Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Tale of Two Fishes …

Walking along the beach has always been a favourite thing to do.  The sea in all its moods holds a fascination for me, whether it’s a wild southern gale in winter, or watching a spectacular sky in summer as the sun sets over the water in the west.  I love exploring the myriad objects cast up by the sea – shells, sea creatures, seaweed, weathered driftwood, as well as varied other objects resulting from nautical activity.

Back in December, a post on a cousins Facebook page Doonagatha caught my attention.  Doonagatha  (from the Irish "Dún an geata" (translation – " close the gate ") is the name of the property originally farmed by my great uncle Dan, who came out to Australia from Ireland in 1895.  The property is still farmed by his grandson & family today.  The Doonagatha page chronicles daily life on a working beef farm, and is a good read.

So, a typical day on the farm winds up with a run on the Waratah Bay beach for the dogs.  In this particular post, an out of the ordinary discovery is made during the daily walk, of a dead whale washed up on the shore.  I followed with interest over the next few days as attempts were made to identify the species.  Eventually, it was confirmed as a pygmy sperm whale, and the carcass removed by authorities.

doonagatha whale 2
©Doonagatha Facebook page 2016.
Used with permission

Reading about this unfortunate creature sent me back to the diary of my great uncle Fred, where in 1905 he records the discovery of another whale on a beach across the other side of the world in county Clare, Ireland.

On Thursday 25th May 1905 he writes:
Cycled up to Fodra to see a monster fish that was washed ashore last night, and stranded on the rocks.  Walked up again with the girls and Hay after dinner, bringing a tape with me.  It measures 31 feet with a girth of 16. Lacey, the light keeper, took a photo of it.
Saturday 27th May:
Went up to Fodra and took some further measurements of the fish.
Tuesday 30th May:
Amy & I cycled to Fodra to see the fish, but the tide was over it.  Rode up again in the evening & saw it.  Dr. Studdert & others up there.  He says it must be buried or it will spread sickness in the place.
Wednesday 31st May:
Wrote a small account to the Clare Journal re the fish washed ashore at Fodra.
From Pilkington family collection

Monday 5th June:
My account of the fish in Saturday’s “Record”.

Fish story
"The Saturday Record"  3rd June 1905.

                                       used with permission of Clare Local Studies Centre,
                                                              Ennis, co Clare, Ireland

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