UFO society president who claimed discovery of spaceship portal

BETTY MEYLER: WHEN THEY said at her funeral that the whole world was not enough for Betty Meyler, it wasn't meant as a put-down…

BETTY MEYLER:WHEN THEY said at her funeral that the whole world was not enough for Betty Meyler, it wasn't meant as a put-down of the woman who relished her role as president of the UFO Society of Ireland.

A "colourful character", "larger than life" . . . all the usual cliches were applied to describe the 79-year-old expert on flower-arranging and cookery who was also convinced that she had discovered a UFO portal just off Church Island on Lough Key in Co Roscommon.

Her passion for UFOs was sparked by newspaper reports of a mysterious crash in the Curlew mountains outside Boyle in 1996, an event described by many as "Ireland's Roswell" - a reference to Roswell, New Mexico, where, it is claimed but hotly disputed, that extraterrestrial debris, including alien corpses, was found after an alien spaceship allegedly crashed there in 1947.

Amid a flurry of speculation and whispered tales of alien visitors to the Curlew mountains, Meyler decided that a small society was needed where people could meet and swap such stories without fear of being laughed at.


Only one person turned up for the first meeting, however, and so Meyler, sitting in the hired room on her own, solemnly proposed and seconded herself for the jobs of president, secretary and treasurer, and duly announced to the world, although it was absent at the time, that the UFO Society of Ireland was born.

Her passion for the subject was infectious, and by the time she came to organise her first international UFO conference, she had been the subject of several documentaries, had been interviewed by almost every radio station in the country and, much to her pride, had shared the cover of Women's Way magazine with Robbie Williams.

Her origins were as exotic as one might expect from a woman who as a pensioner trekked the Himalayas, explored Machu Picchu and fulfilled a lifelong ambition to visit the Galapagos.

She was born in India to Henry Mountain, editor of a Catholic newspaper in Calcutta, and Ida Martinelli, who was of English and Italian parents. Betty's survival instincts probably came from her father, who told her he had been left "destitute and orphaned" after the family's indigo plantation in India was rendered worthless by the discovery of synthetic dyes.

At the age of 17, Betty Meyler waved goodbye to her parents and took the boat, as they thought to Edinburgh, where she was to study physiotherapy. In fact she eloped to London and from there to Nigeria with her boyfriend Donald Henderson, whom she married in Lagos.

The young couple had three children - Julie, Gail and Donald - but the civil war in Nigeria opened the next chapter in their lives and they ended up in Guernsey, where they successfully ran a small hotel.

In Guernsey, Betty took flying lessons and got her pilot's licence. Her instructor was a former RAF officer called Jack Meyler who, after her marriage ended, moved with her to Co Sligo where they ran a small hotel, Rock House, on the shores of Lough Arrow.

Many locals recall a real-life Fawlty Towers, with Jack frequently regaling German visitors, who dared to complain, with stories of his more successful escapades during the second World War. His wife's diplomatic skills were tested to the limit.

The romance and the business floundered, and Betty moved to nearby Boyle. "Boyle has never been the same since," said her son Donald, and indeed the most famous ufologist in the country immersed herself in the community.

"Everything she did, she did with gusto," recalled close friend Mary Cretaro. Her interests included the local Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA), the Tourism Society, the Tidy Towns committee, the Chamber of Commerce, the camera club, and after her first brush with cancer, she set up a support group for fellow sufferers called "Go Cancer Go".

She was a practitioner of reiki, the Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that is said also to promote healing through hand contact, which taps into the body's "life force energy".

She was a keen dowsing enthusiast, and locals who were wheedled into bringing foreign film crews out on Lough Key were bemused to see her, in her late 70s, seated in the boat, swinging her pendulum as she scanned the skyline for evidence of the UFO portal.

She took no offence when people laughed, and said in one interview that she was regularly asked whether she was making sandwiches for the little green men.

"I never heard her say a bad word about anyone," said friend Sean O'Dowd, who said that Betty - with her cultured accent and exotic background - was a one-woman publicity machine for Boyle. Her enthusiasm for helping others was her most endearing quality.

An oncologist who commented on her perfect skin was told to let his wife in on the secret - vodka and garlic.

Her sense of fun never deserted her. A friend visiting her in St Luke's Hospital was distressed to see she was in pain. Desperate to help, he urged her to mix some honey with a drop of brandy, add an aloe vera leaf, stir, and take a spoonful each day.

Later when asked whether it helped at all, she confided that she had tried to make up the soothing potion several times, but "I found that I always drank the brandy first".

Elizabeth (Betty) Meyler Henderson: born July 21st, 1931; died October 24th, 2010