Limerick Sea Serpent 1922
1941 pattern searchlight
In his book Schooner Captain Hugh Shaw recalls an incident that took place when he was in Limerick immediately after the fall of the Strand Barracks on 21st July 1922.
In 1922 Hugh Shaw and his crew were getting the ship ready to sail on high tide in the afternoon when the mate called him from the cabin: "Captain! Come up here at once!"
"When I reached the deck I saw the quays on both sides of the river crowded with people and they were watching the most amazing sea creature they or I had ever seen or read about. The object was close alongside my vessel [resembling] in size and shape…a small submarine. It was large and black and shining and it had a very long neck, at least twelve feet long, held proudly erect and shaped like a swan's. It waved its small head from side to side and its bright shining eyes seemed to express alarm.
"Behind its long neck for a distance of ten or twelve feet was a massive black cone-shaped hump."
At this stage the monster was heading upstream at a very slow speed and seagulls in the vicinity flew off in fright.
"After we had passed Foynes [on the Shannon Estuary] it was nearly dark when I and the crew heard a blowing sound, like a porpoise makes when it surfaces for air, and we saw the long neck of the sea creature shoot out of the water; then it disappeared. It returned within a few seconds surfacing to blow and take in air again. This it did again and again and we eventually left it behind. This was the last we saw of it."
In a letter to the Limerick Leader in 1974, Stephen O’ Gorman from Birmingham corroborated that account. O’ Gorman was a teenager playing handball with some friends on Shannon Street when he saw crowds gathering along the quays. He joined them, and saw the creature in the middle of the river travelling towards Sarsfield bridge.
He noted the swan-like neck moving from side to side and made a sketch. The creature turned back at Limerick Boat Club, and Stephen crossed to the Cleeve’s factory side of the river to pursue it. Indeed a group of Free State soldiers opened fire near the old St. Michael;s Rowing Club, in order to encourage it along.