Hollinwell is an area in North Nottinghamshire in proximity to the ex-mining town Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Perhaps it’s main claim to fame is a fine golf club and course of some considerable repute – that and a famous mystery still unsolved to this day.
The ‘Hollinwell Incident’ as it became known happened in July 1980 and people have been trying to understand what happened ever since. It was a story that reached the national media and one still enshrouded in mystery.
The story concerns a Summer marching band competition at a showground in the area. During the gala day approximately 300 children suddenly collapsed during the festivities. Observers likened it to ‘a battlefield’ and spoke of children ‘going down like ninepins’. At first children began to collapse in ones and twos but this quickly soon accelerated into dozens. Aghast spectators were bewildered at the dramatic scene, not comprehending what was unfolding in front of them. Children were scattered about the grass unconscious or vomiting and with noses and eyes streaming in a horrific scene.
Some of the first movements after the day were by the water companies checking that the local supply was not contaminated. Other theories considered a gas leak, radio waves and even a UFO intervention. Most of the youngsters recovered rapidly afterwards with only nine children being admitted to a local hospital.
As media outlets voraciously researched the incident a common theory became that crop spraying was to
blame. Shortly afterwards an official enquiry concluded that mass hysteria was the cause and this theory remained for more than twenty years until local television began delving into the mystery once more.
It’s since been discovered that chemicals containing tridemorph, since banned, were possibly sprayed on the field priorly. Such a constituent became forbidden due to being an irritant to eyes and skin. Could such a chemical have caused the enormous drama on that show ground that day? The passing of time has made an accurate assessment difficult.
Another popular theory is that the incident was caused by mass hysteria amongst the children. Medical knowledge tells us that this type of reaction can cause fainting, nausea, malaise and convulsions amongst other symptoms. Interestingly an outbreak of mass hysteria can be created by a specific incident leading to anxiety. They are also usually relatively short-lived. Certainly Hollinwell that day manifested many commonalities with known symptoms.
What is left all these years later are those two main theories about what was a most terrifying day for the people of the area, and those who had travelled from far afield to participate and spectate at the competition. Crop spray poisoning or mass hysteria. Some believe that blaming the cause on mass hysteria is merely a cover up for the children being poisoned. One individual who actually took part in the events pointed to the fact that the (less susceptible) adults and small babies were also affected and that the cause of their problems was unlikely to be mass hysteria. A fair point.
However, no medical problems have been reported immediately afterwards nor since that time which would corroborate the theory that crop spraying was not the culprit that day.
Perhaps we will never know what really was the cause of the mass confusion in Hollinwell that day during the Summer of 1980. Was there a cover up? Do either of those common explanations adequately offer any clarity into what really did happen?
The mystery continues…