Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Scareship Letter

I love scareship stories almost as much as I love weasel stories, so I was overjoyed when I found the following in the Irish News and Belfast Morning News of 5 January 1910.
We are disposed to feel sceptical about news of weird and wonderful “shapes” manoeuvring in the higher regions of the atmosphere. Last year a London paper published sensational stories about the performance of one Dr. Boyd in a highly navigable dirigible balloon over Belfast and around the rear slopes of Cave Hill. No one saw Dr. Boyd; and his balloon never existed. Perhaps he did not exist himself. But his alleged exploits were nothing more visionary than aerial monsters which certain Belfast citizens of considerable credibility in other respects stated they had seen hovering threateningly over the Lisburn Road.
Remembering these things, we print the following communication from a correspondent in Drumnaherk, Letterbarrow, Co. Donegal, with due reserve. It is dated “Sunday, January 2nd”:-
“While two young men named Hughey Monaghan and Willie McBride were returning home from a Christmas Party in the early hours of Sunday morning, they were terrified by a strange noise which broke upon their ears. ‘It resembles the vibration of an engine,’ said Hughey. At first they were not able to locate the place; but after a few seconds they had no difficulty. The sound came as if from the clouds; and, looking up, they saw a huge monster moving slowly in the air.
“Asked as to what it looked like, the more intelligent of the two said – ‘It looked like a big cigar with wings. I could see it quite distinct, as it was an exceedingly clear morning; for the moon was shining brightly.’ Asked as to what height it was and what direction did it move in, he said – ‘It was within a gunshot and moved northwards.’
“This is the third airship that has been seen in this part of the County Donegal, and the peaceful inhabitants are greatly alarmed.”
Our correspondent, writing on Monday, sends the following addendum to his awe-inspiring communication –
“A mysterious letter has been found in the vicinity where the airship has been seen, supposed to have dropped from the occupants of the airship. The letter is written in a foreign language, and will be returned to the owner in due course.”
But this is “easier said than done.” If the people of Drumnaherk can locate the owner of the document, that is to say, “the occupant of the airship,” they will have solved the mystery. Lord Charles Beresford, Lord Roberts, and other scaremongers are wasting their time in England. If the British Empire is to be saved they must speedily “commission” one of the Bleriot aeroplanes just purchased by the Government to make a flight to the Co. Donegal. Lord Cawdor’s mistake is now evident. The Germans have no intention of establishing a naval base in Belfast; they intend to build a huge fortress, and within it manufacture destructive aerial warships at Drumnaherk.
As to the other incidents referenced in the article: a few months earlier, at about 5:30 am on Tuesday, 6 July 1909, an airship passed over the townland of Mountcharles, in County Donegal. And despite the early hour, thanks to the actions of a local Paul Revere (minus the horse) who called people out of their houses, there were many witnesses who saw the “cigar-shaped” airship and heard “the machinery working and the human sound of the occupants.”
So far I’ve failed to find anything on the other incident. Can anyone help?
 - Derry Journal, 9 July 1909
 - The Irish News and Belfast Morning News, 5 January 1910

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