On the day of her death, she gave a party to celebrate her 48th birthday; one of those present was the priest who had christened her. He pointed out that it was in fact her 47th birthday – she had been born in 1666, not 1665 as she had always supposed. On hearing this she turned deathly pale; she sent for her children, told them the whole story, and died later that day.
Nicola Hamilton and John, Second Earl of Tyrone, were both educated at the same school and had common interests, including the subject of life after death and astrology. They entered into a pact that if there was life beyond the grave, the one who died first would let the other one know. Lord Tyrone left school and lived the life of a recluse; Nicola married Sir Tristram Beresford.
In October, 1693, Sir Tristram and Nicola were on an extended visit with Nicola’s sister at Gill House in Co Down. On Wednesday, October 15th, Sir Tristam rose early, left Nicola asleep, and went for a walk before breakfast. When he returned, he found his wife very agitated. Both Sir Tristram and Nicola’s sister were worried about a possible injury to his wife’s wrist as she had it covered with a black ribbon. Nicola asked her husband and her sister never to mention her wrist again, adding that she would always be wearing the ribbon and would never be seen without it.
A few days later Nicola asked if any letters had been delivered for her. When asked why, she replied that she expected to learn of the death of Lord Tyrone, which she was sure had taken place the previous Tuesday. A short while later, a letter was delivered. The letter was from Lord Tyrone’s steward informing her that his master had died in Dublin the previous Tuesday, October 14th, 1693, at 4 pm.
Lord Tyrone had appeared to Nicola when Sir Tristram was taking his pre-breakfast walk. His reason for returning was to honour the promise they had made when they had both been at school together. He then told her that she would bear Sir Tristram a son, would marry for a second time, and would die at the age of 47. All these predictions were to come true. Finally, to prove that he really was there, he placed his finger on her wrist. His touch left a black mark on the skin and the skin around it shrivelled. To hide the disfigurement, Nicola covered it with a black ribbon.
Nicola never removed the ribbon until she was on her death-bed. Her last request was to her son. She asked him to take the ribbon off. There, indeed, was a black mark and the skin surrounding it was shrivelled.
Photo: Gillhall situated outside the village of Dromore in Co Down, photo credit: oracleireland.com