Many of you will be familiar with the Dobharchú (plural dobharchon), an animal in Irish folklore, pronounced either doovarchoo or doowarchoo, the ch as in Bach. The word in Irish means an otter, but at times it means a special kind of legendary otter of very large proportions. This creature of folklore is decidedly dangerous and many cryptozoologists will be familiar with the legend of Gráinne Ní Conlaí who was supposedly killed by one of the monsters. Her husband came upon the corpse. The lines of a local ballad describe what he saw:
Upon her bosom, snow-white once,
But now besmeared with gore,
The Dobharchú reposing was,
His surfeiting being o'er,
Her bowels and entrails all around,
Tinged with a reddish hue.
'Oh, God!' he cried, ' 'tis hard to bear,
'But what am I to do?'
According to tradition, he went home, procured his gun and shot the beast, only to be attacked by another. It too was slain. On Gráinne's tomb at the local churchyard there is a strange animal, thought to be a dobharchú. (Gráinne's name is sometimes anglicized as Grace).
Although this encounter is placed in Leitrim, the animal is certainly part of the legendry of the adjoining counties of Sligo and Donegal. P.S. Dinneen in his Irish-English Dictionary places it in Donegal.
However, at Omey Island, off the coast of County Galway, traditions of it certainly persist to this day. I was recently informed by ace journalist Shane Dunphy that many people in the vicinity claim to have actually seen the creature. One local with whom he was watching television saw a film of the Brazilian Giant otter. This person had seen the Dobharchú and proclaimed it was the same animal.
Shane determined to camp out on Omey Island one night to see if he encountered anything unusual. The island's only permanent resident was absent that night. During the hours of darkness, he heard something snuffling outside his tent. He quickly made sure his tent was closed, for he feared attack. In the morning he found a print in some cowdung. His snuffling visitor remains a mystery.
|Ruined cottage, Omey Island