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Mermaid Killing in Exeter February 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Beach recently stumbled upon yet another nineteenth-century British mermaid article. ‘…the most extraordinary, the most minute (I had nearly said the most recent), and certainly the most domestic of all stories of Mermaids, as well as that in which the veracity of the narrator is the most completely pledged for the accuracy of the detail, is one which relates to a marine animal seen by Mr Toupin of Exmouth, in Devonshire, on the 11th of August 1812.

Now, in fact, Beachcombing has already reviewed Mr Toupin’s curious experience. But he has no explanation and, far more seriously, no good sources for what follows:

The River Ex and its vicinity is indeed remarkable, not only for the appearance of more than one Mermaid [!?], but for that of more remarkable Mermaids. It is not a century since a Mermaid was said to have been seen in the river just mentioned, close to the walls of the city of Exeter.

Now a century should bring us to the period 1730-1750 as the quoted publication was 1823: out author is usually reliable with chronology. However, what about this story that seems more folktale than eye-witness account?

Unlike the Batavian or Moluccan stranger, but like very other Mermaid on record, its humanity extended to the waist; and, so far like our present eastern curiosity, it bore, from the waist downward a resemblance to a salmon. It had, however, two legs placed below the waist, and absolute novelties in the history of Mermaids.

The author is, of course, right. Who has ever heard of a mermaid with tail and legs together? If Beach read this in a modern newspaper report he would assume that here was someone in a fancy dress outfit who had drunk too much perry. In any case, the legs in question did not help the Exeter mermaid, poor thing.

With these legs it left the shore of the river Ex, and ran before its pursuers, screaming with terror, till it was knocked down and killed!

The author tells us nothing more: did the good folks of Exeter eat the mermaid in question?

As one local blogger notes there is a Mermaid Yard in Exeter (relatively) near the river (and the walls??). It is very likely named after a local pub. Was this then a story after the fact to explain a local placename, onomastics, in short, gone mad? Any local knowledge: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com