Ingenious Hoax at Duncannon

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This is one of my favourite local stories told to me by my father. It always intrigued me so I searched through the old newspaper articles in my local library to find this amazing story which occurred in the early 1960s Ireland.

I always imagined it as “The Goonies” meets “Into The West” or “Flight of the Doves” in some odd way. Somehow or another, I feel there is a smart little script in this story.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

It had started in the very early morning in Clonsharragh Ramsgrange a townland about one mile from Duncannon harbour with reports of flashing lights from the sky followed by a ground-shaking explosion which was heard in a half-mile radius. A few hours later an object was found sitting on top of a crater. The object was described as a black metal ball with four spikes protruding from it.

Firsts reports of a SPUTNIK

Firsts reports of a SPUTNIK landing on the land of a local farmer reached Ireland’s capital city Dublin, where a large number of foreign newspapermen were gathered to cover the international air transport association conference.

Local people immediately notified Duncannon Garda who in turn informed the Army authorities, whose experts said they would make the one hundred miles journey from Dublin to inspect the object.

At nine o’clock that morning, the area was cordoned off and no-one was allowed within a considerable distance of the object, which was known to be sitting on top of some yellow clay in a small crater.

People came from a wide area to hear about the mysterious object, but they made no move to go near it as they were afraid in case it would blast them into eternity.

What was it?

Various opinions were put forward by the locals at the scene:

  • “It is a guided missile.” Said one local. “It was probably fired from Cape Canaveral and meant to land in the harbour.” He added.
  • “I’d say ‘tis a sputnik.” Said another. “or one of those yokes the Americans have for testing the upper atmosphere.”
  • “Whatever it is. ‘tis highly dangerous.” Said another. “I wouldn’t like to go near it anyhow.”
  • “It looks awful like a ball-cock to me.” Said one of those who braved to go near it before the area was cordoned off.

The Mystery Solved

The mystery was solved about one o’clock on Saturday when Comdt. P. I. McCourt, Sergt. M. P. Walsh and Cpl. M. J. Cleary, Ordnance Corps, Eastern Command Dublin, arrived to inspect the object. ….It was a perfectly harmless cistern ball-cock with four brass rods sticking out of it, three from the top hemisphere.

Comdt. McCourt’s official description – an ingenious hoax, a cistern back-cock designed to give a Telstar effect.

Thus ended all the speculation which had been rife from the time Mr Wallace, who was in the adjoining sports field, saw the flashing light and felt the ground tremble beneath him after a loud explosion. Mr Wallace related his experience to a few other local people and they decided to explore for themselves before notifying the Gardai.

The “mystery” object was painted with black shellac on the outside with and had four brass rods sticking out from it, each about six inches long. The inside was expertly assembled and obviously the work of someone who knew quite a bit about electronics. It contained transistors and resistors, elaborate wiring and electronic devices probably taken from a wireless set.

Cape Canaveral in Ramsgrange

It is thought to have been an experiment or prank by some space-minded person or persons who had hopes of establishing a Cape Canaveral in Ramsgrange.

It is believed 3 local teenagers were the creators of this hoax.

Full Article from the Local People Paper can be read here on my blog: Ingenious Hoax at Duncannon