I lived in Coleraine. It had once been my home.
Mageau © 2018