The mystery of the Cookstown Crocodile

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HAVE you ever heard the story about the crocodile which was discovered along the Moneymore Road, Cookstown in December of 1896?

A reader of the MAIL contacted us to bring to our attention a story which he had come across in the Daily Mail archives which tells the tale of the discovery of a crocodile in Cookstown.

The article was published on Page 3 of the London Daily Mail on 31st December 1896 under the headline ‘An Irish Crocodile- Strange Discovery in Ulster’.

The article sets the scene describing Cookstown as ‘a single long street of shops and houses dropped haphazard in the middle of County Tyrone,

The story tells the tale of ‘a respected resident’ of Cookstown entering the town from the Moneymore Road direction ‘at a remarkably high rate of speed’ on the evening of Christmas Day.

The man’s personal appearance was described as arousing comment as ‘his pallid face and perpendicular hair giving indications of his excessive mental perturbation.’

The story recalls: “To a group of men in the street he announced that he had encountered a ‘terrible baste’ half a mile out of town, boys-a-boys, but I never saw the lek uv it.”

While the people he was telling the story to thought the man had perhaps overindulged a little with the Christmas festivities nonetheless they arranged an exploring party at the spot indicated.

An amazing discovery was really made for by the roadside evidently bewildered by its unaccustomed surroundings, was a healthy young crocodile. The saurian was regarded with misgiving by the investigators but the discovery being made that it was destitute of teeth it was at length carried into Cookstown.

The story also tells of how the crocodile was conveyed to the office of the Mid-Ulster Mail and examined by a local medic, who pronounced that it was in fact a true crocodile which is usually supposed to be indigenous to South America,

The reptile measured 3ft 3in from point of snout to tip of tail and weighed 14lbs. Its appearance on the Moneymore Road was an inexplicable mystery, since no menagerie has visited the neighbourhood recently. Locals at the time considered it an evil omen and the belief was inspired that the late earthquake was responsible for its arrival.

We are asking our readers if anyone has any old paper cuttings or photographs of the event itself which may have been passed down through the generations.

Was it an evil omen or some sort of bizarre Christmas Day miracle?

If you have any information about the tale of the Cookstown Crocodile then get in touch with us. You can call the office on 02886762288 or email us at news@midulstermail.co.uk