To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s encounter with some pelicans, I’m posting two stories from 1947. Individually, they’re both quite interesting. Together, however, they illustrate how, even in rural Ireland, Arnold’s sighting quickly influenced how we interpret strange things seen in the sky.
The first story appeared in the Leinster Leader on 8 February 1947, a few months before Arnold’s encounter.
The curious appearance of the “Ballingar Light” is a phenomenon in the Ballingar district, near Daingean, which has puzzled local people for years and for which many different explanations have been offered. It concerns the sudden appearance, in the remote district of Ballymoney, of a light of extraordinary brilliance which illuminates the entire area around and which seems to be concentrated on a shallow valley near the roadside. It was seen some time ago by two members of the St. Conleth’s staff, Daingean, one of whom told the writer that the light saved them from a very nasty accident. They were cycling past the spot late at night when the light appeared, and besides revealing the valley, it showed them an animal lying across the road blocking their path. They would have cycled into it and sustained some injuries were it not for the sudden appearance of the light. Visiting the place later to find an explanation for the light, they found, at the bottom of the valley, a large and curiously-shaped stone. According to Mr. Thomas Dunne, a reliable authority on such matters locally, this is a Mass Rock which was used during the Penal days by hunted priests. It is mentioned as such in various histories of the Diocese, including Dr Comerford’s. A more mundane explanation offered is that the light comes from motor cars turning on the road some distance above the valley!
The second story, also from the Leinster Leader, appeared in the 23 August 1947 issue.
A number of people who witnessed a strange phenomenon in the sky over portion of Derries Bog, near Cloncannon, on Thursday evening last, are puzzled as to its origin and significance. Those who witnessed it were first made aware of something unusual by hearing a sort of explosion in the skies and on looking upwards saw countless objects, like large birds, diving and circling at a great height above them. The objects eventually fell in the bog, but so far as can be ascertained, none have been recovered. Some explanations given concern military practice in the Curragh; the “flying saucers;” and that strange “furl blast” or “fairy wind” which strikes downwards at the earth and returns to the sky carrying with it anything movable in its passage. Its visit is regarded by old people as being an infallible sign of fine weather.
- Leinster Leader, 8 February & 23 August 1947