Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Finnis Ghost Tree

On 21 July 2009, the Dromore Leader reported that the infamous “ghost tree” in the County Down village of Finnis had been destroyed by a lightning strike.
According to the legend, at an unspecified date in the early twentieth century, a local priest had captured a “malevolent spirit” in a bottle during an exorcism, and placed it in the sycamore tree that stood at the bridge in the centre of the village.
From that time, the tree was treated with reverence – and fear. Locals avoided touching the tree; and they dissuaded others from doing so. One local told the Leader:
“Some years back, when either power lines or telephone lines were being run through the village, the tree stood in the way of progress and the priest had to be called to stop the workers from cutting it down; as a result they had to run the cables through the tree’s upper branches.”
Another local gave her reaction to the destruction of the tree.
“I was driving over the bridge on my way home from work, and I couldn’t believe my eyes; the tree was gone, just a wee stump of it left; I was told it had come down in the weekend storms.
“I’ve only lived here a couple of years and I was shocked so I can’t imagine what some of the older residents make of it. I’m moving at the end of the month and now I’m glad I’m going to tell the truth.”
Dromore Leader, 21 July 2009

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Puma or St Bernard?

January 1999 began with Northern Ireland’s police force - at that time the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) - reporting that a “large puma-like cat” had been seen on two occasions near Aughnacloy, a small village in County Tyrone.
According to an RUC spokesman, the “beast-like animal,” which was black, 3 ft high and 5 ft long, had been seen in the Carnteel Road area at 7pm on Saturday, 12 December 1998; and at 4pm on Tuesday, 29 December 1998.
Soon after these sightings appeared in the press, more witnesses came forward. One of those was Roy White, an Aughnacloy farmer who had spotted a black “puma-like” animal on his land on Friday, 1 January 1999.
Mr White’s description of the animal matched the earlier descriptions: it was black, and 3 ft high and 5 ft long. However, he was able to add that the “cat” had green eyes.
But Mr White had even more to add. Two weeks earlier, his stepson had had a very close encounter while in an outbuilding on the farm, putting out food for the farm’s cats. “He heard a noise and turned around and there was this giant animal with a long tail and a mane,” said Mr White. “He grabbed it by the tail to try to get it outside and it went to bite him.”
On the same day that the Belfast Newsletter reported the above story, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the RUC were confident that there was no puma, that witnesses had actually seen a St Bernard that had been on the run after it escaped from its owner in Beragh.
To bolster this theory, they revealed that in the Sixmilecross area of Tyrone, a number of witnesses had reported seeing a brown and beige animal “which appeared dirty and unkempt.”
According to a police spokesman: “As he wasn’t wearing his customary keg of brandy round his neck we can understand how there may have been mistaken identity.”
The RUC spokesman offered no explanation as to why so many witnesses had reported seeing a black “puma-like” animal – that may have had green eyes.
Belfast Newsletter, 2 January 1999 & 4 January 1999
Belfast Telegraph, 4 January 1999

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Mysterious Airship in Donnybrook

At 7:50pm on Thursday, 20 May 1909, the “mysterious airship” was seen over Donnybrook, a district of Dublin.
One of the witnesses was Mrs Pilkington of Anglesey Road, who watched the airship from her bedroom window. According to Mrs Pilkington, the airship, which was at a “considerable altitude,” resembled a “large oblong shell” and was travelling, at speed, due east.
When her son went into Donnybrook village later that day, he found that many others had seen the same object at the same time as his mother. In fact, “the matter was the talk of the village,” according to an Irish Times reporter.
Two other witnesses, William Keenan and Michael Connor, described the airship as football-shaped and dark in appearance. Initially, they thought it was an ordinary balloon, but its fast speed on a still night convinced them that it must be a device “propelled by mechanical aid.”
When Keenan and Connor pointed out the airship to passers-by, there was broad agreement that it had to be a powered device of some type.
While there were many witnesses to this event, an earlier incident that day had an audience of one. At 1:30am, while cycling into Dublin from Kingstown, a reporter for the Evening Telegraph saw an airship “illuminated by two strong lights” travelling in a south-westerly direction.
The Irish Times, 21 May 1909

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Our Blessed Lady in the Tree

While cutting down trees at the Holy Mary Parish Church in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Monday, 6 July 2009, the workmen discovered an image in one of the stumps. Noel White, chairman of the Rathkeale Community Council Graveyard Committee described the discovery:
“One of the lads said look, our Blessed Lady in the tree. One of the other lads looked over and actually knelt down and blessed himself, he got such a shock. It was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby.”
Church representatives were not particularly impressed with the image in the stump, though. “I have seen the tree … it’s only a tree,” said Father Willie Russell, a local parish priest.
And diocesan spokesman, Father Paul Finnery said: “The Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great skepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition.”
Regardless of the Church’s position, people from all over the country were coming to see the stump, and a petition to keep the stump at the church had received thousands of signatures.
BBC News Online, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Kidnapped by Fairies

At a meeting of the Limavady Pension Committee on Monday, 9 August 1909, one of the applicants, Annie McEntire, was unable to provide evidence of her age. Annie, who was described as a “snowy-haired bent old woman,” had no records and her name did not appear on either the 1841 or the 1851 census.
But Annie had some information she thought might help the committee establish her age. She said she believed she was born on Halloween night in 1839 - and that the fairies had taken her.
“You are quite sure of that?” asked the chairman.
“I am as certain of it as that I live,” replied Annie. “Fortunately my brother was returning from Carndonagh and he heard the noise of their revels, their singing, and their dancing, and he had a book with him which he threw into the wood at Carrowkeel.
“The fairies then abandoned me, and my brother lifted me in his arms, and brought me back to my mother.”
“There was much joy at your return, I presume?” said the chairman.
There was, according to Annie: her mother was “in ecstasy” – and much drink was taken.
Limavady Pension Committee granted Annie her pension.
Lisburn Standard, 14 August 1909

Sunday, 10 April 2016

A Weasel Funeral

The following item is reproduced in full as it appeared in The Tyrone Constitution of 10 September 1954.

“A passing lorry killed a weasel near the residence of Mr Hughie McGready, Mount Charles, Co Donegal. Messrs Gary Burke, Eugene Burke and Eamon Kelly were working nearby. They noticed the dead weasel on the road, but in ten minutes over fifty weasels had gathered to remove the remains.

“One weasel dragged the dead one away and was followed by some fifty ‘mourners’ each marching two abreast.”

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Meteors, Electrical Discharges and Atomic Flashes

On Wednesday, 23 February 1955, during a Pan-American Airlines flight from New York to London, the navigator and the first officer saw a “flash resembling that of an atomic explosion.”
They were 400 miles from the Irish coast. “We were flying at 21,000 feet,” said Mr Fuller, the third officer. “The navigator and I were in the cockpit and one hour before dawn we both saw a mysterious explosion.
“We were too high for it to have been caused by a ship; and it was definitely not lightning and the sun had not risen.
“When the atomic bomb was exploded at Las Vegas, I was flying over Santa Barbara and had been warned to look out for the flash. What I saw this morning looked very much the same.”
There was a similar incident a few months earlier. This one had a number of geographically disparate witnesses. And though the reports differed, the timing makes it highly likely they had all witnessed the same event.
At 11pm on Wednesday, 8 September 1954, while flying from London, an Aer Lingus pilot saw a mysterious blue flash over Holyhead.
According to the Met Office at Dublin Airport, it may just have been an electrical discharge. But at the same time, two men in Carrickfergus saw a rocket soar into the sky and explode silently. Another man, who was on a boat leaving Belfast for Glasgow at 11pm, saw a rocket launched from the sea and explode. He thought it might have been a distress rocket.
And along the North Wales coast, witnesses reported seeing a blue flash that was followed by a loud, window-rattling explosion.
Dr Bruch of Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory was very confident that he knew what was behind these reports. “It seems quite certain for all the facts I have learned that it was nothing more than a meteor.”
It’s probably just a coincidence, but it’s worth mentioning that earlier that day a man in Derryhubert, Dungannon, reported seeing a three feet wide flying saucer that “crackled and hissed.”
The Irish Times, 24 February 1955
The Irish News, 10 September 1954
Belfast Telegraph, 10 September 1954 & 11 September 1954
The Dungannon Observer, 11 September 1954

Sunday, 3 April 2016

A Very Fortean Obituary

On 21 January 1954, the Belfast Telegraph reported the death of James McAnepsie.
James, from Fintona, County Tyrone, was not well known – not even in Northern Ireland. But a few years earlier, he’d had a very strange experience.
James had gone to collect firewood in Ecclesville Demesne. When he failed to return, his friends contacted the police.
A search was soon underway. Fortunately, James was found quite quickly – safe and sound - in Ecclesville Demesne.
Obviously, the police had a number of questions for James. But their main question was this: why had he not answered the calls of the search party when he could so obviously hear them?
James explained.
Earlier in the day, as he was dragging his bundle of firewood past a recently uprooted fairy thorn, he felt all power drain from him; and he became unable to move. “I couldn’t even let go the rope,” he said. “It was as if I was riveted to the ground.”
While he was “riveted to the ground,” he could hear “fairy bells jingling.” He could also see a light that appeared to be coming from an open doorway. And though he made a number of attempts to get to the doorway, he could not reach it.
It seems James was like this - unable to move and unable to answer the calls of the search party - until the search party found him:
According to the Telegraph, he was “none the worse for the experience,” and it’s not believed that his death was related to his strange experience in Ecclesville Demesne.
Belfast Telegraph, 21 January 1954.