The Merman in the Cove

A remarkable story which seems to support the ancient belief in the existence of mermaids comes from Letterbeg, Renvyle, Connemara. Two fishermen from Letterbeg claim to have had an extraordinary encounter on Thursday – not with a mermaid, but with a ‘merman’!

The men were Martin Heanue and Thomas Regan and their story is as follows:– While returning home from gunner-fishing at about 2 p.m. on Thursday, the fishermen noticed a strange object in a cove known locally as Fugha na mBan. Thinking it is was a windfall they approached to investigate. When within four or five yards of the object Heanue laid down his oars and knelt in the stern of the currach in order to grasp hold of it, while Regan backed in the currach.

The next moment Heanue got the fright of his life when the object turned round suddenly revealing the form and features of a man, growling in annoyance, and dived beneath the currach. Heanue jumped on his oars immediately and shouted to Regan to pull away.

The ‘Apparition’ arose again, however, and approached the boat threateningly. Regan raised his oar to strike it but Heanue, believing it to be something supernatural, shouted to him not to touch it. The men then rowed away with all speed, and the ‘Apparition’ pursued them for over two hundred yards, when it finally dived and disappeared.


The fishermen described the ‘Creature’ as being slightly smaller than a full-grown man, with long fair hair and beard. Apart from the beard his face seemed perfectly smooth and fair. His eyebrows were bushy, but his face generally was not unpleasant. He had human arms and legs and swam with a breast-stroke, but partly on his side. He seemed to wear something like a skirt extending from his hips down to below his knees. This ‘Garment’ appeared to be loose fitting.

The whole story unquestionably sounds fantastic, but both fishermen are of a reliable type, and local superstition would not allow them to ‘belie the sea’. Furthermore they were interviewed and cross-examined individually by a ‘Connaught Tribune’ reporter and both versions coincided even to the smallest detail. Heanue believes that the monster ‘was enchanted’, but Regan, who is a world-war veteran, has no regard for such a theory.

A ‘Connaught Tribune’ reporter was told locally that a somewhat similar monster was seen over thirty years ago by Mr Laurence Henry, late of Kylemore Castle while passing the cove in his steam launch. Mr Henry wanted to approach the cove and shoot it, but his crew ‘mutinied’, and refused to put the boat around.

(extract from Connaught Tribune 1936)

Full Version Available in “The Way it Was”

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