Fishy Tales


Stories of mermaids and seal-women and water nymphs and nixies and suchlike are to be found all over the world. This sort of talk has been going on a long time. Yet not so longer ago the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took it upon themselves to post a statement on their website denying that mermaids exist. But how can they be so sure? Is NOAA to be trusted? I personally do not feel that we should take their word for it. Who knows what their agenda might be?

Stories of mermaids abound and cannot be ignored. Even here in Galway there has been strong anecdotal evidence of sea-creatures that seemed to have partially human features, particularly if looked at in a particular light. Stories like this were traditionally told by fishermen as they enjoyed a few pints together in the local hostelry after coming in from many days at sea. Surely we can’t entirely discount such persistent rumours? To my way of thinking this seems very rash – if not downright arrogant. In this modern so-called ‘scientific’ era we’re all far too quick to dismiss things we don’t understand.

Back in the late nineties when I lived in Arthurstown in County Wexford I heard just such a story from a man I knew who had once worked as a cook on a trawler before losing his job on account of his incurable alcoholism. Seamus was his name, or Willy, or Richard, or Steven. Something like that anyway.

The story he told me was about a fisherman known far and wide as Padraic O’Flynn (nobody knew what his real name was) who, many many years ago, once found a strange half-fish, half-woman creature with her head stuck fast in one of his lobster pots. Padraic – who was a shrewd enough businessman in his own way – sat the creature in one of those stinking plastic trays they put fish in and made a good living charging folk fifty pence a time to look at it.

Eventually he grew very fond of the fish-woman and married her. They settled down in a council house in the Claddagh. Many said – possibly out of malice – that this was because he smelt so strongly of mackerel that he could not get a real woman to live with him. Be this as it may, soon enough there were many lively little sprats produced as a result of this union, and as time went on the family grew and grew.

Their offspring were exceedingly numerous but they never grew very much, nor did they take to human ways. One day they got fed up entirely of terrestrial life and moved back into the sea and there they proceeded to breed amongst themselves – strangely enough becoming smaller and smaller with each generation until they were only half the size of shrimps.

In time – so my inebriated friend told me – they formed their own civilization and reinvented many of the technologies we humans take for granted, only geared for the aquatic environment. They evolved a whole way of life we know nothing about. They even discovered space flight and went on to put their very own space-station in orbit, albeit a very small one. My friend the ship’s cook even hinted that they might have gone one stage further and invented a FTL space-drive for themselves and are – even as we speak – in the process of colonizing new worlds, out there somewhere in the endless reaches of outer space.

Hearing many such stories as this, how can we so sure that NOOA is right? What the hell do they know, anyway?


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