I can’t believe that I failed to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s best UFO incident. To be honest, I don’t think it was acknowledged anywhere. But that’s no excuse. I’m genuinely ashamed.
To make amends, I’m posting a shortened version of an article I wrote for UFO Matrix in 2011. I’m also posting a news report of a possible earlier sighting of the object.
The Man Who Caught a Flying Saucer
Northern Ireland is not normally associated with UFOs. A recent release of MOD files seemed to underline this fact, with only two sightings recorded here over a ten year period. However, this should not be taken as evidence of an absence of interesting UFO cases here. Northern Ireland has had some curious UFO incidents over the last few decades, and one in particular is so quirky that its absence from the literature is a mystery.
At noon on Friday, 7 September 1956, Thomas and Maud Hutchinson saw an object drop from the sky and land in an area of bog land, about 200 yards from their home in Moneymore, County Derry. They both ran from their house to investigate.
When they arrived at the site they found a motionless, red, egg shaped object with a saucer shaped base. It was three feet high and one and a half feet in diameter. It had three dark red stripes and dark red markings at each end.
Thomas Hutchinson’s curiosity could not be sated by just observing this strange object. After watching it for a few minutes he kicked it over. However, the device immediately righted itself to its original position. Unperturbed, Hutchinson got down on his knees for a closer look – which was when the object began to spin.
Hutchinson grabbed the spinning object with the intention of taking it to the police station in nearby Loup village. According to Thomas Hutchinson: ‘The police station was the only place for such a wicked looking thing as this and I started to carry it there.’ As Hutchinson carried the device his wife walked along with him. Maud recalled: ‘Ah, it was a terrible thing. My husband warned me not to go near it, but you know a woman’s inquisitiveness, I just couldn’t keep back.’
They reached a hedge and Thomas set the device town to make his way through. It was at this point that his strange prize escaped. According to Maud: ‘Then all of a sudden the monster rose and it nearly pulled my husband off his feet when he tried to hold it. I started to panic and then I ran home and prayed.’ After escaping Thomas’ clutches the device rose quickly and disappeared within a few seconds.
Our Old Friend the Weather Balloon
According to the ‘Derry Journal’ of 10 September 1956, ‘experts’ were of the opinion that what the Hutchinsons had encountered was a stray meteorological balloon. An unnamed RAF officer, stationed at nearby Aldergrove Airport (now Belfast International Airport), was ‘nearly certain’ that the object encountered by the Hutchinsons was a weather balloon. According to this officer, these balloons are sometimes red, and can fall to the ground when they’re wet - taking off again as they dry out. And while this particular weather balloon didn’t belong to them, he suggested that it may have originated at another weather station. However, he didn’t say which station this balloon may have come from or that any efforts had been made to contact other stations to confirm his missing balloon theory.
While the weather balloon theory is certainly plausible, the RAF officer was unconvincing; and, importantly, he was unable to confirm that the Moneymore object was a weather balloon. In addition, the weather balloon theory does not adequately account for the behaviour of the device encountered by Thomas and Maud Hutchinson.
Interestingly, while the official police position was to accept the balloon theory put forward by the RAF, the police at Loup village were unconvinced. According to the desk sergeant there: ‘Thomas Hutchinson is a level-headed God fearing chap. He’s not the sort of man who would imagine he seized a flying saucer if, in fact, he didn’t have one.’ It’s also worth noting that according to the ‘Grimsby Evening Telegraph’ of 8 September 1956, another unnamed RAF officer had said that the Hutchinson device definitely wasn’t one of theirs – and he couldn’t ‘even hazard a guess’ at what it might have been.
‘Flying Saucer Captured in the Land of Leprechauns’
Initially the story provoked some interest across the Atlantic and appeared in newspapers across the United States. Much was made of the location of the strange encounter: ‘… a bleak, boggy land near Lough Neagh, where leprechauns, ghosts and witches have been reported sighted through the ages.’
One USA paper recognised the uniqueness of the event in Moneymore: ‘To see a flying saucer is no longer unusual. There have been those persons who claim to have ridden in them and talked to their occupants. But to wrestle, even if the match was a losing one, with a flying saucer, this is a new twist.’
But despite this new twist, the Moneymore incident failed to excite the press in Northern Ireland. Even though something quite unique, and of international interest, had taken place in a small corner of our country, the newspapers that did actually cover the story contented themselves reporting the views of the unnamed RAF officer. As far as I can find, no follow up enquiries were ever made.
Update: A Possible Earlier Sighting?
The following comes from the Belfast News-Letter.
The object tallies in its description with that seen over the Stormont area of Belfast for more than two hours on Wednesday night.
On that occasion Mr Richard Lapham, who lived in Thornhill Park, almost opposite the main entrance Parliament Buildings, reported that from 9pm until until after 11pm he and neighbors watched a strange object in the sky which seemed to turn alternately from black to red.
So far as Mr Lapham could judge, its size was about the same as the object reported yesterday. Both Mr Lapham, who served in an A.A. regiment during the war, and a nieighbour, who was in the R.A.F., were completely mystified as to the identity of the object.
Mr Lapham told the “News-Letter” last night : “It is strange that Mr Hutchinson, without having any connection with us, has a very good description of what we saw.”
- UFO Matrix, Volume 2 Issue 1, 2011
- Belfast News-Letter, 8 September 1956