Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sky Ships Over Dublin

In July 1852, Dublin had two sky ship incidents. The first took place on 5 July.
On Monday evening last a phenomenon, rarely if ever seen in these countries, was distinctly visible to a number of inhabitants of Upper and Lower Temple-Street at a quarter past eight o’clock, the sun then shining bright, and the sky perfectly cloudless. A large ship, about the size of a seventy-four gun vessel, in full sail, was seen suspended at a considerable height in the air and moving at a rapid pace from S.S.W. to N.N.E. It passed directly over the spire of St. George’s Church. The ship itself, mast, cordage and sails, were as distinct in this phantom ship as if it were a real vessel crossing the channel. After remaining for eight minutes visible it began to grow indistinct until at length it vanished.
Shortly after this incident, a reader of Freeman’s Journal saw three sky ships. Though fascinated by the phenomenon, he was confident there was a simple explanation.
Many of your readers who read an article in a few numbers back respecting the “phantom ship,” observed few evenings since in the heavens, imagined such to be a mere invention, never considering that similar has been witnessed very frequently but in other latitudes; but what was our own astonishment this evening to observe no less that three of these ariel ships immediately over Sandy Cove Point, at an elevation of about fifty feet, in full sail to the south. They were visible for about five or six minutes, and gradually vanished. They appeared to be full rigged ships, with all sails set; it was observed that the sternmost one was more distinct that the other. This was accounted for that a slight haze was passing over them at the moment, the wind blowing gently from the south-east at the time. It occurs to me that, on inquiry I shall find that, about this time, forty-five minutes past six, three such vessels were starting down channel, and from the peculiar state of the atmosphere were refracted. In the olden time it was supposed strange sights in the heavens forboded good or evil, and was looked on in those bygone times as such, but now that these strange things can be accounted for, an occurrence similar to what I have described creates in the mind of the observer a feeling of astonishment only. However, if strange events come on us, I trust they will be beneficial to our country.
  • Limerick and Clare Examiner, 7 July 1852
  • Freeman’s Journal, 15 July 1852

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Phantom Ships and Déjà Vu

Recently, while looking for phantom ship stories, I came across the following, which appeared in the Derry Journal of 10 June 1936. While not particularly exciting, it caused a major case of déjà vu and had me thumbing through my files.
The fishing community of Doonalt have been perturbed and somewhat alarmed by recent occurrences which are said to have taken place in the Glen Bay.
While returning from the Poll na Bpiobac pier a few nights ago, a number of residents saw a yawl leaving the anchorage and heading for the other side of the bay, but no boats left the place in question. Nor were there any at lobster fishing on that particular night.
On Sunday night, while the High Flier, which was engaged at Glasson fishing at Rathlin o’ Beirne fishing grounds was returning home to Doonalt, her crew saw the glimmering lights of another vessel following in their wake. Believing it to be that of another boat which was engaged fishing on Rathlin o’ Beirne grounds, no notice was taken of it until the first boat arrived within a short distance of the harbor when the pursuing boat disappeared.
Some fishermen have endeavoured to connect the mystery with the activities of foreign fishing vessels, but the crew of the fishing boat in question have discounted the theory and maintain that their pursuer was a phantom ship.
In my files I found this, from the Derry Journal of 2 November 1934:
The fishing community of Downings have been perturbed and somewhat alarmed by recent occurrences which are said to have taken place in Sheephaven Bay.
While returning home from the pier some nights ago a number of residents in the Downings district beheld a yawl leaving the anchorage and heading for the opposite side of the bay. But no boats left the place in question, nor were there any at the herring fishing on this particular night.
On another occasion while one of a trio of motorboats which were engaged at herring fishing in Dunfanaghy Bay was returning to port her crew beheld the glimmering light of another vessel following in the wake. Believing it to be that of one of the other boats, no notice had been taken of it until the former vessel had arrived within a short distance of the harbor when the pursuing boat had disappeared.
Some fishermen have endeavoured to connect the mystery with the activities of foreign trawlers which of late have made frequent visits to the bay, but the crew of the fishing vessel in question have discounted the theory and maintain that their pursuer was a phantom ship.
Any comments?
  • Derry Journal, 2 November 1934 & 10 June 1936

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Northern Ireland's Earliest Saucer Sighting?

At 2 am on Friday, 11 July 1947, two anglers, fishing on the River Faughan in Derry, saw an object “like a motor wheel which flashed across the sky and disappeared from their sight with light flashing from its edges.” I had always believed that this was Northern Ireland’s earliest post-Arnold saucer sighting. Recently, however, I found the following letter, published in the Northern Whig of 10 July 1947. On the face of it, it’s a straight account of an earlier sighting. But, like many UFO reports, it’s not as straightforward as it seems.
Dear Sir
In view of the fact that an English lady has seen what she believed to be a Flying Saucer, the following experience of mine may be of interest.
[FI Note: I believe the “English lady” to be Marjorie Hyde, who, at 5:15pm on Monday, 30 June 1947, saw a ring-shaped object while she waited at a level crossing in Sandwich, Kent. 
According to Hyde: “It was moving from left to right – inland from the direction of the sea. It was not very high up or didn’t appear to be. It was not a smoke ring from the passing engine. I’m positive it wasn’t that – it was too perfect in shape and its edges were not blurred but clear cut. It was definitely a ring and not filled in like a saucer. It was going at a fairly high speed. I saw it for about three or four seconds before it seemed to disappear into a cloud.”]
On Tuesday evening, 8th inst., I was bird-watching at Newcastle. My glasses picked up what I thought were a number of gulls flying inland at a great height. As these came nearer, however, I saw what appeared to be about a dozen round white objects in loose formation and moving very fast.
They left in their wake a wispy grey cloud which hung in the air for some time. I have no idea as to their size as it was only with difficulty that I was able to follow their progress with my glasses. They disappeared in a westerly direction.
The letter was purportedly from a W A Nesbitt – who had included his full Belfast address.
And there was a Mr W A Nesbitt living at that address. We know this because he later contacted the Whig to inform them that he had not had a flying saucer encounter. The Whig was happy to apologise: “The letter was published by us in good faith and in expressing our regret we would also tender our apologies to Mr Nesbitt.”
Unfortunately, the Northern Whig did not pursue this incident. Which is a shame. Because, even though the saucer sighting itself was not particularly "sexy," I can't help but wonder if the whole thing was a hoax, or a genuine incident reported - for whatever reason - under a purloined name?
  • The Belfast Telegraph, 11 July 1947
  • Northern Whig, 9, 10 & 11 July 1947

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Dr Snaggleton and the Portrush Merman

On Thursday, 10 September 1874, the following story appeared in The York Herald. It was attributed to a correspondent of the Coleraine Chronicle.
A Merman or a Hoax?
The inhabitants of Portrush have been thrown into a state of alarm during the past few weeks by the report that a curious and previously unheard-of species of sea-monster had been observed in the neighbourhood of the “Blue Pool.” It seems that Dr. Snaggleton, a scientific and highly gifted naturalist, and a writer of some repute, was taking a pull in a boat, accompanied by two ladies, when his attention was drawn to this singular and extraordinary creature. Dr. Snaggleton thus describes him: “In form and colour he has much the appearance of an ordinary man; the skin was perfectly white, with the exception of the lower part of the body, which appeared to be striped, and of a blue and white colour; there was a great quantity of black hair underneath the chin, and the nose appeared to be prominent and well-developed. When I observed him he was standing composedly on the top of a small cliff, with the arms pressed close down to the sides; and suddenly, to my astonishment, he took a sort of side leap into the sea, within 20 feet of our boat. Fearing for the safety of the occupants of our small craft, I quickly pulled out into the open sea, and saw nothing more of him.” Dr. Snaggleton believes the creature to belong to a species termed, “Submergis Japanarius, or Japanese sea diver,” a very common animal on the northern shores of Japan, and is borne out in this opinion by Professor Dobbs, F.R.S., who says that “these extraordinary creatures have been frequently mistaken for human beings, and are usually seen in small shoals near Yokohama;” and from the fact that a few of them have lately been seen in the direction of the Skerries, we are inclined to believe that these interesting specimens belong to the tribe mentioned by the learned professor; but how or by what means  they have wandered to our shores is a problem we are not able to solve. We may add that Dr. Snaggleton intends, if possible, to procure a specimen, and place it in the British Museum.
The York Herald wasn’t the only newspaper to carry this story. It appeared in many British newspapers, including the London Evening Standard. In fact, the story even made it as far as New Zealand. But, according to the Irish Times, they may all have been caught up in a hoax created for a local target.
A paragraph has gone the rounds of the papers entitled “A merman or a hoax?” The supposed monster was seen bathing at Portrush, our Northern watering place; and is described as being remarkably like a man. We hear on good authority that the creature daily performs singular antics before an admiring crowd – male, of course; and that he may be seen clothed and in his right mind at the principal hotel of that town. The paragraph first appeared in the local newspaper, and was possibly intended to shame the bather into decency. The joke was so well done, however, that even the London papers took it up and presented it to their readers in the absence of news of greater importance. The gentleman concerned is a medical practitioner, and is quite famous as a swimmer of marvelous strength. In struggling, however, for the evanescent popularity of a few gaping school-boys, he has managed to make himself notorious throughout the Three Kingdoms.
  • The York Herald, 10 September 1874
  • The Irish Times, 11 September 1874
  • Otago Witness, 6 February 1875