Saturday 2 November 2013

mermaids or walruses?

Welsh Mermaids?

There have been stories of people seeing mermaids off the coast of Wales especially the mid Wales coast line. I have gathered a few up from the last few hundred years.
The first story is of an alleged sighting of a mermaid near Pendine, Carmarthenshire in 1603. The creature was first seen by Thomas Raynold, a yeoman from Pendine, who then summoned others to keep watch for three hours. William Saunders of Pendine later examined Raynold and some of the other witnesses and took down their testimony..
You can read the original pamphlet here :
( It is in olde English)

Then in a book “A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791” By Mary Morgan (London, 1795) was this story:
Letter 43 Mrs Morgan To Mrs. G .Haverfordwest, Sept. 22. 1791
IF you delight in the marvellous, I shall now present you with a tale that is truly so; and yet, from the simple and circumstantial manner in which it was told by the person who believed he saw what is here related, one would almost be tempted to think there was something more than imagination in it. However, I will make no comments upon the matter, but give it you, exactly as I copied it from a paper lent me by a young lady, who was educated under the celebrated Mrs, Moore,[Hannah Moore] and who has acquired a taste for productions of the pen, and likewife for whatever may be deemed curious. Mr. M[organ] enquired of the gentleman who took down the relation from the man's own mouth, a physician of the first respectability, what credit might be given to it. He said, the man was of that integrity of character, and of such simplicity also, that it seemed difficult to believe he should be either able or willing to fabricate this wonderful tale. Farther the doctor was silent, and so am I.Henry Reynolds, of Pennyhold [Pen-y-hold], in the parish of Castlemartin, in the county of Pembroke, a simple farmer, and esteemed by all who knew him to be a truth-telling man, declares the following most extraordinary story to be an abfolute fact, and is willing, in order to satisfy such as will not take his bare word for it, to swear to the truth of the same. He says, he went one morning to the cliffs, that bound his own lands, and form a bay near Linny-stack. From the eastern end of the same, he saw, as he thought, a person bathing very near the western end, but appearing from almost the middle up, above water. He, knowing the water to be deep in that place, was much surprized at it, and went along the cliffs, quite to the western end, to see what it was. As he got towards it, it appeared to him like a person sitting in a tub. At last he got within ten or twelve yards of it, and found it then to be a creature much resembling a youth of sixteen or eighteen years of age, with a very white skin, sitting in an erect posture, having, from somewhat about the middle, its body quite above the water; and directly under the water there was a large brown substance, on which it seemed to float. The wind being perfectly calm, and the water quite clear, he could see distinctly, when the creature moved, that this- substance was part of it. From the bottom there went down a tail much resembling that of a large conger eel. Its tail in deep water was straight downwards, but in shallow water it would turn it on one side. The tail was continually moving in a circular manner. The form of its body and arms was entirely human, but its arms and hands seemed rather short and thick in proportion to its body. The form of the head, and all the features of the face, were human also ; but the nose rose high between its eyes, was pretty long, and seemed to terminate very sharp. Its head was white like its body, without hair ; ut from its forehead there arose a brownish substance of three or four fingers breadth, which turned up over its head, and went down over its back, and reached quite into the water. This substance did not at all resemble hair, but was thin, flat, and compact, not much unlike a ribbon. It did not adhere to the back part of its head, or neck, or back ; for the creature lifted it up from its neck, and washed under it. It washed frequently under its arms, and about its body.It swam about the bay, and particularly round a little rock, which Reynolds was within ten or twelve yards of. He said about an hour looking at it. It was so near him that he could perceive its motion through the water was very rapid; and that, when it turned, it put one hand into the water, and moved itself round very quickly. It never dipped under the water all the time he was looking at it. It looked attentively at him, and the cliffs and seemed to take great notice of the birds flying over its head. Its looks were wild and fierce ; but it made no noise, nor did it grin, or any way distort its face. When he left it, it was above an hundred yards from him; and when he returned with some others to look at it, it was gone. This account was taken down by Doctor George P - - - at Prickers-ton, from the man's own mouth, in presence of many people, about the latter end of December 1782. (Morgan 1791 : 302-6)

This is a folktale but no date:
He also had a mermaid tale, like that of Pergrin from Dyfed. A fisherman from Mandrifto yn Rhos, between Colwyn and Llandudno, had caught a mermaid in his net. She asked to be set free, promising that she would, in case he complied, do him a kindness. He consented, and one fine day, a long while afterwards, she suddenly peeped out of the water near him, and shouted: Siôn Ifan, cwyd dy rwyda' a thyn tua'r Ian, 'John Evans, take up thy nets and make for the shore.' He obeyed, and almost immediately there was a terrible storm, in which many fishermen lost their lives.(p201) You can read the full text here  :
Then there is the town of Conwy said to be under a  curse. Before the building of Conwy Castle, the story goes, “a group of fishermen were casting their nets in the river, when they saw a remarkable sight. There in the net was a creature with long black hair and a fishlike tail. The fishermen had heard of such creatures and great danger was associated with them. They then saw the look of fear in her eyes, and decided there was no danger. They hauled her into the boat, and took her into the town. Many people came to see her, as she begged and begged to be returned to the sea, but the men decided they were going to keep her. But keeping her out of water she suffered a long lingering death. As she died she cursed the people of Conwy, and vowed that there would be many drown in the river, diseases and disasters in the town. No one knows what became of the fishermen, but in 1806 the ferry from the east bank of the river capsized drowning everyone. Of course the mermaids curse was blamed.”
The most recent I could find was in Aberystwyth in  July 1826 . From cliffs near the town 12  people watched a beautiful pale woman washing herself in the sea, with what appeared to be a black tail splashing around behind her.

So what did people see? As we don’t normally have manatees (the usual explanation for mermaid sightings) around the UK coast, I suggest it may have been some sort of seal. Occasionally a Walrus has been sighted off the coast and sometimes unusual seals that are not our normal visitors . Some seals can look quite peculiar with odd noses and hairy whiskery bits. In 1600s and 1700s certainly even locals would not know what they were. What do you think…mermaids are real or are  misidentified sea creatures?

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