Monday, 3 July 2017

The Earl of Erne's Eerie Light Mystery

A derelict church on the banks of Lower Lough Erne
In 1912, a mysterious light was appearing on Church Island, on Lough Beg, creating much interest and speculation in the newspapers. However, a similar light had been appearing on Lough Erne for years, and the interest in the Church Island mystery prompted the Earl of Erne to ask, via the Dublin Daily Mail [1], for the public’s help in solving his mystery.
“Sir – On December 17 an account was given of a mysterious light which has lately appeared in the vicinity of Church Island, Lough Beg, County Derry, Ireland. A somewhat similar light has at intervals been seen in this neighbourhood, Lough Erne, County Fermanagh.
“Of course it has been put down to supernatural causes, but I cannot help thinking that a scientific solution to the mystery is to be found if there be anyone capable of unravelling it.
“This light has been seen at intervals several times within the last six or seven years by ‘all sorts and conditions of men’ and women too. It is of a yellow colour, and in size and shape very much the same as a motor car lamp. It travels at a considerable pace along the top of the water – sometimes against the wind, at other times with it. It lights up all objects within a certain radius and disappears as quickly as it appears. It is mostly seen on stormy and wet nights rather than on fine ones.
“Perhaps some of your readers could throw some light on the matter.”
The Earl of Erne’s request generated a lot of responses. Most believed that the light was a will-o’-the-wisp. Others, such as the editor of the Derry Journal, believed that luminous owls were to blame.
The Earl was unimpressed. And while he professed to be seeking a “scientific” explanation, he seemed to despair that the public had hot grasped just how strange this light was. In another letter to the Dublin Daily Mail [2], he included a statement from his wife.
“On Easter Eve,1910, about 4.30pm, I saw a light crossing the lake below the windows of Crom Castle. It was like a large motor car lamp, seemingly quite round, and about 2 ft. across, like the sun when it sets on a winter’s evening. Its colour was a deep yellow. Its peculiarity was that it threw no light behind, but in front there was a blaze: so much so that when it passed a small copse on the borders of the lake it lit up the trees, showing each trunk clear and hard. I saw at once from the pace it was going that it could not be a motor lamp. It disappeared behind the trees as quickly as it appeared.”
Lower Lough Erne
Later that same year, according to the Earl, the head gardener at Crom Castle - aka the Earl's house - saw the light. It came directly towards him – then disappeared. And another gardener, who had the misfortune of being on a boat on the lough during his encounter, rowed for his life to get away from it.
What could it be?
A correspondent for the Northern Whig had one more theory: “… meteors of various sizes which change from yellow to red and blue are responsible.”
To the best of my knowledge, the Earl of Erne never solved the mystery.
  1. I couldn’t get a copy of the relevant issue of the Daily Mail, but the letter was reprinted in a number of newspapers, including the Derry Journal.
  2. As above, I’ve quoted from a reprint of the letter in the Northern Whig.
  • Derry Journal, 24 December 1912, 8 January 1913
  • Dublin Daily Express, 27 December 1912
  • Northern Whig, 2 January 1913

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