Sunday, January 24, 2021

Hugh Shearman (1915–99), Mount Stewart and Ireland's last sea eagle

I've been reading some of Hugh Shearman's books recently. In his 1949 tourism book Ulster, he says that Mount Stewart estate on the Ards Peninsula was where "the last white-tailed sea eagle in Ireland was seen in 1890".

In fact, a search of the British Newspaper Archive says "on 30th January 1891, an adult female was shot at Mount Stewart, Co Down, which was set up by the late Alfred Sheals holding a mallard in its talons. This specimen, one of the last, if not the last to be secured in Ireland, may be seen in the Belfast Municipal Museum" (Northern Whig, 10 July 1936). And here it is, from the NMNI website

The same article also referred to them living in the Mourne Mountains before 1831,  a pair that lived on Fair Head in 1839, and another pair on Rathlin Island.

An article in the same paper on 10 October 1929 said that a man called Arthur Swithin Newton Horne had recently shot one on the lake of Clandeboye Estate near Bangor. Knowing that the sea eagle lived in County Down makes the naming of the 1636 emigrant ship Eagle Wing even more significant.

As one of 'The County Books Series' published by Robert Hale Limited of London, Ulster is an interesting book - it's wrong in some places, but very strong in others. Shearman himself was a very unorthodox individual. More to follow.