Previously on Blather, in *Baaaaah-Humbug*, and *Rocks from Irish Skies* , we mentioned the ongoing debacle at the Achill Island House of Prayer.
Alleged stigmatic Mrs. Christina Gallagher and what appears to be a cult following of sorts have been claiming minor miracles there. Back before Christmas 1997, the Archbishop of Tuam held an inquiry, concluding that there was no evidence that “supernatural phenomena of whatever kind” was taking place at The House of Prayer.
(Irish Times, December 17th 1997)
Surrender to the Bishop
On May 6th, The Connaught Telegraph told of a newly enforced Sunday Mass “ban” at the House of Prayer.
Now, to cap it all, the House, which, according to the Irish Times, attracts 10,000 pilgrims and generates Â£500,000 locally ever year, is to close. Mrs. Gallagher announced that this is due to the restrictions placed on the centre and the prying involvement of the church, saying that while the Catholic Church dictated, they had refrained from negotiation. The Irish Times quoted Mrs. G as saying that she was “putting the record straight. I don’t want any hassle with the bishop. I surrender to his authority and pray that God will receive all, because God knows all.”
Oddly enough, Father Brendan Kilcoyne, who is secretary to the Archbishop of Tuam, denied that the church had anything to do with the closure. He said that while the House of Prayer was meant as nothing more than a religious retreat centre, ‘”Very quickly it became something different, a kind of de facto shrine. What Archbishop Neary was trying to do was bring it closer to the structures of the church, and inevitably that brought certain restrictions.”‘
(Irish Times July 4th 1998)
Achill (*Acaill*, eagle, from *aquila*) is a veritable pocket of fortean enigma. For those who are unfamiliar with the place, it’s a large bleak yet beautiful island off the West coast of Ireland, and connected to the County Mayo mainland by a narrow bridge. It has an area of some 50 sq. miles (129.5 sq. km), measures 14 miles (22.4km) east to west and 12 miles (19.2km) north to south, with some 80 miles (128km) of coastline (Achill Island Map and Guide, Bob Kingston 1988).
Praeger describes it thus:
‘Achill, wind-swept and bare, heavily peat-covered, with great gaunt brown mountains rising here and there, and a wild coast hammered by the Atlantic waves on all sides but the east, has a strange charm which everyone feels, but none can fully explain.’
(Robert Lloyd Praeger, *The Way That I Went* 1937, republished 1997 by The Collins Press ISBN 1-898-256-357 )
Not only do we have alleged stigmata and other ‘miracles’ at the House of Prayer at Pollagh, but back towards Achill Sound, near the bridge, we have Sraheens Lough, previously mentioned in *Blather on Tour* and *Kanga-Ruse*. The Lough made front pages news in the Evening Herald of June 4th 1968, due to alleged lake monster sightings there.
Oddly enough, Praeger makes a not insignificant mention of a *different* lake to Sraheens:
‘. . .you can visit Bunnafreeva Lough, perched on the edge of the huge cliff with another cliff overhanging it — a place so lonely and sterile and primeval that one might expect to see the *piast* or other Irish water-monster rising from the inky depths of the tarn.’ (*The Way That I Went*)
Achill was in the news recently due to the ongoing battle between two members of the Achill Sound community, downhill through the rhododendrons from Sraheens Lough. Last year, a *High* court case involved the incessant crowing of Mrs. Moira Gallagher’s rooster (another Gallagher!), which was driving Mr. Peter Masterson batty. Now they’re at it again, with Masterson claiming that Gallagher is ‘directing constant loud music at his house and throwing dog droppings on his driveway’. 64 year old Gallagher spent three weeks in jail last year over her refusal to get rid of her cockerel and to build a boundary wall.
The rooster has passed away, the wall was built, and they’re still at it. The local gardai have been keeping surveillance on the Masterson driveway to determine the source of the dog turds, a wonderful job I’m sure. Mrs. G has been fined Â£200 for harassment, but has been let away with the dog-poo charges, due to lack of. . . evidence. . . (Irish Times July 10th 1998)
A smidgen less recently — according to Peter Alderson Smith in *Fortean Phenomena in the Annals of the Four Masters* (Fortean Times 54:51)– John O’Donovan, who translated the Annals for publication in 1848 and 1851, made mention of a fish-fall near Slievemore, on the north of the island back in 1831. And of course, the famous pirate Grace O’Malley (a.k.a. Granuaile, c.1530-1603) had a castle at Achill Sound. . .
RTE gets weird
On July 9th, Blather’s ears caught the tail end of a rather surprising discussion on the usually sober Irish national radio station RTE Radio 1.
The magazine programme *Short Circuit* interviewed a gentleman, whose name seems to be ‘Laurence John’ (I’m open to correction on this) from Co. Louth who had been ‘abducted by aliens’. This man had a matter of fact way of discussing his experiences, telling the interviewer about the trials and tribulations of dealing with scathing detractors and wags. He seemed sincere, and had obviously had a profound experience of some sort — I like to use the word *epiphany*.
Apparently, at least from from what I could make out, Mr. John (?) had been outside his house — about to leave for an appointment when the ‘abduction’ took place – he was brought off to a ‘UFO’ (no comment), examined given some sort of ‘message’ – something like usual ‘mankind must mend its ways’ lecture, and dumped back home again, an hour later. At least, when he realised he was ‘back’, he was where had begun, and an hour had passed.
Oddly enough, he seems to have had a dog with him, which also got abducted, and chattered away in dog-speak to the alien abductors. The abductee explained that he didn’t understand these conversations, as he didn’t speak the language. Blather will endevour to procure more information about this case.
Interesting though, for an island of just over 5 million people (3,621,035 for the Republic, 1996 census. 1,577,836 for Northern Ireland, 1991 census), we really do seem to be holding our own with regard to UFOs, abductions etc.
Check out Andy Robert’s *The Armchair Ufologist*, for some informative dissection of the madness currently taking place within ufology, particularly in Britain…
Dave (daev) Walsh
Friday June 10th, 1998