On Christmas Eve is loosely set around the remote Irish village of Turloughbeg. It is on the Rosmuc peninsula, which sounds grander than it really is. Basically it’s a strip of the Connemara Gaeltacht sticking out into Galway Bay. It’s an utterly lovely place, with spectacular views and, in fact, no dual carriageway for at least twenty miles. If anyone suggested putting one there you’d hear the screams of protest wherever you are.

Nor would I suggest for one moment that the people of Turloughbeg are collectively guilty of such a nasty sin of omission as described in this story. But the legend of Poor Mary who froze to death trying to find help on a cold winter’s night, and who’s spirit haunts the neighbourhood is told around Connemara in various different versions. Some have her as a victim of the famine of the 1840s, others of the Land War some thirty years after that, others the version I used here – that she came home from England in the middle of World War One to find doors closed to her.

The reason why those doors would be closed is political. The winter of 1916, was a time when nationalist feeling in Ireland, especially that part of Ireland, was at its highest following the suppression of the Easter Rebellion that year. British soldiers were regarded as the enemy. A local girl who got pregnant by a British soldier was persona non grata. If you know what the Easter Rebellion was, then you would understand fully what I mean. If you don’t, just take it as read that 1916 was not a happy year in Ireland and don’t worry about it.

Which brings me to the location of the cottage where The Doctor and Louise were spending their Christmas. The cottage above the lake near Turloughbeg is not actually available for rent. It belongs to the State and is a national monument open to the public. It was the summer home of one Padraic Pearse, the leader of the aforementioned suppressed Easter Rebellion. Studying there for my history post-graduate degree is the reason I know the area so well. The cottage described in this story isn’t the same one, since it has things like an electric oven in the kitchen, but the location I envisaged was exactly that.

Anyway, Poor Mary’s story is about as cheerful for Christmas as The Little Match Girl, and needed an addendum with a bit of Time Lord magic. Of course, The Doctor couldn’t stand by and see her suffer, even if he isn’t supposed to interfere!

http://ipicture.mobi/?c=ei&UF=393089&UN=490740&DG=LCTY
http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/West/PatrickPearsesCottage/