Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent; a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge. Twice a week he wanders into the Macclesfield Public Library and comes out with enough material for a blog post.
In the early 1990s I came across a reference to the 'pygmy weasel', an allegedly distinct mustelid; that is, distinct from the well known British weasel. This original reference was in The Country Life some time in 1975, which referred to pygmy weasels on Anglesey. My notes were passed to Jon and he incorporated them into his book The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of The West Country (1996), which is a must for any serious student of British cryptozoology. I quote from parts of Appendix Four of this book below.
Please forgive me for the frequent references to myself in this blog.I am not trying to “blow my own trumpet” it is just that am referred to quite a lot in Appendix Four of Jon`s book.
`Richard Muirhead has spent some months investigating reports of dwarf weasels from various parts of the country, including the island of Anglesey and parts of Cumbria. The idea of such an animal is not particularly new. Writing in 1989 Sleeman noted: “ The frequent existence of a second litter, coupled with the difference in size between the sexes are factors that give rise to stories about two types of weasels; ordinary and pygmy weasels existing side by side. In some rural areas such weasels are called `minivers`(1)
Richard has discovered that these creatures are still widely believed to exist and in some areas are known as `Squeazels`. The details of the Anglesey animals are obscure, but it appears that they are lighter in colour than one would expect and have been reported as being white.' (2)
Jon then quotes from a letter I received on July 28th 1995. For the first time I reproduce the letter in its entirety; spelling, punctuation, etc is left as it appeared in the original.
I have been meaning to write to you for several weeks, re your letter in the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail asking for any information on the Pygmy Weasel.
In my younger days I spent some time with an old mole catcher who worked the wooden barrel traps he occasionaly caught one of these Pygmy weasels in his traps. This was in the area of Church Stretton, Craven Arms and Ludlow area (Shropshire). The pygmy weasel is certainly not confined to Anglesy.
There is a retired Game Keeper living near me who knew all about them when I mentioned it to him. They are to be found in Yorkshire Cumberland and Westmorland, he has also caught them in these areas from to time, and were quite a pest in the Pheasant pens (? word unclear) killing the young chicks and dragging them underground into the mole runs (?). The old mole catcher had a name for them ( a Squeezel) due to pushing themselves down the mole holes.
I see one here on the farm from time to time, and recently saw one old one and three youngesters in a stone wall. There are two different types, the same size but one is quite a light colour and a much darker one is to be found. The darker being the rarest of the two.' (3)
On September 18th and 26th 1996 Colin Howes, the Environmental Records Officer of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, provided me with further interesting information, which will be provided in Part Two, which will conclude the blogs on the pygmy weasel; along with information in a letter from Mr Paul Robinson on January 12th 1997.
(1) P.Sleeman Stoats and Weasels,Polecats and Martens(1989) in J.Downes The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of The West Country (1996) p.111-112
(2) J.Downes Ibid.p.112
(3) Letter from P.M.A. Plews to R.Muirhead July 28th 1995.
They call me hell, they call me Richard, that`s not my name, That`s not my name, that`s not my name, that`s not my name, they call me quiet boy, but I`m a riot, etc!! (with apologies to The Ting Tings)