Some said Crean Deorcha was haunted; others laughed and pointed out that any property would look a bit rundown if there was only one person to oversee it.
Most of the acreage surrounding the connected farmstead had been sold over time, back when the property changed hands from the Overlands, whose family tree dated back to the earliest settlers, to the Sickles, who took it over. Old-timers shook their heads and said that young people didn’t have the stick-to-it-iveness that their parents had, choosing instead to answer the siren song of the cities, hoping to make their fortunes but more likely wandering the world wherever the wind took them.
And in the last few generations, even the Sickles seemed to have thinned out and gone, the young masters becoming stranger and shyer and more solitary as the years passed. No one could recall a house party or a dance being held at the big house in decades. And there hadn’t been a young mistress since even further back in local lore.
The only constant at Crean Deorcha, through wind and snow and bloom and burr, was the succession of caretakers over time, all nephews or second cousins in an unbroken line, all with the surname Mariner. Every one of them as taciturn as his predecessor, every one of them lanky and sinewy, every one of them a great hand with horses, every one of them with a book to stick a long beaky nose in when, very rarely, the caretaker would drink a glass of cider in the pub, always paying with coins so worn that they were nearly black.
Local wags would jest that it was a wonder that there was such a string of Mariners, with nary a Missus Mariner to been seen. And what kind of name was “Mariner” for a farmer? Someone back in the caretaker’s family tree must have been a sailor…. Or a pirate.
The latest Mariner in residence had been caretaker of Crean Deorcha for about ten years, and bore the unusual given name of “Tarminster”. If people shortened it in his hearing to “Tar”, he would gravely but firmly state that he would prefer the use of his surname. Barring that, if he *must* be subjected to a nickname, he would suggest that people call him “Pitch”.