Sputnik in Clonsharragh
Nobody associates Ireland – North or South – with crashed-saucer stories. But on a number of occasions the authorities have been called to incidents that – initially – were suggestive of a crashed craft.
In February 1955, the village of Ballincagy, County Westmeath, was awash with rumours of a flying saucer after 15-year-old Leo Penrose saw a strange object come down in a field outside the village.
And in November 1950, an object that was believed to be a “flying saucer” crashed in a field in Coravilla, County Cavan.
Then there was that incident in Clonsharragh, County Wexford, in 1962.
The Garda investigated all of these events. They discovered that the Ballincagy object was a weather balloon, while the Coravilla object was a radiosonde – aka the business end of a weather balloon - belonging to the British Meteorological Office.
But when it came to explaining the Clonsharragh incident, they needed a little help from the Army.
The following comes form The New Ross Standard of 14 September 1962.
INGENIOUS HOAX AT DUNCANNON
Army Experts Examine “Mysterious Object”
CLONSHARRAGH, RAMSGRANGE, A QUIET AND PEACEFUL TOWNLAND ABOUT ONE MILE FROM DUNCANNON HARBOUR, ALMOST BECAME WORLD FAMOUS OVERNIGHT LAST WEEK-END, WHEN FIRST REPORTS OF A SPUTNIK LANDING ON THE FARM OF MR. ROBERT NOLAN, REACHED DUBLIN, WHERE A LARGE NUMBER OF FOREIGN NEWSPAPERMEN WERE GATHERED TO COVER THE INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE. EARLY REPORTS OF A FLASHING LIGHT FROM THE SKY, A LOUD EXPLOSION WHICH WAS HEARD IN A HALF-MILE RADIUS AND THE FINDING OF A BLACK METAL BALL WITH FOUR SPIKES STICKING OUT OF IT, INDICATED INGREDIENTS FOR A FRONT-PAGE STORY ON THE WORLD NEWSPAPERS.
AREA CORDONED OFF
Local people who first found the shining black object were mystified. They immediately notified Duncannon Garda Station. They, in turn, contacted Supt. W. M. O’Brien, New Ross, who informed the Army authorities whose experts said they would make the one-hundred mile journey from Dublin to inspect the object and were expected to arrive about 4 a.m. some five hours after Mr. Joseph Wallace, Kilbride, saw the flashing light and felt the ground tremble beneath him.
In the meantime, Garda T. Kerrigan, Duncannon, remained at the scene and was replaced around four o’clock by a force from New Ross.
At nine o’clock in the morning, the area was cordoned off and no one was allowed within a considerable distance of the object which was known to be sitting on top of some yellow clay in a five feet in diameter crater.
People came form a wide area to hear about the mysterious object, but they made no move to go near it even if they could – they were afraid in case it would blast them into eternity. What was it? Various opinions were put forward.
“It is a guided missile,” said one local. “It was probably fired from Cape Canaveral and meant to land in the harbour,” he added.
“I’d say ‘tis a sputnik,” said another, “or one of those yokes the Americans have for testing the upper atmosphere.”
“Whatever it is, ‘tis highly dangerous,” said another. “I wouldn’t like to near it anyhow.”
“It looks awful like a ball-cock to me,” said one of those who braved to go near it before the area was cordoned off.
And that is exactly what it turned out to be – a perfectly harmless cistern ball-cock with four brass rods sticking out of it, three from the top hemisphere.
The mystery was solved about one o’clock on Saturday when Comdt. P. J. McCourt, Sergt. M. P. Walsh and Cpl. M. J. Cleary, Ordnance Corps, Eastern Command, Dublin, arrived to inspect the object.
Comdt. McCourt’s official description – an ingenious hoax, a cistern ball-cock designed to give a Telstar effect.
Thus ended all the speculation which had been rife from the time Mr. Wallace, who was in the adjoining sportsfield, saw the flashing light and felt the ground tremble beneath him, after a loud explosion. Mr. Wallace related his experience to a few other local people and they decided to explore for themselves before notifying the Gardai.
When our representative called to the scene early on Saturday morning, there was quite a crowd of people gathered, including a number of tourists who were holidaying in Duncannon. A member of the Garda Siochana saw to it that no one entered the field and a lone soldier walked to and fro about a hundred yards from the mysterious object.
Amongst those present was Mr. Andrew Knox, Clonsharragh, who said he was going to bed when he heard the explosion, which was like a discharge from a shotgun or a burst tyre, but three times louder.
The “mystery” object was painted on the outside with black shellac and had four brass rods sticking out of it, each about six inches long and were probably stair rods. The inside was expertly assembled and was obviously the work of someone who knew quite a bit about electronics. It contained transistors and resistors, elaborate wiring and electronic devices probably taken from a wireless set.
The “sputnik” was found on the top of a sauce bottle top laid on top of a hole five feet in diameter which had obviously been dug beforehand.
When asked to explain the explosion which caused the earth to tremble for a considerable distance around, Comdt. McCourt said there was strong evidence to prove it was caused by gunpowder.
Before taking back the “sputnik” to headquarters with him, Comdt. McCourt said he would be able to trace the various items when he got time to examine them in detail. A piece of sponge inside originated Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, he said.
Local people believed that the incident had consequences which were not at all intended by the person or persons responsible. It is thought to have been an experiment by some space-minded person or persons who had hopes of establishing a Cape Canaveral in Ramsgate. The incident, it is believed, would have passed unnoticed were it not for the fact that Mr. Wallace was in the adjoining field. The Gardai, however, may have different ideas, as it was they and the military who were most upset by the hoax.
The Irish Times, 28 November 1950 and 17 February 1955
The New Ross Standard, 14 September 1962