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The creature had a large fish gripped firmly in its huge jaws. Photo by: Irish Voice Newspaper

Our very own Loch Ness Monster on the River Shannon

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The creature had a large fish gripped firmly in its huge jaws. Photo by: Irish Voice Newspaper

So what happened was that I was girding my ancient loins to head over to Scotland and the regions near Lough Ness of the dreaded monster, and dammit if such a similar situation developed in our townland that I was almost afraid to leave the poor Dutch Nation on her own.

And that’s the honest truth, and I’ve forwarded the evidence to our own Debbie and Caty as proof beyond reasonable doubt as you'll see from the photo at the bottom of this page.

Like yourselves over there we have had bad weather. Ours was not on the same scale as yours but we did have a lot of rain.

The land is saturated and the tidal estuary of the Shannon and Fergus spilled over into the loughs which dot the flatlands. And one of those loughs, thankfully not too near us to cause concern, is the normally beautiful and serene Cleenagh Lough behind the home of our good neighbors Jimmy and Joanne White across the road.

And what happened next a few afternoons ago is that artist Joanne was in one of the sheds at the rear of their garden running down to the lough when she glanced out the window and was instantly riveted to the pot.

For there at the verge, only a few yards away from her, was this predatory creature of a species she had never seen before (and she is country raised), and it was sitting proudly over a fish maybe six or seven pounds in weight and still twitching in mortal agony.

Our Joanne ran back up to the house to get Jimmy’s camera. When she returned to the shed a few minutes later the creature, which has since become known as the Cleenagh Monster, had re-entered the lough and was swimming away with the large fish ...probably a pike...gripped firmly in its huge jaws.

A fearsome sight indeed, but Joanne retained her composure and her camera and secured a shot which, in my view at least, and in that of other neighbors, is at least as menacing as those old shots of the legendary Lough Ness monster.

The townland has been in a delicious state of turmoil and excitement ever since.

Many believe that it is an otter. There are a good many otters in the waters around here for sure.

Many others, including myself and Jimmy, think it does not look at all like an otter. It is not as sleek and streamlined as any otters we have ever glimpsed.

This thing has roughish fur rather than a sleeked pelt and the shape of the head is different. Others claim that it is probably a wild mink. None of us locally have ever seen one of those, so it is difficult to tell.

It is true that there is a plague of wild mink in the Shannon river system. Animal rights activists attacked a commercial fur farm in the dead of night sometime in the sixties and released the occupants of all the cages into the wild.

Having no natural predators and lots of prey, they have hugely increased and multiplied in the rivers since. I have been told there are stretches of certain Midlands rivers where the wild mink have entirely wiped out all the fish and wild fowl.

It is true, apparently, that they have no fear at all, even of humans, and have even attacked anglers for their catches.

I think I told ye here before that a pair of them once even attacked and bit a former justice minister called Paddy Cooney of Athlone when he boarded his cruiser and accidentally trapped a pair of them down below.  The minister was lucky to escape that encounter with his life.

So, as the debate rages on, is the Cleenagh Monster indeed a wild mink? Or was he some class of a seal swept up the estuary by the flooding and the storms?

There is certainly a feral mink presence in the region, even though none of us have seen one around here. The debate rages on, and copies of Joanne’s photographic evidence have just been sent to the wildlife authorities in the hope of precise identification. We await their findings.

Meanwhile, the lough waters have receded to near their normal levels and there have been no further sightings of the monster.

And the word is out that Joanne is behind her easel painting her image of the “quare yoke” that has brightened up our lives for the past week and more.

I am not going to go anywhere near the shores of Lough Ness during my Scottish trip, and that’s for sure!

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