Hiking is a great choice for some weekend activities, going out in nature and enjoying some fresh air. Waterford County has an abundance of walking and hiking trails and the most popular ones are the hikes in Comeragh mountains. Beautiful scenery, lake, sheep, fairy trees and ghosts. You read that right. Ghosts. Here is a story about William Crotty, most popular Waterford Robin Hood.
William Crotty, or ‘The Highway Robber’ was an 18th-century highwayman who hid away in a cave at the foothills of the Comeragh mountains in County Waterford. He was the leader of a gang of highwaymen who stole from the rich to give to the poor, much in the same manner as Robin Hood.
William was born in Russelstown, on the Western side of the Comeraghs, to a poor family evicted from their holding. Becoming an outlaw was not a surprising career choice for a young man in his situation. As it came out, he was well suited for the job – his operations extended to Kilkenny and Tipperary over the years. He skillfully avoided capture by shoeing his horses backwards, and his knowledge of the mountains helped him disappear into thin air right in front of his pursuers.
Crotty had a safe retreat – a deep underground cave near the foot of the rocky pinnacle at the Coumgaurha lake that could be accessed only by the means of a rope dropped down. He used another cave at Coumshingaun lake for the stolen livestock. His observation point – the Crotty’s Rock – commands the most expansive views of high roads from Dungarvan to Carrick and Tramore – no one would come close unnoticed. By 1739, Crotty had formed a small gang of accomplices. His operations flourished.
His many enemies described him as a bloodthirsty murderer and said that “the devil wouldn’t pick his bones” while the country people claimed that he was very generous with any monies he managed to rob from the upper classes.
Crotty knew the Comeraghs like the back of his hand, so when he was being chased by the authorities he could easily hide on the mountain range. This was very frustrating for the guards so they started to offer bribes to some of Crotty’s men asking for information on where he was hiding.
Legend has it that David Norris, who was Crotty’s most trusted companion, accepted these bribes. One night in February 1742, when he’d poured enough whiskey into Crotty to make him sleepy, he wet his gunpowder and stole his dagger. When the guards arrived to arrest him, Crotty didn’t stand a chance.
In March that year, Crotty was trialled in Waterford City and found guilty. He was executed by hanging and then had his head cut off and spiked outside the County Jail as a warning to those wishing to follow in his footsteps. The legend of William Crotty is a very important part of Waterford’s heritage and many of the landmarks in the Comeragh mountains are named after him.
His ghost is known as Dark Stranger who “comes out of the mist, tall, dark clothed, moving purposefully, his footsteps making no sound.” The ghost can also be seen on a white horse. He would cross the Crough road and ride towards the Crotty’s Rock, Rathgormack and Carrignagower where his treasures lie hidden somewhere beneath a rock with a hoof mark.