02 Jan Origins of the Moddey Dhoo of Peel Castle
Just inside the main entrance was the guard’s room where the soldiers were posted to keep guard. From the guard’s room a passage led to an ancient church and through this to Captain of the Guard’s quarters.
In the evening as night fell it was the duty of one the guards to lock the great castle gate and take the key down the passage to the Captain of the Guard. This duty was taken in turns and who ever locked the gate would be responsible to ensure the key was taken down through the darkness of the passage and placed into the Captain’s own hands, before returning back up the passage to the guard’s room.
In the grey evenings after the gate was shut the soldiers would get together in the guard’s room and light a fire to dispel the cold and gloom. There, they would spend the evening drinking ale and telling stories.
The appearance of the black dog
When the first sightings of a large black dog with a long, shaggy, unkempt coat were reported, some accounts said it was like a huge spaniel. No one knew who it belonged to, where it had come from, or how it got into the castle.
Its presence was a complete mystery, always appearing after the gates were shut. Sometimes it would appear in one room, and at other times would be seen in different parts of the castle and grounds.
Every evening after the fire was kindled in the guard’s room fireplace and as the cold and gloom began to dissipate the dog would be heard padding down the passage to enter the guard’s room.
The huge creature ignored the frightened guards and making no sound lay by the fireside until dawn. Then just before the sun rose it would get up and pad into the passage and disappear until evening when it would reappear again.
The dog is said to have had a supernatural appearance and although the guards were frightened of the beast they would ignore it. Instead of drinking and revelling they would tend to keep sober and quiet so as not to disturb, keeping on their best behaviour. However, now, instead of one soldier taking the key to the Captain’s quarters, two would go. No one would walk along the black passage alone after the appearance of the dog.
The drunken soldier
The legend tells that one night after the appearance of the dog one of the soldiers got drunk and boasted loudly that he would take the key down the passage to the Captain alone that night as he feared no dog, mortal or supernatural.
Although it was not his turn to take the key and his fellow soldiers did their best to dissuade him, he would have none of it and set off into the blackness of the passage alone. To show his fellow soldiers his courage he taunted the beast, challenging it to follow if it dare.
Although the other soldiers tried to hold him back the drunk would not be restrained and plunged into the passage with the keys, again challenging the dog to follow to see if it was mortal, or supernatural. The huge black beast slowly rose and followed him down the passage.
Silence fell upon the castle like a black cloak and those who remained in the guard’s room huddled together in fear and would not follow the drunken soldier into the blackness of the passage. Time seemed to stand still, but after what could only have been a few minutes they heard the most deathly and terrible cries and screams coming from the passage, but none would leave the guard room to investigate, or give help.
The return of the soldier
Shortly, from the passage they heard the staggered footsteps of someone struggling back towards them. The drunken soldier fell through the door into the room, his face white and twisted with fear, his eyes blazing in terror, his mind destroyed.
From then on he uttered not another sound and he could not, or would not, tell what had befallen him. Three days later he was dead taking the secret of his ordeal to the grave. After that night the black dog was never again seen in the guardroom, passage, or anywhere else in Peel Castle.
Could it be true?
It certainly makes a good story! In many different places of the British Isles there are many legends of black dogs. Many have associations with Viking settlements and the Vikings built Peel Castle which is actually situated on St Patrick’s Isle and linked by causeway to the Isle of Man. In the Manx language ‘Mauthe Doog’ means ‘black dog’ and Moddey Dhoo is thought to be derived from this.
In England and Scandinavia phantom black dogs are also strongly connected with early Christian church and graveyards where a black dog would be buried alive to protect the church and grounds from the devil. The passage from the guard’s room was said to have run through an ancient church.
Intriguingly, an excavation in the castle grounds, in 1871, uncovered the remains of Simon, Bishop of Sodor and Man, who died in 1247. At his feet was found the skeleton of a large dog.