The Gateshead Gnomes, and more Little People

Liverpool and the leafy parks and graveyards in its suburbs was not the only place to be involved in the Great English Fairy Flap of 1964.

In June 1964, strange things started happening in Gateshead, a very ordinary, humdrum town in the north east of England. It is a suburb of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where polar bears and walruses (or should that be “walri” ?) roam regularly in colder winters. Look for the orange arrows:

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At ten past four in the afternoon of June 2nd 1964, four boys were playing together in Leam Lane Estate, Gateshead. This looks a fairly desolate site, right on the shores of the freezing, windswept North Sea:

leam laneee

Looking at the map, though, as it does have one or two of the features that would link it with Celtic fairy sites, and indeed, with the old idea of dimensional portals out of which ghosts, goblins, UFOs and lots of other exciting beings may emerge:

leam lane

First of all, it is (or was then)  heath covered waste land with gorse and bracken, the very landscape beloved of fairies in Cornwall. It also has a very ancient Roman road, which would have been built directly over a Celtic track. Indeed, the reason that Roman roads across Western Europe are so unbelievably straight, is that Celtic tracks were. Quite a link, therefore, with times long, long ago.

Another indicator of pathways into other dimensions is the presence of any natural water, such as streams, and, for me, what clinches the deal, a natural spring. (that is what the blue “spr” stands for, at the centre bottom of the map). You can’t tell from this map. but I have looked at some larger scale ones, and the area also has a couple of cemeteries, absolutely classic places for crossing over into other realities.

Back to those four boys who were playing together at ten past four on that early June afternoon. They reported having sighted:

“a silver domed object about the size of a table, with portholes around the top and three legs. It was seen falling like a leaf through the sky making a low buzzing noise descending approximately 120 yards away from where they were standing.”

Here is the closest the Internet has to offer. It is in actual fact, the new Smart Car:


At half past five in the evening, another, fifth boy, Mark Smith, aged 14, decided to walk down to the farm to collect some straw for his rabbits. When he arrived, he saw a group of around ten children, standing about twenty yards away from a haystack. This was followed by the startling sight of:

“around six or eight tiny human beings on top of the stack: they were about two and a half feet tall and dressed in bright green suits. They appeared to be digging into the haystack, as if searching for something. Their hands seemed like lighted electric light bulbs.”


Mark went home and told his parents what he had seen and decided to make his way back to the scene, but he was stopped by the farmer. Mark says that he was told by another child that:

“she had seen a circular silvery object take off from the ground with a spinning motion giving off an orange glow.”


On June 6th, 1964 several members of the local UFO Organisation visited the locality concerned and spent some considerable time speaking to many of the residents and children about the matter.

One child who admitted having seen “the little green men” told them:

“the leader of the little men was dressed in black and carried a baton with pink stripes.”

Another girl claimed:

“He was sitting on the roof of the barn watching us.”

Another girl told them that she had seen ‘him’ riding on the back of a cow whilst others claimed the whole thing was a hoax. The farmer who owns the land said

“All the claims are a load of nonsense. If anything has landed I would’ve known about it. I have a dog kept in the yard, he would warned me if anybody had been prowling around the farm.”

And that was not the end of it. Three months or so later…

It was claimed that a “Leprechaun” had been sighted in Tamar Street East in Belfast on or about September 10th 1964.


In fact, this particular Little Green Man was later identified as six-year-old Billy Knowles.


He was playing at Robin Hood, dressed in his nice new costume:


He was playing in a derelict house, something Belfast was not short of at the time:


Poor little Billy was soon chased away by police who were frightened for his safety.

Too late!!!

The hint of a real life Leprechaun, and a real life pot of gold, triggered off the local people’s imaginations. Vast numbers of them descended into the streets causing massive disorder. Ironically the crowds that gathered there included not just children, but many adults. The incident, which involved the police and the fire service in some numbers, also attracted the presence of David Bleakley, the Labour MP for Victoria, who handed over a hastily written petition to Belfast Corporation, demanding action to keep the crowds and children away from the embankment and the many derelict houses there. One senior police officer was quoted as saying:

“A grown man, cold stone sober, insisted to me that he had seen a leprechaun.“



Filed under History, Humour, Personal, Science

13 responses to “The Gateshead Gnomes, and more Little People

  1. The life and times of the little people of Great Britain!! Sounds like a good title for a kid’s book, eh?

    • It certainly does. It’s funny though, how these incidents were at roughly the same time, but in the pre-Internet years when a town 200 miles away was like another planet. Even Nottingham, 30 miles from our village, I had never visited before I got a job there.

  2. Tony Wilkins

    I was watching a documentary the other day that said Malaysia has a high number of UFO sightings that feature tiny aliens less than 3 feet tall. Gnomes perhaps

    • I would agree with you completely. It’s a link which nobody seems to have made really. Thousands of years of little people in every country of the world, and similar numbers of aliens of similar size and habits, and I think there may well be a connection. Perhaps they always try to appear to us in terms that they think we will understand.

  3. John, I am 73 and have still not learned to cope with ordinary things – I am unable to cope with extraordinary things. But a great post.!

    • I don’t believe it. There isn’t an Australian born who can’t cope with the ordinary and seize it by the throat and give it a good shake. That’s what is so likeable about you all!

  4. Fabulous post John. What gets me about all these sightings of aliens is what make s them all ‘green’ and why do they have to be human like? If they do exist why don’t they evolve into other shapes? Is the human form the perfect form for living beings and the ultimate evolutionary form? All fascinating stuff and like they say, “there’s no smoke without fire!”

    • Some scientists do say that the human form is perfect for living in a place with gravity and then looking at and manipulating objects in a three dimensional world. Aliens must exist in other shapes, I suppose, but I don’t know why they are little green men. I suspect involvement by a journalist in the 1950s!

  5. Tom Irvine

    I lived at the end of the street in Leam Lane where this was supposed to have happened. It is news to me! A load of tripe.
    I lived in Cotemede at that time and I did and many others witness in July 1964 the loud whining noise coming from that same area at tea time. I opened my bedroom window to see where it was coming from. I did not know at that time that a UFO was supposed to have landed about a quarter of a mile away on the field. It was in the newspapers and even on the local television. The Ministry of Defence sent men but I heard nothing more. Unfortunately the idiots the television men talked to onsite made it all look stupid.
    I actually knew some of them and they were last in the queue when brains were being dished out. I think that it was very important event but never reached national recognition.

    • Thank you for your views, Tom. It certainly appears that something strange happened but we may never know exactly what after so many years. That “loud whining noise” must have been out of the ordinary to draw the attention of “many others”. It was also out of the ordinary for the Ministry of Defence to send men. It may be that they knew more about it than they were prepared to talk about.

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