Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Sea Serpent Shenanigans in 1850

In September 1850, Cork went sea serpent crazy. It was all a fabulous hoax, of course, and it began with the following letter [1].
Courtmasherry, 29th Aug. 1850.
Sir - The following particulars, the accuracy of which need not be questioned, will I doubt not interest many of your readers.
The different fishing establishments on the shores of this extensive bay, extending from the Old Head of Kinsale to the Seven Heads, have been within the last few days abundantly supplied with fish of every description, and the greatest activity prevails in availing of the bounty which has been thus sent to us literally in shoals. It has been noticed too, that some description of fish - haak for instance, have been captured further within the limits of the inner harbour than was ever known before. In fact, as I heard it observed the fish were literally leaping ashore.
These novel appearances, however, it was my lot to see fully accounted for yesterday. At about 1 o’clock A.M. when sailing in my yacht, with a slight breeze off shore, about two miles to the south of the beacon erected on “Barrels” rocks, one of the party of four gentlemen on board (Mr. B. of Bandon) drew attention towards the structure mentioned, with the interrogatory of “do you see anything queer about the Barrels?” In an instant the attention of all on board was rivitted on on an object which at first struck me as like the up-heaved thick end of a large mast, but which, as it was made out plainer, proved to be the head of some huge fish or monster. On bearing down towards the object, we could distinctly see, with the naked eye, what I can best describe as an enormous serpent without mane or fur or any like appendage. The portion of the body above the water and which appeared to be rubbing or scratching itself against the beacon, was fully thirty feet long and in diametre I should say about a fathom. With the aid of a glass it was observed that the eyes were of immense size, about nine inches across the ball,  and the upper part of the back appeared covered with a furrowed shell-like substance. We were now within rifle shot of the animal, and although some onboard exhibited pardonable nervousness at the suggestion, it was resolved to fire a ball at the under portion of the body, whenever the creature’s unwieldy evolutions would expose its vulnerable part. The instant the piece was discharged the monster rose as if impelled by a painful impulse to a height which may appear incredible - say at least 30 fathoms - and culminating with the most rapid motion, dived or dashed itself under water with a splash that absolutely stopped our breaths with amazement. In a few moments all disturbance of the water subsided, and the strange visitor evidently pursued his course to seaward. On coming up to the beacon we were gratified to find adhering to the supports numerous connected scaly masses, such as one would think would be rubbed from a creature “coating” or changing its old skin for a new one. These interesting objects can be seen at the Horse Rock Coast Guard Station, and will well repay a visit.
These particulars I have narrated in the clearest manner I am able, and if others, in other boats, who had not so good an opportunity of seeing the entire appearance of the animal as those in my boat had, should send you a more readable account of it, I pledge myself none will more strictly adhere to the facts.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
1. I was unable to access any issues of the Cork Constitution for 1850. Fortunately, the letter was reproduced in a number of newspapers, including the Cork Examiner.
Cork Examiner, 2 September 1850

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Meteor or Robot?

At 5:20pm on Tuesday, 18 January 1955, a witness (no name was given in the report) saw a “bright, silvery ball of light” moving quickly, in an easterly direction, across the sky over County Donegal [1]. It was about the size of an orange, and it reminded the witness of a Tilley light. “There was no trail as in the case of a shooting star and neither were there any rays of light shed around it.” The sighting lasted a “split second.”
That same evening, there were UFO reports from County Kildare and County Laois. According to the Irish Times: “Controversy has been caused in the midlands by the appearance in the sky on Tuesday evening of a brilliant disc which was seen by people living as far apart as Castledermot, Co. Kildare, and Portarlington, Leix. Some observers who have suggested that the disc was a flying saucer say that there were coloured streaks trailing from its base as it travelled slowly in an east-west direction.”
In fact, there were many UFO sightings across Scotland around the same time. While most of the witnesses saw a “ball of fire”, at 5:15pm, in Falkirk, a mother and daughter saw an object that had the shape of a flat fish and a tail made up of many brilliant coloured lights. The lights, said the mother, fascinated her.
A couple of weeks later, the Derry Journal reported that they had found some more witnesses in Donegal, including “some young ladies” who had become “overcome with fright” at the object’s “vividness.”
They also spoke to Mrs James Moore of Creenasmear in County Donegal, who saw a “bright, glowing light” pass over the area between 4:30pm and 5:00pm on that Tuesday. According to Mrs Moore, the object was “about the size of the mouth of a bucket and had a trail of fire as long as a telegraph pole.” It didn’t move in a straight line; it swooped and zig-zagged. And it didn’t move particularly fast.
Mrs Moore’s son, Charles, also noted the object’s strange swooping and zigzagging motion. Charles believed that the object was either a “damaged aeroplane or a robot.” Suspecting that it may have crashed on Beighy Hill - about two miles away - he set out the next morning to investigate. He found neither crashed aeroplane nor crashed robot.
1 The location of the sighting was not reported, but based on the Derry Journal's follow-up item it’s fair to say it was somewhere over County Donegal.
  • Derry Journal 28 January & 11 February 1955
  • Falkirk Herald, 22 January 1955
  • The Irish Times, 21 January 1955