Meath's very own monster

Whitewood Lake can’t be compared with Loch Ness in any shape or form. That great expanse of water in Inverness in Scotland is more than 22 miles long and the best part of 1,000 feet deep, while the popular fishing lake near Kilmainhamwood in north Meath is nothing more than a splash of water on the map of Ireland by comparison.

By Paul Clarke.

Yet these two lakes - one very famous the world over and a huge tourist attracting and the other best known to pike anglers as a good spot to reel in a ‘big one’ - have far more in common than the average man, woman or child might ever imagine.

The Loch Ness Monster, or ‘Nessie’ as she has become fondly known, is part of Scottish folklore and, whether she exists or has simply been a figment of many imaginations over a long number of years, there can be no denying that she has been very good to the economy of that country.

She is believed to have been ‘born’ in 1933 and such has been the wealth of publicity generated by the many alleged sightings that she has generated an enormous amount of revenue by attracting visitors from every part of the globe.

‘Nessie’ has attained the status of a classic phenomenon and her popularity has never been greater. Numerous features in magazines and newspapers have helped to enhance her reputation and fame and she has also been the subject of many documentaries and films as more and more people take the opportunity to cash in on her status. She is, without fear of contradiction, the best known cryptozoological creature in the world.

So what’s all that got to do with Whitewood Lake? How can there possibly be a link between a world famous stretch of water that forms a link in the great Caledonian Canal in Scotland and little Whitewood Lake in the north of our own county where the vast majority of people believe large pike specimens are the biggest creatures to be found?

Well there is - even if it’s probably not the strongest link of all time. For, in the minds of some, particularly back approximately a quarter of a century ago, Whitewood Lake had its own monster which captured the imaginations of many. And it wasn’t just the very young or those who had a habit of believing in fairies and such like with a few pints of lager on board who expected the creature to spring from the depths back in the summer of 1981.

Even this writer has to admit that, as he stood with hundreds of others totally sober on the lake shore on a warm summer day over 25 years ago, he at least half expected something extraordinary to happen. It must have been a bit like waiting for a statue to move! But statues won’t bite you, even if they do move. However, there’s a good chance that a monster will!

Even RTE, fascinated by the amazing stories emanating from the Royal County, sent a film crew out into the country that day in anticipation of an appearance. It was probably as far away from the Capital as some of them had ever ventured. The late Vincent Hanley was the main man who asked the leading questions of those who claimed to have seen it. It was convincing stuff - even the greatest sceptics on the planet could have been forgiven for thinking that there really was something in Whitewood Lake other than an overly large pike which had managed to evade capture down through the years.

Recalling that day by the lake all these years later, there appeared to be a hushed, eerie silence among the large gathering, as if to remain quiet in case the monster might hear you and decide not to make its hoped for appearance on this potentially historic day for north Meath. Or was there a certain fear or foreboding among some? After all, monsters are monsters!

Alas, after several hours in the sun, the lake shore was eventually drained of people as the mass assembly of monster spotters - many of them members of the media - headed home in a state of disillusionment. It had all been a load of rubbish. We had been conned into believing something ridiculous, something outlandish. After all, like fairies, creatures similar to the one allegedly witnessed in Whitewood Lake only exist in the imagination. There was no monster to be seen in the water near Kilmainhamwood - not on that particular day anyway!

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t something out of the ordinary in the lake that day. Maybe it was hiding - camera shy perhaps! There were people in attendance that summer day who wouldn’t allow themselves to be convinced that the Whitewood Lake Monster didn’t exist. Sure, hadn’t they seen it with their own two eyes, or at least spoke to somebody who had witnessed it.

Interest had grown considerably earlier in the summer when a man out doing a spot of fishing on a chilly May night pondered whether to call a halt to his activities as the fishing wasn’t great. But suddenly, there it was across the water from him - the Monster! Stories about the creature had been doing the rounds in the locality for many years, but the vast majority of people had dismissed them as pure fantasy and workings of over-active imaginations.

However, the Whitewood Lake Monster seemed very real on that early summer evening over a quarter of a century ago - very real indeed.

"On Wednesday night I saw it from 9 pm to 9.05 pm," the man who witnessed it at first hand related at the time. "I got a fair view of it from about 70 yards range. It seemed to be about seven feet long, has a neck of about three feet in length, has a head like a goose and seems to be black or grey in colour. It is about three feet in diameter."

That clearly represented a very good description of the creature and, at a length of approximately seven feet, a neck of about three feet and a diameter of much the same size, it simply couldn’t have been a pike. Big fish have been landed in this region, but a pike seven feet long - never. You would need some rod and line and a lot of human strength to reel that one in!

So, the only logical explanation is that it had to be a monster - the same monster that had been talked about in the past and which so many people had been unconvinced about.

But it begs a number of questions: Where did the monster come from and how did it find its way into Whitewood Lake? How many years had it been swimming around in Whitewood Lake? Were its parents in Whitewood Lake before it? Did it have brothers and sisters?

Did it have brothers and sisters? Perhaps that should be, does it have brothers and sisters? Whose to say the Whitewood Lake Monster (or monsters) isn’t still there somewhere in the murky depths contemplating when to make its next public appearance - still hiding as it was that May day in 1981 and still camera shy!