|Born||18 March 1867|
|Died||5 January 1932|
Mildred Darby (née Dill, 18 March 1867 – 5 January 1932) was an Anglo-Irish novelist in the gothic genre and owner of Leap Castle, considered the most haunted castle in Ireland partly due to her input.
Mildred Henrietta Gordon Dill was the daughter of Richard Dill and Augusta Caroline Wale. She married Jonathan Charles Darby, son of Jonathan Darby and Caroline Graham. Jonathan Charles Darby was the heir to the Darby family and the last Darby to own Leap Castle. Together he and Mildred had five children.
Mildred Darby was interested in the supernatural and was a regular writer of gothic novels. Her novel Paddy-risky was published in 1903. Since women writers of gothic novels often published under alternative names, or anonymously, this book was published under her pen name of Andrew Merry. Her work was reviewed by the Spectator: "Paddy Risky" is a capital farce not unworthy of comparison with the best descriptions of country race-meetings in the "Recollections of an Irish R.M."
In 1910 she published her gothic novel The Hunger. Her interest in the supernatural was quite common for people of the time and she regularly held séances in the castle. She described the atmosphere and things she claimed to see to the journal Occult Review in 1909:
"I was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin, gaunt, shadowy... its face was human, to be more accurate, inhuman. Its lust in its eyes, which seemed half decomposed in black cavities, stared into mine. The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse."
A friend of the Darbys was Rex Ingram, who went on to be a director in the US and used many of the ideas of the gothic novel in his work. Mildred Darby told him many of the ghost stories of the castle. Another visitor was St. John D. Seymour who wrote the True Book of Irish Ghost Stories (1914) and who documents various diverse hauntings.
The creature described by Darby as haunting the house is known as The Elemental. According to a letter Mildred Darby sent to Sydney Carroll:
"The last appearance of the Elemental were on Nov 25th 1915 [...] On the gallery leaning with “hands” resting on its rail I saw the Thing – the Elemental and smelt it only too well. At the same moment my husband pulled up sharply about 10 feet from the Thing, and half turning let fly a volley of abuse at me ending up 'Dressing up a thing like that to try and make a fool of me. And now you’ll say I’ve seen something and I have not seen anything and there is nothing to see, or ever was.'"
The castle was burned in 1922. The family moved to England for a time and then to family in Doory Hall, County Longford to await the results of the compensation claims. Mildred H. Darby claimed to have lost drawers containing both printed and unpublished stories. She had sold Paddy-risky for cinema for $2,000 and expected to be able to sell others.
Bibliography as Andrew Merry
- Under One Cover: Eleven Stories, Skeffington & Son, Sabine Baring-Gould, Richard Marsh, Ernest George Henham, Fergus Hume, Andrew Merry, Arthur St. John Adcock, 1898
- The Green Country, Grant Richards, Andrew Merry, 1902
- Paddy-risky : Irish realities of to-day Andrew Merry, G. Richards, 1903
- The Hunger: Being Realities of the Famine Years in Ireland, 1845 to 1848 , Andrew Melrose, Andrew Merry, 1910
- Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (1976). "Burke's Irish Family Records". Burkes Peerage Ltd,. p. 363.
- Andrew Merry. 'Paddy-risky' : Irish realities of to-day. London : G. Richards, 1903.
- Anne Bannerman; Sarah Pearson & Barbara Hoole. Female Gothic Poetry in Scotland and Northern Ireland of the 1800s (PDF). Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, University of Ghent.
- Samual Halkett & John Laing (1926). "Dictionary of Anonymous and pseudonymous English Literature". Haskell House. p. 363.
- "Spectator review". Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- "The Hunger". Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- Ruth Barton. Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen. University Press of Kentucky.
- Majella Tracy Fahey. Resurrection: The Return of the Gothic Home in Contemporary Irish Art (1990-2015) (Ph.D. Thesis). University of Limerick.
- "offaly history". Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- "Haunted Castles". Retrieved 20 February 2016.