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The Mersey Mermaid

The north Wirral coast of Wallasey was once frequented by a mermaid: she could be seen off Black Rock, and also near Leasowe Castle, where the stretch of sands is called Mockbeggar Wharf.


A Liverpool sailor called John Robinson fell victim to her charms when he saw her sitting on Black Rock; he took her on board his boat, and she gave him a ring. She returned to the sea and he to his home, where he died five days later.


She could also sometimes be seen sitting on some boulders called the Mermaid Stones further down the coast near Leasowe Castle.



The Mersey Mermaid


Is there any truth behind the mariner's tales of merfolk?


Over 70 per cent of the Earth is covered in water, and many scientists believe that all life on this planet originated in the sea. When a human being is developing in the womb the foetus actually grows a set of gills and a tail at one point, and biologists think this is an indication of the early aquatic origins of mankind.


Many babies are born through waterbirth nowdays, because a new born baby breathes amniotic fluid in the womb until it's born, and the shock of breathing in air makes the child cry. You may have also seen how new born babies can instinctively swim underwater. If you take this further, it may throw some light on why humans like to holiday on beaches by the seaside, and why mankind has always been fascinated with the exploration of the sea. Now, could there be a missing link between us and sea creatures? The following strange story suggests that there is.


In 1848, a 25-year-old Liverpool sailor named Richard Mattaign boarded a huge ship called the Ocean Monarch at Liverpool. The ship was bound for the United States, but when she was passing within six miles of the Great Orme, off the coast of North Wales, tragedy struck. An immigrant passenger aboard the Ocean Monarch mistook a ventilator for a chimney and lit a fire which soon spread throughout the ship. People panicked and dozens crawled along the bowsprit at the front of the ship to escape the flames, while others were burnt to death. Some were forced to jump into the raging sea. Richard Mattaign staggered onto deck suffering from smoke inhalation, then fell over the ship's rail into the sea.


Hundreds perished in the tragedy. Survivor Richard Mattaign awoke and saw a full moon in the sky. He felt week, and he looked around and found himself being pulled along in the waves. A woman with a very pale complexion and long black hair had her arms under his arms, and she was swimming through the waves. Richard Mattaign thought he was hallucinating and passed out. When he regained consciousness, he was on a beach at Hoylake. Standing over him was a naked woman. It was the woman with the pallid face who had rescued him from the sea. It was a sultry August night, and Mattaign didn't feel cold. He felt weak, but he got to his feet. As he did, the strange woman backed away from him, then ran in the moonlight down the beach to the sea.

Mattaign said: 'No, wait, who are you?' And he watched as the woman walked into the sea. She kept walking until her head dipped under the waves. Richard Mattaign was convinced he had been rescued from the shipwreck by a mermaid, and he told people but they thought he was mad.


The only person who believed Mattaign was an old sailor named O'Connell, because he said he had seen what he called 'the people of the sea' when he lived near Black Rock, off the coast of Leasowe. The legend of the Black Rock mermaid goes back into the mists of time, and for hundreds of years, people have heard the sound of a submerged bell ringing beneath the waves. It's said to be the bell of a church that sank in medieval times.

Mattaign journeyed to Leasowe and secured employment there, and his behaviour became increasingly odd. He said he had met the mermaid who had saved him as he was bathing in the sea. Strangely enough, several other people did see him on several occasions with a woman, who would always vanish. Mattaign said the mermaid was guarded by a seal and a long swordfish which had attacked him until the woman of the deep called it off. This swordfish had a blue diamond shape between its eyes.


Mattaign ended up in the sailors home, where he related his tales about the merfolk. He said that one day, he saw a cloudy disturbance in the water, and three men appeared out of the waves. They took the mermaid back to depths of the sea, and he never saw her again. Just before Mattaign died he asked to be buried at sea so he could be reunited with the mermaid he loved, but Mattaign was put in a pauper's grave. Strangely enough, a month after he died, a huge swordfish was caught near Perch Rock. It had a distinctive blue diamond-shaped blaze pattern between its eyes. Possibly a coincidence, and perhaps Mattaign invented his tales of the mermaid. We may know more one day.

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