In August 2008 Fortean Times published an article by Gary Cunningham on the subject of the elusive Irish Wild Cat and by this I do not mean escaped pumas or lynxes, but a bona fide Irish Wild Cat. So today, with a little extra money than usual, I paid 10 euros for a 24 hour session on the Irish Newspaper Archive in a step of faith, hoping I would find some references within the many Irish newspapers dating from the 18th century that are archived. I started my search at about 2.30pm today Monday and ended about 10 minutes ago at 8.05 pm and I have made some quite exciting discoveries covering Irish and Scottish wildcats, and Irish snakes, which I will mention here for the first time. (The cats, I mean; not the snakes. The latter are being passed on to Irish cryptozoologist, Ronan Coghlan. There is an interesting comment in the Irish paper The Nation's May 22nd 1897 edition: 'Contrary to the popular belief, there are some snakes in Ireland, but they are very rare.' 1)
Just go into Google, type in Irish Newspaper Archive and follow the instructions.
Freemans Journal August 24th 1838
'Mr Cahitl (? Hard to read) of Whiskey-hail, county Limerick, shot, on Thursday last, at Cragg-wood, three wild cats of monstrous size. These strange animals attacked the wood ranger a few days ago, who narrowly escaped with his life. So disfigured were his features, and so completely exhausted was he, that his family did not for a considerable time recognise him on being brought home. Mr Cahitl has taken the skins to send to the Royal Cork Institute.' (2)
I wonder what happened to the Royal Cork Institute?
Southern Star February 11th 1893
'This extract was a summary of a lecture on Irish natural history by the Rev. H Burton Deane at Clonakilty in Co. Cork. In it he says : "Rosscarberry is a capital place for otters, foxes, stoats, weasels, wild cat, and others of the furry tribe.”' (3)
Rosscarberry is in Co. Cork
So here we have wild cats being mentioned in the same breath as well known native Irish mammals.
Southern Star July 19th 1902
[Here we have an interesting coroboration with Cunningham`s reports from Fortean Times. Cunningham uncovered accounts from Ireland of wild cats with nail-like projections from their tails. For example near Kenry in Limerick (4) and one from Co. Mayo c. 1940-1950 (5)]
But the Southern Star report:
'Here is a wonderful examplificatin of the queer effects which sunstroke has on some timorous minded people:- “Dear Sir,permit me,through the medium of your Macroom Notes to put before the public of Macroon and district a danger which menaces thousands of human lives. There is at present in Coolcower wood a wild cat of the most bloodthirsty description which I saw with my own two eyes on Thursday evening last. This may sound like a hoax, but I pledge you my honour I am perfectly in earnest. I knew the animal as soon as I caught a glimpse of him, crouching as I believed, for a spring upon me. It was at least four feet long with great glaring eyes and a bushy tail about two foot in length with a nail in the end of it. I did not wait for further observations at the time but I can assure you it was a wild cat” Yours truly Pro Bono Publico.' (6)
There then follow a series of facetious comments by the editor, presumably. So here we have the 2nd reference to a Co. Cork wild cat.
The final report for today is from the Irish Independent of October 17th 1907, which has a head line – CAT NEARLY 5FT LONG 'A wild cat measuring 4ft 7in has been shot by Mr S A Bland a noted Arizona sportsman.' (7)It does not say whether or not it was shot in Ireland or England.
There is an item in the Irish Independent of May 21st 1906 on a wild cat being brought from the Cocos Island. I don`t know if this is significant.
The Scottish wild cat. This is from the Anglo-Celt of January 10th 1856. It is interesting because of its colouration:
'CAPTURE OF A WILD CAT. - On Friday week, a man caught, in a wood on Kirkennan-hill,parish of Buittle, a fine live specimen of that nearly extinct class of the savage creatures of Scotland - a wild cat. It had been driven by hunger and the inclemency of the weather from its native retreats into a baited trap. It is of a bluish gray colour, stands high, and measures three feet in length, from the nose to the tip of its tail. – Scotchmen.' (8)
Is this a normal colour for a Scottish wild cat? Seems a bit like a Kellas cat.
I have got up to about 1913 with the wild cat search and will try and bring more to you on Thursday Jan. 21st
1 Nation. May 22nd 1897
2 Freemans Journal August 24th 1838
3 Southern Star February 11th 1893
4 G.Cunningham. The Irish Wildcat Fortean Times August 2008 p.41
5 Ibid p.42
6 Southern Star July 19th 1902
7 Irish Independent October 17th 1907
8 Anglo-Celt January 10th 1856
Now Music time! Simple Minds-Sanctify Yourself
Is this the age of the thunder and rage
Can you feel the ground move `round your feet
If you take one step closer,it`ll lead to another
The crossroad above is where we meet
I shout out for shelter, I need you for something
The whole world is out,there all on the street
Control yourself,love is all you need
Control yourself,in your eyes
Be apart of me,sanctify
Sanctify yourself, sanctify
Sanctify yourself, set yourself free