An image of Co Clare’s sea-serpent – Victorian Ireland’s equivalent of the Loch Ness monster – has resurfaced after 144 years.
The artist’s impression of the bizarre ocean creature, allegedly spotted off the coast of the resort village of Kilkee, has been found lurking in the depths of a London archive.
The “monster” was the subject of various reported sightings in the 19th-century, including one in 1850 when it was seen, improbably, “sunning itself near the Clare coast off Kilkee”.
The most notable sighting was in September 1871, when the “large and frightening sea monster” was seen by several people, who “all had their nerves considerably upset by the dreadful appearance of this extraordinary creature” .
The story first appeared in the Limerick Chronicle and quickly caught the attention of Fleet Street, where even the London Times commented on the appearance of the “fabled sea serpent in Ireland”.
But the most vivid account was provided by The Days’ Doings – an illustrated newspaper. Their artist’s impression of the scene, published in October 1871, has come to light during the digitisation of an archive of Victorian illustrated newspapers by the Mary Evans Picture Library in London.
The accompanying story described how a “party of strangers staying at Kilkee, composed of several ladies and some gentlemen – one of whom is a well-known clergyman in the north of Ireland” had been out walking, at a place known as the Diamond Rocks. “All of a sudden, their attention was arrested by the appearance of an extraordinary monster, who rose from the surface of the water about seventy yards from the place where they were standing.
“It had an enormous head, shaped somewhat like a horse, while behind the head and on the neck was a huge mane of seaweed-looking water; the eyes were large and glaring, and, by the appearance of the water behind, a vast body seemed to be beneath the waves.”
The story also appeared in several other British and American newspapers.