Wednesday, 15 September 2010


We are invited to believe, by the Leeds Mercury of 1st August 1738, ( Mine is the secondary source: Volume 36 of the Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries,) that a Mr Robert Heath caught ‘a strange fish’ supposed by many to be a Triton, just over Exmouth bar on 6th May 1737. It conformed to the following description:

It had “a Body much resembling that of a Man with a Genital Member of considerable Size, together with jointed Legs and Feet extending from his Belly 12 or 13 Inches with Fins at his Thighs, and larger ones, like Wings, in the Form of which those of Angles (sic) are often painted, at his Shoulders, with a broad Head of a very uncommon Form, a Mouth six inches wide, Smellers or Kind of Whiskers, at his Nostrils, and two Spout Holes behind his Eyes through which he ejected Water, when taken, 30 or 40 Feet high.”

‘Smeller’ as a synonym for ‘whisker’ is a fun word. According to the Shorter Oxford it is a name for, especially, the whiskers of a cat. Assuming Robert Heath was not just hornswoggling, what kind of fish or mammal did he catch?

The Exmouth Mermaid

The Exeter Mermaid.

The Mermaid's Wedding, (Verses)

The Sleeping Mermaids


  1. Given the extra detail that it was said to be "four feet and a half in Length", you'd think there'd be enough detail to identify it if there were any credibility to the account. But even if the rest were true, I don't believe it squirting water 30-40 feet.

  2. Looking at a more primary source - page 378, Gentleman's magazine and historical chronicle, Volume 8, 1738 - it says the same chap was "the Perfon who caught 2 Fifhes by People in general called Mermaids in September and May laft". Makes you suspect Mr Heath to be a hoaxer.