Lough Brin & Lough Cloon
In Seventy Years of Irish Life, published in 1893, author W.R. Le Fanu writes of a strange type of creature that dwells within the mountain trapped lakes of Kerry:
That dreadful beast, the Wurrum--half-fish, half-dragon--still survives in many a mountain lake--seldom seen, indeed, but often heard. Near our fishing quarters in Kerry there are two such lakes, one the beautiful lake at the head of the Blackwater River, called Lough Brin, or Bran as he is now called, the dreadful wurrum which inhabits it. The man who minds the boats there speaks with awe of Bran; he tells me he has never seen him and hopes he never may.
Lough Brin is a sparsely populated small rectangular lake in a remote area ten miles north-west of Kenmare. Only a mile by a half a mile in size, depths have been recorded up to 35 fathoms in certain spots. Trout make their way into the lake by traveling up the Blackwater River, which is well known for its fishing.
Through private correspondence with a local, author Peter Costello was told that the wurrum was still present in the lough in 1964.
Sure there is a monster in Lough Bran lake, I have seen it. Two persons have seen the monster and he is there with years. He is about 14 feet long and has two big eyes in his forehead. O'Sullivan and O'Connor have seen him. He is like a colt and half a fish seen for years there. It's in this lake that the hound of Fionn Machumhail was drowned.
The name Bran is derived from a legend involving Finn's hunting dog Bran who supposedly drowned in the lake while pursuing a stage. His ghost was said to remain as a water-dog.
The term wurrum would appear to be the local dialect's answer to 'horse-eel.' The feature of "two big eyes" being in the forehead is interesting as forwarding facing eyes are characteristic of a predator. Yet, while it is now well stocked with fish, Lough Brin has had problems with a fish shortage in the past which would make life nearly impossible for an animal dependant on them as food. Unless of course, Bran was only a visitor coming in from the Blackwater River.
Peter Costello was able to collect the following contempuary sightings from Lough Brin:
A twelve year old boy was surprised to find a strange animal "basking" on shore. The creature was black with four short legs. Sometime later, a man looking down upon the lake from the mountainside watched a huge wave appear in the middle of an otherwise calm lake. Another local reported hearing strange splashing while walking home one dark evening.
Christmas Eve 1954*
Timothy O'Sullivan, a local who farmed at Cappa by the lake, went to retrieve his cows for milking when he spotted what he took to be ducks in the lake. However, once these "ducks" began to rising further out of the water he realized they were what appeared to be fins standing about two feet tall and two feet long. They were at a distance of 12 feet from one another and rose up and fell four times, only 60 yards from shore. Tim raced home and to his wife's confusion, began loading his shotgun with only a quick explanation. When the couple arrive back at the spot, the objects were gone.
Besides Lough Brin's beastie, Le Fanu tells of an aggressive encounter in a separate lake:
Some miles further on between Lough Brin and Glencar, there is another lake from which a young boy while bathing was driven and chased by the dreadful wurrum which dwells in it. It bit him on the back and hunted him all the way home, where he arrived naked and bleeding.
When asked to describe the animal he responded "[it] was something like the form of a donkey." There's no telling how passed along this story was before Le Fanu received it but 'like the form of a donkey' echoes all too well the repetitious equine descriptions common elsewhere. I'm doubtful, though, over the likelihood that the boy was "hunted" all the way home by the beast. It's difficult to imagine a primarily aquatic animal, even one with exceptional amphibious capabilities, keeping pace with a terrified child. The attack itself could say something about the territorial nature of the animals.
COSTELLO, Peter In Search Of Lake Monsters (p.150)
[Berkley Medallion Books 1974]
In the Autumn 2000 issue of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoolgy Club Quarterly, David LL. Davies cited a tradition told by a Paddy Glanville involving the small glacial lake Cloon, located five miles north of Lough Brin within the mountain range of MacGillycuddy's Reeks. Southwest of Carrantuohill, the highest peak in Ireland, the upper part of Cloon is extensively bog with a reputation for harboring large serpentine creatures called "wurrums." After an unusual cold spell, Glanville was told that strange holes were found along the frozen surface of the bog.
Lough Brin 1999
In the winter of 1999 I devoted an entire month to backpacking across Ireland with the intent to visit lakes that had been recorded as carrying monster reports. Lough Brin in some respects sounded more promising in comparison to other lakes. For one thing, sightings and tradition had been consistent enough so that not only was the term "wurrum" designated for the animals but a individual name, Bran, had been bestowed up the local beastie. That at least said something for familiarity, and hopefully consistency, as far as sightings went.
Because of the lough's remoteness, the furthest a taxi from Kenmare would go was Moll's Gap. From there I had trek a good couple hours while fording harsh mountain winds laced with a fierce downpour. Several times did I have to stop to pour the accumulating water out of my hiking shoes. Lough Brin's dimensions are relatively square with the majority of houses resting mainly on one side. Because of the plain view of the water from the homes its hard to imagine anything out of the ordinary going unnoticed for very long but perhaps during the mid-century there were fewer homes.
Feeling thoroughly sapped from the demanding trek I wasn't up to performing any door-to-door survey. Instead, I obtained directions to an elderly gentleman who'd lived next to the lake for over seventy years. Yes, he remembered the "monster" ruckus from those many years back and he'd even seen it himself but to my dismay didn't find the matter worthy discussion; the unexpected visitation by an 'American' was too interesting to have been wasted on the topic of a lake monster. The most I was able to extract was that during the whole 'fuss' about the creature in the lake, the papers somehow exploited the matter and used the word "monster" to which he greatly resented. As for his own sighting, all I could get without becoming too pressing was "I didn't know what it was, I thought it could have been a seal." A seal that was capable of scaling mountains a good 25 miles from the ocean? Not likely. This same response was repeated each time and his whole attitude seemed to shrug off the event. While he was acknowledging there had been something there, his main reaction appeared to downplay the phenomenon as though it was better left unspoken.
What seems apparent from the little I gathered was that while the presence of the animal was unusual, it wasn't so bizarre as the newspapers made it seem or maybe, to those families who'd always lived on Lough Brin, Bran wasn't something to make headlines about. After all, it was just a wurrum.
*Timothy O'Sullivan's Sighting
A Show of Fins
Besides providing anatomical descriptions, some sightings offer what would appear to be a rare glimpse of behavioral characteristics. Already observations have been made in different sightings that report the animals were "rolling" for durations along the surface of the water. Other cases have been recorded where the animals remain in one spot as they perform a strange repetitive cycle of sinking and rising for up to thirty minutes at a time.
O'Sullivan's sighting is rather vague and wouldn't appear to offer much of a lake monster except for the fact that it was a strange site seen in a small lake already reputed for harboring a monster. If O'Sullivan's "fins" were in fact the limbs of the creature being risen in the air, it produces a rather abstract image to place them twelve feet apart from each other. Logically of course they couldn't belong to the same pair at such a distance. The descending and ascending characteristic of the report is by no means uncommon at this point though how the beast could be contorting itself is quite boggling.
Amazingly enough, another example of this odd formation was mentioned in an article from the Times in 1856 describing a "sea serpent" being seen in a lake near the Scottish village of Leurbost. The beast in this case is undoubtedly the same animal as the horse-eel though apparently it's visitation didn't register as anything familiar to the locals at the time. One sentence in particular strikes a key similar to O'Sullivan's sighting:
"...others affirm that a "six-oared boat" could pass between the huge fins, which are occasionally visible."
Surely what we have here is more than a passing coincidence. A clear acknowledgement of another horse-eel exhibiting its "fins" and once again somehow doing so with a great width between the two, enough to paddle a six-oared boat in between.
So much attention is paid to the actually mystifying appearance of these lake monsters that we tend to overlook their equally mysterious behavior.
-ŠNick Sucik 2003