Jul 7 2005
Wales Of The Unexpected With Richard Holland, Daily Post
UFO sightings are the stuff of science fiction and as such it would be a reasonable assumption that they are modern phenomena. But this is not necessarily the case.
In Welsh folklore, for example, there are examples of "tan-we", strange lights which would come down from the heavens and land near houses where people were doomed to die.
Once strongly believed in in Wales were Corpse Candles (Cannwyllau Corff), supernatural lights said to appear in the homes of the dying or be seen floating down country lanes at night, making their way to the parish burial ground along the same route subsequently taken by a funeral.
One year the area around Barmouth became famous for mysterious lights in the sky - what today we might call UFOs, but which the inhabitants back then considered death omens. The Barmouth lights achieved a lot more attention than the usual stories because they coincided with a major religious revival.
In 1905 national newspaper reporters descended on the seaside town - cynically, no doubt, expecting to write about a bunch of superstitious peasants in the back of beyond. But many returned to London impressed with the UFO-like phenomena described by reliable witnesses.
Of these, there are two well-attested accounts of sightings of mysterious lights which, in both cases, appeared to predict a death.
In the first a party of people walking on the south side of the Mawddach estuary saw a strange light at the ferry house of Penrhyn. One description has it that the light appeared to be inside the cottage and shining through the windows; the other that it shone outside the house and was similar in appearance to the glow of a bonfire. At any rate, the light had vanished by the time they reached the ferry house.
When they returned to Barmouth, they learnt people there had seen the light, too. A few nights afterwards, the man who lived at the cottage fell into the estuary at high tide while stepping off a boat, and drowned.
The second incident took place that same winter. Lights were seen dancing in the air by people on both banks of the estuary. At Borthwyn or Borthwnog - depending on which account you read - many people gathered to watch the lights.
After a while all but one of them disappeared. This one descended to a little bay where some boats were moored, and some men in a sloop which was anchored there also saw it. The light hovered over one particular boat and then vanished. Days later the man to whom that boat belonged drowned in Barmouth harbour.
* Please send your stories to: Richard Holland, Wales of the Unexpected, 2 Alyn Bank Cottages, Llong, Mold, Flintshire CH7 4JR. If you would like a reply, please include an SAE. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org