The 18th century was a time of British exploration, rapidly growing technology and restless souls wanting to travel. Many people from the well-to-do class including a woman called Mrs. Morgan wrote of her adventures and then had it all conveniently bundled, printed and distributed as Mrs. Morgan’s Tour of Milford Haven, published in 1795 and then retold in the marvelous Chamber’s Book of Days.
Morgan encountered a man on her travels called Henry Reynolds in Pen-y-hold a parish of Castlemartin. He was feverishly adamant that he’d seen a mermaid and gave this exhilerating account to Morgan which ended up in her book.
One morning, just outside the cliff, he saw what seemed to him a person bathing, with the upper part of the body out of the water. Going a little nearer, to see who was bathing in so unusual a place, it seemed to him like a person sitting in a tub. Going nearer still, he found it to resemble a youth of sixteen or eighteen years of age, with a very white skin.
The continuation of the body below the water, seemed to he a brownish substance, ending with a tail, which seemed capable of waving to and fro. The form of its body and arms was entirely human; but its arms and hands seemed rather thick and short in proportion to its body. The form of the head and all the features of the face were human also; but the nose rose high between the eyes, was pretty long, and seemed to terminate very sharp. Some peculiarities about the neck and hack are then noticed, as also its way of washing its body.
It looked attentively at him and at the cliffs, and seemed to take great notice of the birds flying over its head. Its looks were wild and fierce; but it made no noise, or did it grin, or in any way distort its face. When he left it, it was about a hundred yards from him; and when he returned with some others to look at it, it was gone.
We hear nothing further of this merman or merboy; but on looking at the roundabout evidence of the story, we find it to he thus A paper containing the account was lent to Mrs. Morgan; the paper had been written by a young lady, pupil of Mrs. Moore, from an oral account given to her by that lady; Mrs. Moore had heard it from Dr. George Phillips; and he had heard it from Henry Reynolds himself from all of which statements we may infer that there were abundant means for converting some peculiar kind of fish into a merman without imputing intentional dishonesty to any one.
For more real life historic mermaid encounters, turn to the original encyclopoedia of the uncanny – Chambers Book of Days (1868)