Monday, 30 May 2016

Fairy Warning

On Wednesday, 23 January 1924, Esther Smith, of no fixed address, arrived at the Killeigh, County Offaly, home of Mrs Mary Murray. Smith told Murray that she’d been sent by the fairies – whom she visits three days a week – to warn her of “certain impending deaths.”
Smith explained that the source of the problem was the evil spirits Murray had in her house. Murray was terrified. 
Fortunately, Smith wasn’t just a messenger: she had come to help.  The evil spirits had to go, and Smith could drive them out - for a price of course.
Murray gave Smith £3, which was all the money she had. Smith took it. But it wasn’t enough; so, she relieved Murray of most of her food, filling a flour sack with eggs, flour, onions and bacon.
After performing the “exorcism,” Smith gave Murray some advice: when sweeping her floors, she should always sweep in and never out. She also instructed Murray to keep a gallon of water on the kitchen table.
It’s not clear who reported the incident, but a Civic Guard arrested Smith soon after the “exorcism” was performed. She still had most of the money and food she'd taken. 
Smith appeared before Tullamore District Court on Tuesday, 29 January 1924, charged with obtaining money and goods by false pretences.
The Irish Times, 2 February 1924

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Portmuck Mermaid

On 1 October 1814, the Belfast Commercial Chronicle printed a letter that they prefaced with “…we have not had time to ascertain the authenticity of the letter … All we at present know is, that a very respectable man of the name of McClelland, lives, as stated, in Island Magee; and the persons who are mentioned as having also seen the mermaid, are not unknown in Belfast.”
This is the letter:
I beg leave to inform you, for the benefit of the curious, that I am happy that I have it in my power to set the public mind at rest, respecting the existence of this wonderful animal; having been so fortunate as to take one yesterday morning, which is now alive and in my possession.
The mode in which I took it is as follows: Yesterday morning, about six o’clock, I went to set my lines on the Turbot Bank, off this place; I had not proceeded a quarter of a mile from the shore, when I saw what I at first thought was a seal, appear above the water; but on coming near it, to my great surprise, it looked like a Christian, making motions with it hands and head. I immediately thought it to be a mermaid, having seen accounts in the papers of two or three seen in Scotland [1].
I then told the boys in the boat, if they would try and catch it, it would make all their fortunes; but James Hill, and the other two boys, were terribly frightened, and said we should make for the shore, as it might sink the boat. Finding they were cowardly, I called to a large water-dog I had in the boat, and hurled him at it; when the dog was swimming to it, I fired at it a musket loaded with large pellets, which wounded it in the body and tail, and in little time the dog caught it by the hair and held it, though often it pulled him under the water.
The boys, seeing this, gathered courage, and we rowed the boat up to it, and with the assistance of a herring net, we surrounded it and the dog, and brought both into the boat – it had lost a great deal of blood, and was weak when we brought it in; it struggled hard and kept making a noise like a young child. We had to tie it with ropes. When we came on shore, I drew up one of the boats and filled it with salt water, into which I put the animal – and in which I kept it.
Its wounds are better; it eats fish, but it likes herrings better than any other kind; its hair is above a yard long, and a dark green; red eyes, a flat nose, and a large mouth; it has but three fingers on each hand, and they are taper to the point; it is five feet four inches from the crown of the head to the tip of the tail, and like a woman from the [hips] up; the skin is nearly white, except the tail, which is the shape and colour of a cod fish.
It has been seen and examined by Mr Nash and Mr A H Coats, two of the Coast-Officers, who happened to be here this morning; Mr Murphy, our Minister, and several others, our neighbours. I will endeavor to keep it alive for a short time, for the benefit of the curious, who are welcome to come and see it.
I am sir,
Your obedient servant,
Wm McClelland
Portmuck, Island-Magee
29th Sept 1814
On 3 October 1814, the Chronicle reported that a correspondent in Larne had informed them that the mermaid letter was a hoax.
The Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 1 & 3 October 1814
1. Possibly a reference to the Portgordon Merman, a similar hoax that took place in the north-east of Scotland six weeks earlier. See ‘The end of a fishy tail’ by Alison And Gordon Rutter in Fortean Times [FT298:51].

Monday, 16 May 2016

A Monster in Meath?

In November 1937, a very strange creature came to the townland of Brownstown, County Meath. Weighing in at 80 pounds, it had very short legs, a low broad body, a “flat, repulsive looking head,” creamy coloured fur and a “fishy tail” – which stood straight out.
The creature was causing a “considerable amount of uneasiness” amongst the human population. The dogs, however, must have been terrified. A Pomeranian and a Collie had been killed, the latter due to wounds to its throat.
Despite the widespread belief that the creature had made its home in a nearby fox covert, the “parties of young men” who were searching for it at night had little luck in finding it.
But what was it they were looking for? The community was split on this: some thought it was the product of an “unsuitable union between a fox and a Sealyham,” while others believed it was just an albino Alsatian, “starved for a little human sympathy, and food.”
The Times was unimpressed with these options, and despaired at the lack of imagination in Meath. “Nobody will allow the arrival of an animal from the stars … In these days, when the world lives by the assistance of machines, the world has not the elasticity of mind to receive a creamy coloured, squat, heavy animal, with the tail of a fish and the expression of an all-in wrestler. To the world’s knowledge there is no such thing – and that is that.”
The Irish Times, 13 & 15 November 1937

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Ripper in Belfast?

On Tuesday, 27 November 1888, a man was chased through the streets of Belfast. The man, who would later be identified as James Wilson, a 45-year-old comedian/ballad singer touring County Antrim, was believed to be Jack the Ripper.
It has never been made clear how this came about, but at noon on that Tuesday, a mob began chasing Wilson down Royal Avenue, shouting: “Jack the Ripper! Jack the Ripper!”
Soon, others joined the chase. And as Wilson ran up Little Donegall Street, the police joined in too.
The chase continued through Union Street, Charles Street, Stephen Street and Birch Street. The cries of “Jack the Ripper” brought more and more people out of their houses, with many joining the urban hunt.
On Birch Street, Wilson tried to lose the mob by running through a house. But a couple of constables followed. Shortly after, they found him cowering in a nearby cellar.
Wilson was arrested, and taken through the sizeable mob to the police station, where he was charged with “indecent behavior.” It wasn’t made clear what this “indecent behavior” was, but the Irish Times opined that he was arrested purely for his own protection.
Why did the mob believe James Wilson was the Ripper? That has never been explained. According to the Irish Times, Wilson had been wearing two hats and carrying two canes at the time. It doesn’t really explain things, but the Times thought it was important.
The Irish Times, 1 December 1888

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Cloudy with a Chance of Saucers

At 12:35pm on Tuesday, 7 November 1950, three witnesses encountered a very strange cloud while travelling together from Bantry to Berehaven, in County Cork.
The witnesses were Captain W J Kelly, Marine Superintendent of the Irish Lighthouse Service; Mr T J Hegarty, of the Department of Industry and Commerce; and Mr W A Allen, of the Irish Lights Commission.
The sky was clear, and at a “fairly high altitude” they could see an object that was dark blue with a green-yellow centre. At first they thought it was a cloud, but it was moving very quickly.
Later, Captain Kelly was asked if it was a flying saucer. “I can’t of course be sure. Normally I would have taken it as a cloud phenomenon, but because of its speed and colours it put me in doubt; and because of the unusual interest and reports about ‘flying saucers’ recently, we naturally took a keener interest in it.
Three weeks later, Ireland had its own Roswell event, when a strange object, believed to be a flying saucer, crashed in a field in Corravilla, Bailieborough, County Cavan.
Like Roswell, the flying saucer rumours were soon scotched. According to gardaĆ­, the object was a radiosonde  - the business end of a weather balloon - belonging to the British Meteorological Office.
There were no subsequent reports of a second crash site, military requests for small coffins, missing nurses …
The Irish Times, 10 November 1950 and 28 November 1950

Friday, 6 May 2016

UFO Attacks Donegal

In February 1969, UFOs were buzzing counties Cork, Clare and Donegal.

On a number of nights, a red (though some said blue), low-flying UFO was seen near Lisgreen, an ancient fort near Kilkee, on the coast of County Clare. There were also reports that the object had landed at the site. One farmer's curiosity brought him to the fort for a closer look, but there was nothing there.

On Wednesday, 19 February 1969, an orange-coloured, oval-shaped object was blamed for damage to buildings in Belcruit and Bunawillan, in County Donegal. One witness, Mr James Bonner, said the object was extremely fast-moving and "came with a terrific roar." It was so fast he couldn't follow its movements.

Shortly after the object had passed, Mr Bonner heard two explosions. Seemingly, the UFO had destroyed a garage in Belcruit and ripped the roof of an outhouse in Bunawillan. There was no mention of a collision - or a death ray for that matter - in the report.

"The thing is the talk of the district and, of course, a complete mystery," said the Irish Times.

The Irish Times, 22 February 1969

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Mystery of the Shrieks in the Night

On the night of Friday, 1 March 1901, “an unearthly shrieking noise” woke the people of the neighbouring townlands of Bawn and Kilmore, near Nenagh in County Tipperary.
A “party of investigation” was quickly formed and sent out into the night. And though the shrieking continued during the search, and at times they seemed close, they were unable to find what was responsible for the unsettling sound.
When the shrieking finally stopped in the early hours of the morning, it was followed by a week of peaceful nights for the people of Bawn and Kilmore. Then Friday came again – and so did the shrieking.
And it continued. On Sunday, 10 March, Head Constable Horgan heard the shrieks while he was on duty in Bawn. With volunteers from the area, Horgan organized another search. They covered several miles of countryside that night. The dreadful noise continued – as it had on the previous search, but still they were unable to find its source.
On Tuesday, 12 March, District Inspector Sheil and thirty other officers joined Horgan. Civilian volunteers were now hard to come by; people would not leave their homes after sunset. But it was another fruitless search.
One police officer who had heard the shrieking on a number of occasions said it was “inhuman and terror-striking” and resembled the screams of a horse. It was so “terror-striking” that one woman who had heard it became “seriously ill.”
The police were very candid in admitting that they had no idea as to what was going on. They had no answers. But Irish Times readers were more than happy to offer their suggestions.
One reader wrote that a screech owl could be responsible. While another opined that the shrieks were made by a wurrum – a mythical beast that is half fish and half dragon.
No date is given for when the shrieking stopped. But it did stop. No cause for the shrieking was ever found.
Irish Times, 14, 18 and 20 March 1901