Monday, 29 August 2016

Dirigible or Celestial Visitant?

At 7pm on Friday, 6 May 1910, some fishermen working on Doagh Island, County Donegal saw what they believed to be a foreign steamer coming from the North Atlantic. The “steamer,” which was blueish-grey, was moving quickly towards the mainland – about a quarter of a mile from their position.
The fishermen, believing it was going to crash, followed it. But they didn’t find a crash site where the craft had made landfall. No. The craft was floating over the land, moving “with a dipping motion, at an average of about 20 feet above sea level.”
The fishermen were now close enough to get a better look at the object. They described it as “being in the form of a torpedo boat, but larger and broader, and carrying with it a steam-like vapour which prevented detection of its exact shape.”
The object headed towards the townland of Legacurry. As it passed over the beach, an explosion was heard. Later, three boats were found to have been badly damaged. Though no one saw how the damage happened, the mystery craft was blamed.
The object continued in the direction of Malin town. As it neared the town, another explosion was heard and steam was seen rising from a field. There were cows in the field and one was found to have been badly injured. Again, the strange craft was blamed.
In total, the mystery craft covered travelled 10 miles over land.
But what was it?
“Coastguards, to whom the affair had been reported, fancy the object may have been a dismantled dirigible, but the country people hold to the view that it was a mysterious celestial visitant.”
The above story was taken from The Dublin Daily Express. The same incident was reported – almost word for word - in The Irish Times. The Times did add that the object was believed to be “in some way connected with the appearance of Halley’s comet," and that it had also visited Culdaff Bay before travelling back out to sea.
The Dundalk Examiner, however, despite continually referring to Legacurry as Legaburry, really put some meat on the bones of this story.
Importantly, the paper described the sounds the object made. For example, as it neared Legacurry, “the residents of the village, hearing deafening noise overhead, rushed out of their houses in a state of consternation. It is stated that the noise did not resemble thunder so nearly as it did the roar of a huge waterfall.”
According to the Examiner, the explosion at Legacurry, as reported by The Irish Times and The Dublin Daily Express, was followed by “a dull thud, as if of a falling substances.” Later it was found that “part of a mud bank had been furrowed as if with a gigantic plough for over twenty yards.”
And when the object reached Malin, the people there described the noise it made as “a tremendous sound like that of a violent hail storm.”
In terms of what the craft was, the Examiner was firmly with the coastguards, who believed that the object “is one of the great dirigibles that were some time ago lost in the North Sea.” According to the Examiner, a dirigible’s trailing anchor could have been responsible for the “ploughing” on the mud bank and the damage to the boats.
Not everyone was buying it. The Examiner account ends: “The fishing population speak of the visitation as being of quite an unearthly description, and pray they may be spared a recurrence of it.”
  • The Dublin Daily Express, 11 May 1910
  • The Irish Times, 14 May 1910
  • The Dundalk Examiner, 14 May 1910


  1. Very interesting! It reminds me of this report of an "apparition" off the Normandy coast just a couple of months later.

  2. Thanks Undine. I liked the Donegal incident as it doesn't seem to have been triggered by events elsewhere in Ireland or the UK (unlike Belfast and Dublin incidents in 1909, for example). Perhaps there are more of these isolated examples still to be found.

  3. 1910 was another peak year in terms of sightings of unidentified celestial objects.

    A few examples from my database: In May, German balloonists complained of seeing strange lights; and after the May, Donegal and the July, coast of Normandy incidents there was even a crash of a mystery airship in August, at Desau, France. Nothing was found although a woodsman saw 'an airship' enveloped in flames crashing to the earth in the woods.

    July also saw a Close Encounter of the Third Kind in Indiana where startled folks saw airships passing near two cities. One saw 'a balloon' with two occupants that flew 'so low that the two men in the balloon asked where they were...' - a typical UFO occupant ploy, asking for directions or what time it is, as John Keel astutely pointed out.

    For 1910 I have 104 listings but I know we could easily multiply these many imes over (for instance the 1909-1910 Tillinghast airship flap over in New England and environs).

    Best regards,