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.
Sources:
  • 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

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