Saturday, 26 May 2018

... with bog nuts moving in from the east.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Ireland was once a place where you could expect to see showers of honey, silver - and even blood. We don’t get as much silver and blood as we used to – possibly due to climate change, but we still get the odd shower of honey – amongst other things.
In Shinrone, County Offaly, in 1849, a very localised shower left honey dripping off the leaves of the trees in the grounds of the chapel. Some of the local children collected the honey – and some were brave enough to taste it. They said it tasted exactly like natural honey.
In May 1867, it rained berries over parts of Dublin. The berries had a charred appearance and emitted quite an aromatic smell when they were broken open. Seemingly, botanists and chemists were stumped. But a Leinster Road resident proclaimed to have the answer.
“A friend gave me some of those berries, which are, in fact, the immature fruit of the orange, and used to be imported into this country some twenty or thirty years ago for the purposes of flavouring malt liquors; but being considered deleterious, were subsequently prohibited by Act of Parliament. I had the curiosity, on my way to Marsh’s Library this morning, to call at an eminent druggist’s establishment in that neighbourhood [the streets around St Patrick’s Cathedral], to inquire if the young men on the premises knew anything about the matter, and it appears that they had a large stock of these berries, which they threw out into the lane near the Library, and all the mischievous urchins of the neighbourhood immediately gathered them up, and used them for missiles indiscriminately.”
Another “expert” insisted that they were only hazelnuts – albeit hazelnuts that “had been preserved in a bog for centuries.” He did not mention if urchins were responsible for harvesting these bog nuts.
On 29 May 1928, it rained tiny, red fish at a farm near Comber in County Down. Immediately before the fish arrived, the area had experienced a violent storm, and many of the trees surrounding the farm were scorched, as if they had been hit by lightning. This prompted a professor from Queens University Belfast to opine that the two were connected. He theorised that a whirlwind created by the storm had sucked up the fish out of the sea and deposited them on the farm.
And on 22 August 1903, it rained “maggots” at the farm of Thomas Morrison, in Killygullib, County Derry. The “maggots” were about an inch-long and had the basic shape of a maggot, but were a greyish-brown colour and had two horns, two eyes, feet and tails that could disappear into their bodies. Morrison kept a few samples, but they died soon after he collected them.
The Killygullib story is a reminder that, when in Ireland, you should have an umbrella with you at all times.
  • The Constitution, 22 August 1903
  • The Cork Constitution, 16 May 1867
  • The Dublin Evening Mail, 14 May 1867
  • The Dublin Evening Post, 24 July 1849
  • The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 30 May 1928

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Hat's Amazing!

In 1853, hat-moving was quickly replacing table-turning as the new craze in those places where they had time for crazes. They were doing it in London. They were doing it in Paris. And – evidently – they were doing it in Sunday’s Well, County Cork.
Mr Editor – On last evening I was present at a hat-moving, which was conducted as follows: - A small table was placed in the centre of the room; an ordinary silk hat was placed thereon, with the leaf downwards. Two gentlemen and two ladies placed their hands lightly on the crown, their fingers touching each other to establish the electric chain. In about two minutes the hat began to move gently in a circle, which it increased gradually, and in about five minutes it increased its velocity in a most extraordinary manner, whirling around to the utmost extent that the circumference of the table would admit. A lady and a gentleman having withdrawn their hands the speed diminished.
That the experiment was fairly tried, I can confidently assert – the persons engaged were all anxious to test the matter fairly, and the result removed all doubt, and astonished all who were in the room. Any of your readers who try the experiment will be satisfied with the result. Three can perform it as well as four. Their hands should be placed lightly on the crown of the hat and touching each other. All laughing or talking should be avoided, as the concentration of the mind on the object will greatly contribute to the success of the trail.
Sunday’s-well, May 27, 1853
But what was behind this phenomenon? Nowadays, to answer a question like this, you’d either get together a bunch of lads with EMF meters, EVP recorders and night vision goggles, or a bunch of lads who have none of this stuff but went to good universities and/or used to be private detectives before becoming magicians.
But there’s no need for any of this: you just need some bottles, a book, a really heavy toolbox – and some farmers.
Sir – I am induced to send you the result of some experiments on animal magnetism, tried by me, hoping they will obtain a place in your paper, and thus excite the attention of some of your readers who have more opportunity of prosecuting this very wonderful discovery. I particularly desire you will remember that I write not with any ostentatious inclination to figure in print, but purely with the above intention. I also wish it to be understood that I was as much an unbeliever as anyone till I convinced myself.
Whether this strange motion is really the result of animal magnetism, or, as Mr. Brett surmises [1], an induced low order of vitality, it undoubtedly is a real power, before which, in my opinion, the surprising electric telegraph, or the marvellous photograph, are eclipsed. I cannot help thinking that the time may come when, instead of horses, &c., draughting in the ordinary manner, by taking advantage of some modification of this new discovery, motive power will be induced by the magnetism of their bodies. This is the age of wonders, the word impossible is all but obsolete, philosophers say we are on the eve of discoveries more curious than any that have yet appeared. Surely this is one –
EXPERIMENT 1. – I placed a hat on the table and laid my fingers on it, I directed an attendant to act similarly, we now linked the little fingers, and, although we waited nearly fifteen minutes, we were unable to move it – had we continued longer at it we would have succeeded.
EXP. 2. – I now allowed the crown of the hat to rest on three tumblers, and, by placing a book across two bottles, formed an insulated stand, a similar one I found for my attendant; we now stood on those and joined the small fingers, as in the first experiment, in about three minutes the hat began to move slowly round, in a direction contrary to that in which the hands of a clock go, we kicked the bottles away and walked round with it several times; the moment we took we took our hand away the motion ceased.
Exp. 3. – Fearing that partly the motion might be caused by pushing, I placed four bottles in the hat, and on it laid two very heavy books, the hat resting on the tumbler, we now formed the magnetic chain and it began to move; our fingers were laid as lightly as possible on the leaf of the hat, and even had we pressed them ever so heavily on it we could not have advanced the hat without taking hold of it.
Exp. 4. – I now took the hat off the tumbler, and all things being similar to the first experiment, the hat rotated in less than a minute, two additional persons now joined and the effect was to induce the hat to move faster.
EXP. 5. – Wishing to know if it was the operators or the hat which was changed, I experimented on a book, this quickly went round. I now ordered a tool chest full of tools to be brought and laid on a tripod of bottles (I selected this chest as it was the heaviest I could procure), I operated upon it with a single attendant, and in a short time it went round with a considerable velocity, and continued to do so as long as we pleased to walk round with it. I ordered a person to sit on the chest, he did not in the least impede the motion. I placed a wire – laying the fingers on this seemed to produce no particular effect. Subsequently I moved a large piece of iron, a glass basin, a tea tray and all its appendages, a loaf of bread, &c.
EXP. 6. – I now formed a chain of seven persons, and attempted to move a large table, we and the table were uninsulated; in about a quarter of an hour the table gave several sensible vibrations in a direction north and south, and soon after moved nearly a quarter round. We continued at the table half-an-hour, and the only additional phenomena observed was a few more oscillations in the same direction as the preceding. I have no doubt had the table been smaller, the number of operators larger, or even were they insulated, or had they continued longer, they would have moved the table as easily as the hat, &c.
Arguing from these experiments, I conceived the notion of suspending the operators, and causing the fluid-magnetic to turn them. I have not yet completed the apparatus, but when I have I will be happy to make know the results.
Many persons entertain the notion that before performing these wonders they require to be mesmerised, magnetised, electrified, or at least be of a peculiarly sensitive disposition, such an idea is perfectly incorrect, the persons employed by me were farm servants. 
There are some minutes connected with the above experiments, which I would detail, did I not think I have trespassed too much on the columns of this paper.  I will only say that I have succeeded in inducing motion by touching the hat, &c., with tin-foil held between the joined hands. 
I know there are persons who imagine the motion is caused by the action of the will on the hand, or, in other words, by pushing. Such an idea is completely and perfectly false; the motion is caused by some unseen and extraordinary agency. If I could afford any other information to an inquirer into this art I would feel happy.
Yours, &c., E. B. F., Tamplebreden, May 
  1. Despite at least 5 minutes of frantic Googling, I was unable to identity Mr Brett.
  • The Cork Examiner, 27 May 1853
  • The Irish Farmers’ Gazette, 11 June 1853