By Sean Moriarty

The Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Michael Gleeson, is asking for the public’s help as he tries to piece together the mystery of man who came to live in the Muckross area in the 18th century.

When Muckross Abbey was unoccupied during the mid-18th century, a man known as John Drake made the abandoned building his home. He slept in a bed made from old coffin boards, in the recess of the Abbey’s fireplace, and wind-proofed the nearby window with earth and rubbish.

He never revealed his business, where he came from, or why he chose to live as his did and was met with equal amounts of curiosity and respect by locals.

“He was said to be under 40 years of age, refined in nature and ‘scholarly’ in appearance. He never discussed his past, his plans or his reasons for adopting this unusual abode,” Mayor Gleeson told the Killarney Advertiser. “He never asked for alms and was never known to eat in any dwelling other than his own. He had enough money to buy some food and indeed was known to give a halfpenny and his prayers to any person who seemed more destitute than himself.”

He lived in the Abbey for 11 years until one day he disappeared without trace.

“One day in late springtime, John was nowhere to be seen. Just as suddenly as he had arrived to the Abbey he had now disappeared. His ‘bed’ lay unruffled, but nothing else remained. John had gone quietly into the dark night and was never again seen in Muckross or heard of elsewhere,” added Cllr Gleeson. “The mystery of the unusual life of John Drake in Muckross remains just that – a mystery of a quiet and gentle man who arrived unannounced and departed without trace.”

Some years later a young woman arrived to Killarney looking for the man. Very little is known of the woman, she was reputed to be a foreigner and visited the Abbey and seen to be weeping at Darke’s fireside bed.

If any of our readers have information about John Drake or other curious stories send to them to sean@thekillarneyadvertiser.ie and we will publish some of the more quirky stories as well as pass any clues onto Mayor Gleeson.