Professor Patricia Lysaght, an authority on the Banshee, talks about the traditions, history and beliefs surrounding the Irish harbinger of death.

Dr Patricia Lysaght who lectures in the Department of Folklore in University College Dublin (UCD), has recently written a book about the Banshee. 

A supernatural figure in Irish folk tradition and an omen of death, the Banshee cries for certain families in Ireland. In particular, those whose names begin with O or Mc, and the old Anglo-Norman families.  

Heard in most parts of Ireland prior to a person’s death by a family member, neighbour or someone in the community, her eerie cry indicates that the man or woman in question is not long for this world,  

It's a long lonesome cry.

There are different stories about the Banshee tradition throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. In counties Wexford, Carlow and parts of Wicklow she is called The Bow, in Waterford the Bibe, and in Tipperary and Mayo she is known as the Bean Chaointe. 

People all over the island may also see the Banshee, with the exception of counties Cork and Kerry, where she is heard but never seen. Described as a small woman she is dressed in black and combs her long white hair.  

In spite of the fact that many folk traditions are on the wane, one Late Late Show audience member tells Gay that her mother saw the Banshee in Inchicore.  

A small little woman in black with long white hair, and she was combing, and she was moaning and groaning. 

Another woman from Malahide has heard the Banshee herself.

It was the most terrifying sound I ever heard...I heard it and I felt it.

But even if someone does hear or see the Banshee, she is never ever approached, says Dr Lysaght. Why is this? 

In belief systems the otherworld is left alone, and if you leave the otherworld alone, it will leave you alone.

This episode of The Late Late Show was broadcast on 28 February 1986. The presenter is Gay Byrne