This website was designed with two functions in mind. The first being to inform Irish readers of the extensive though relatively under-explored phenomenon of lake monster sightings. The second purpose is to serve as something of a collection point for any relevant bits of information out there, be they anecdotes, personal experiences, or vague references of any sort, pertaining to unknown animals in Ireland.
One of the many far-reaching benefits of the internet is how the instant access to information and communication allows for a greater sense of democratization of such efforts as this one. During the short time this website has been available I’ve received a surprising number of emails from readers who took such interest in the matter that they sought out and visited some of the cited locations with the intention of seeing what they could find out for themselves. Of course, while field work is essential to research as a whole, there’s still likely to be a great wealth of information laying in wait amongst archives and literature. A trip to the regional library or a talk with a local historian can prove more rewarding (and even less costly) than trudging around in a remote bog for hours.
In this section I’ll be posting \ contributions readers have thoughtfully provided.
“Sea Serpent” in Connemara
Cork Examiner 15 October 1847
‘The Sea Serpent in Ireland’
The Correspondent of the Dublin Evening Mail writes as follows:-
I spent a few days during the past month (August) with a very pleasant party at the fishing lodge of a friend in the wilds of Connemara. In the vicinity of this lodge, there are several lakes of considerable extent. Many of these lakes are connected with each other and all of them have a communication of some kind with the sea; they abound during the season with salmon and sea-trout and afford much sport to the angler. Our conversation in the evening naturally turned on the sports of the day and the different objects of curiosity in the wild scenery around us. On one occasion our host stated that he had heard from his head keeper, or water-bailiff, a story of so extraordinary a nature that had he not known the narrator, and been satisfied that he was incapable of inventing a falsehood, he would have treated it with ridicule; that however, he was convinced that Conneely – such was his name – had told him nothing but what he (Conneely) believed to be strictly true.
It was immediately proposed that the man should be called in, and that we should hear the story from his own mouth. He accordingly entered, and stated that ten years ago (in the year 1837) he was fishing on a lake about a mile distant from the lodge in which we were sitting; he was in a boat, and was accompanied by two men. After fishing for some time, he had occasion to row towards the shore in order to repair some part of his tackle which was out of order, when he and his companions perceived that they were followed or rather accompanied, by some enormous body, which was moving towards the water close to their boat, and in a direction parallel to their course. This body, whatever it was, seemed to be endowed with life, and to possess the power of voluntary motion, and presented the appearance of a huge balk of timber moving through the water. Neither he nor his companions were enabled to perceive anything resembling a head, or to ascertain what means of locomotion it possessed, but the part of this strange creature which was visible to their eyes was at least ten yards, or thirty feet in length. He proceeded then to state that he and his companions were greatly alarmed at their proximity to this great extraordinary monster; that they pulled rapidly to shore, and, as they neared the land, their huge follower, which had surprised and terrified them so much, sank down and disappeared.
He and his comrades told their story at that time, and, as might be expected, found very few persons willing to believe in its reality, and the whole matter would probably have been forgotten had it not been for the extraordinary occurrence of which he declared himself, and at least twelve other men to have been eyewitnesses in the month of June in this present year, (1847). He stated that he was some time in the month of June on the shore, in the vicinity of the same lake; that he was in company with eleven or twelve men, who were employed in some kind of labour; that he happened to look in the direction of the lake, when he perceived an enormous body rise to the surface, which remained in view for a considerable time, so that he was enabled to call the attention of his companions to the sight. This large body, whatever it might be, remained stationary for some time, and then, slowly moving around in a semicircle, disappeared. He stated that it presented the appearance of three boats turned upside down, with intervals between them, that nothing like a head could be distinguished, but that part which was visible was at least thirty yards, or ninety feet in length.
I afterwards, while out fishing, mentioned the subject to my boatmen, and asked them if they believed in the existence of the extraordinary creature described by Conneely. One of them at once declared that he had been in the boat with Conneely in the year 1837. He corroborated the story in every particular, mentioning, among other things, that he was rowing, and that he lost four or five strokes of his oar, as the monster, whatever it might be, was so close to the boat that he was unable to put his oar in the water. He concluded by stating, that he and his companions were greatly alarmed, and he was sure, if they had not been so near the land, ‘they would never eat another bit’.
I may as well mention here that, so convinced are the keepers of the existence of this monster, that they are unwilling to fish in that part of the lake which they suppose him to inhabit. The next day, when walking through the mountains with several men whom we employed to carry our baggage, I mentioned the subject, in the hope of getting some more information, when I found that the boy who was at that moment who was carrying my carpet-bag, was one of those who witnessed this strange appearance two months before ( June 1847). The lad, who seemed to be 19 or 20 years of age, could speak no English; and as I could speak very little Irish, I put some questions to him through an interpreter. His answers fully corroborated Conneely. He stated that the creature, whatever it might, was black; that the circumference of the body was far greater than that of a horse; and on my enquiring its apparent length, his answer was, as far as from this to that rock, a space which appeared to me, measuring by the eye, to amount to some five – and – thirty yards. I have reason to believe that there are nine or ten other persons who will all depose to the same story. The place where this monster is said to exist is within 20 hours journey of the metropolis; the narrative is recent, and the witnesses are all forthcoming, and they are at all events, persuaded that some monstrous creature, answering very closely to the description of the great American sea-serpent exists at this moment in the lake of Connemara.”
This first item comes from Ed O’Riordan of Skeheenarinka, County Tipperary. Ed came upon this impressive gem while researching for his PhD with the History Department at Cork University. To my knowledge, this is the first this article has been reprinted since it’s original publication, making it quite the catch.
Elsewhere I’d stated that in the rural regions of Connemara the “horse-eel” was widely regarded as a natural member of the local fauna. Yet it would seem the author’s contacts did not regard them as anything commonplace. Adding to that, it’s curious that any local term for the animals is conspicuous lacking, as though those who had seen the beasts regarded them with the same awe and ignorance as a foreign visitor. As far as physical and behavioral insight into the animals themselves, the sighting wherein the creature was alongside a boat is similar to the Lough Derg sighting and would seem to comply with the impression that these animals are far from shy to human presence.