Mythical Serpents & Ghost Ships: Mysteries of Carlingford Lough

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In a recent promotional video for Carlingford Lough, naturist Adrian Shine spoke about “mythical serpent-like creatures called horse eels” and “tales of a ghost-ship drifting across the lough on moonlit nights.” The mysteries of Carlingford Lough add something of the supernatural to this beauty spot and wildlife haven. 

Adrian Shine leads the ongoing Loch Ness and Morar Project which investigates reports of the infamous Loch Ness Monster and Loch Morar’s “Mhorag” monster. He thinks that Carlingford Lough, like it’s sister lakes in Scotland, could have its very own lake monster. On his recent visit there, Adrian explored the region’s myths and legends on his quest to discover the majestic horse eels believed to lie within the waters of the lake.

Irish folklore fascinates Adrian, for good reason. The serpent-like creatures known as horse eels, which he speaks of in the video, feature often in Irish mythology. In fact, giant eels are recorded in Irish folklore as a type of monster. Many of the tales speak of a lake monster being defeated or killed by a saint. Perhaps Saint Patrick wasn’t the only holy man to take on snake-like creatures in Ireland.

These stories of horse eels could perhaps be accounted for by the existence of an elusive large eel which occasionally pops its head above the water. However, there are other mysteries of Carlingford Lough that may not be so easily explained.

The Lord Blayney: Ghost Ship of Carlingford Lough

In 1833, the Lord Blayney was sailing from Warrenpoint, on the northern shore of the lake, to Liverpool. Sadly, she never completed her voyage. When she struck rocks off the coast of Wales, eighty passengers and seventeen crew died. Since then, a number of people have reported seeing the Lord Blayney on the lake. But don’t go looking for it, because locals believe that if you see the ghost-ship, some tragedy awaits you.

On 3rd November 1916, disaster struck near the mouth of Carlingford Lough. A passenger ship collided with a cargo ship, killing ninety seven people. (Weirdly, that’s the same number who died on the Lord Blayney itself).  The only survivor was a man called James Boyle. There were two strange things about his lucky escape. Firstly, he couldn’t swim. Secondly, he said that he had seen the Lord Blayney on the lake earlier that day.

Eye Witness Account

In his 1965 book, The Legendary Stories of the Carlingford Lough District, Michael Crawford describes a sighting of the ship:

“The water was like a mirror – not a ripple disturbed the silvery surface of the bay. As midnight drew near we were very much surprised to see a small, white, vapoury cloud low in the water, out towards the bar. It came drifting up in our direction, towards Warrenpoint and in a straight line from where we rode at anchor. We felt alarmed at this extraordinary phenomenon and observed it closely. 

“As it approached us we could see appear dimly through the mist the tall masts and funnel of a steamer, as if she was rising from the breast of the sea. Then the masthead light, shining like a star, burst full upon us. The ship was tossing as if knocked about in a storm, although we lay in the dead calm. We could hear the sound of the water rushing against her sides and the wind blowing fiercely against her rigging as she rolled onward on her course.

“When she came opposite to the quays at Warrenpoint we saw the clouds of steam go up as if the whistle was shrieking a warning. Then suddenly she slowly sank, her stern lights vanishing below the waves. The vapoury cloud in which she was enveloped dissolved, fading out of sight and nothing was left to our view but the calm moonlit waters of Carlingford Lough.

“The boatmen in our humble craft were half-frozen with fear and the dread of the supernatural scene they had just witnessed and prayed to be themselves delivered from such phantoms of the deep. I was personally convinced that I had witnessed a good ship go down just off the pier-head. I fancied perhaps that some of her people might yet be holding on to floating pieces of the wreckage. We searched all about for some considerable time but in vain. There was no evidence at all that a vessel had just gone down in that spot. It was the Fetch or Ghost Ship of the Lord Blayney!”

One of the mysteries of Carlingford Lough - the Lord Blayney steam ship

The Lord Blayney

The Carlingford Lough Ferry

If you want to explore the mysteries of Carlingford Lough, one of the best things to do is take the ferry across it. In fact, as an alternative to driving through Newry, it could even cut an hour off your journey. Far better to spend this time relaxing in the stunning landscape and soaking up the region’s rich history. Hopefully you won’t see the Lord Blayney, but do keep your eyes peeled for horse eels – because you just never know.

 

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