11 March 2014

The Docholer

The Docholer, or Dotchler was a name given to a mysterious human-boar hybrid which, legend has it, roamed the streets of The Liberties district in the old city of Dublin during the early Victorian era. Even though I myself was born in 1960's Dublin, as I came from a very old, working class background and along with this, the culture I was raised in was essentially Victorian in nature (perhaps even older) these kinds of legends and stories were part of my childhood. Working class Dubliners from the older parts of the city retained this almost 'Joycean' surrealist folk culture until the late 1970's, when the last of the old hold-outs died off. 

One of the stories I recall being told was of a creature called the "Docholer" (as older folks I knew pronounced it), the giant Pig-Man with tusks who attacked late at night in the Liberties and Christchurch area. I have only come across one written version of the story, and that was a press clipping from the now defunct Evening Press newspaper, which during the winter months would carry a local ghosts and mysteries column on certain week nights.

Stories of human-swine hybrids are not unique to Dublin, as there was something of a craze in Victorian England of 'Pig-Faced Women' dressed-up in full Victorian attire reported as having been seen walking in various cities, most noticeably Manchester. This very interesting psycho-cultural hysteria seems to have started in Dublin at the turn of late 1700/early 1800's period, and differs from the other reports in that the hybrid was not a fully clothed female, and had a name: the Docholer.

While it is possible that a pig, or even an imported wild boar (they were extinct in Ireland by 1800) could have escaped and ran around the city living off scraps, weeds and other refuge at night, only to return at dawn to hide out in some park or underground river such as the Poddle, the terror that the creature stuck into the residents was in no doubt. The old Viking streets around Christchurch were off-limits after midnight, as people claimed to have been attacked and injured by a giant pig with horns and sharp teeth, which could stand up on two legs like a man. The stories persisted until a drunken off-duty soldier from Dublin Castle, killed a large black pig late one night which he encountered coming back from a brothel. We'll never know if this part of the story may have been fabricated in order to quell public hysteria. It is interesting, how well over a century later, people in that part of the city still had the legend of the Docholer held deep within their collective psyche.

If anyone has any more to add to this story in terms of reports or written or recorded details, please add to the comments below, as I am nearly 100% sure the stories have been archived somewhere. I have also been trying to discover the etymology of the term Docholer, but can find no Gaelic word close to it.

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