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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES:"GIANT MOTHS"- 1926 /WILD CATS SOUTH OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER-1972

I have found the following two stories in recent days: “ Giant moths” in Cambridgeshire in 1926 and the wild cat south of the Scottish border in 1972

In The Countryman Wild Life Book edited by Bruce Campbell (1973) in a chapter `Swallowtails for Wicken` by Brian Gardiner, is the following: “When one was exhausted from chasing butterflies refreshment could be had near the entrance to the fen at the `Black Horse`, now also gone (1). It was here that I heard tales of `enormous moths, big as birds`, which were driven off the fen by the great fire of 1926. Like the fish that got away, a moth grows in the telling thereof. (2)

According to an article in The Guardian of October 24th 1972 , `Wild cat may be south of border` by Michael Parkin:

More reports are coming in of the wild cat from both sides of the  Scottish border. Until recently it was thought to have been extinct in England for at least a hundred years. Mr Colin Simms, head of the Yorkshire Museum saw what he felt sure was a true wild cat, Felis silvestris, in North Northumberland earlier this year. Since then he has received other reports of well authenticated sightings farther west and on both sides of the border.

He emphasised yesterday that no final proof would exist of the presence of the wild cat in these areas until a skin or skins became available for close study. He has just heard that a skin of a cat recently killed in Northumberland is available and he hopes to examine it soon.

Mr Simms was not prepared to attach much weight on the evidence available to a sighting of “a wild cat” near Batley, in the heart of the industrial West Riding. He said it was too easy to confuse a domestic cat , running wild, with the true wild cat.  

Wider public interest in natural history  is producing reports of the survival of a number of mammals previously thought to be extinct in certain areas. Mr Simms himself showed that the fierce pine marten, thought to have died about 100 years ago, was living and breeding in Yorkshire.

The harvest mouse, not reported in Yorkshire since 1881, has been identified by Mr Colin Howes, assistant keeper of natural history at Doncaster Museum. He established its survival by examining pellets regurgitated by an owl at Thorne Moors, near Doncaster. They contained skeletal remains of a harvest mouse, recognised by its skull structure and dentition. (3)


  1. He referred earlier to another closed pub.
  2. The Countryman Wild Life Book p. 137
  3. The Guardian October 24th 1972

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