TWENTY-FIVE years ago this week, the Courier reported on investigations into what appeared to be a bizarre occult ritual by the county coast.

In the East Lothian Courier of April 12, 1991, this piece was printed:

"Police combed woods at Yellowcraig, near the shore of the River Forth at Dirleton, this week, after reports from holidaymakers of a bizarre night-time ritual involving some 40 adults.

"A strange spiral of twigs and branches, paper crosses, the remnants of candles and more than 70 odd shoes were found at the scene.

"Several items were taken away for detailed examination and officers have launched enquiries in the North Berwick area in an effort to trace the mysterious sect, who were seen in a clearing at the popular picnic spot on Sunday night.

"They were holding blazing torches and standing silently in a circle.

"There was no official evidence of sacrificial offerings or objects linked to black magic rites, said Malcolm Dickson, chief inspector, who has appealed for the group to come forward and explain their weird ceremony.

"He is anxious to avert widespread alarm among local families.

"'It would be dangerous to jump to the conclusion that this had anything to do with the occult or witches covens but our information at present is so scant we can't rule that out,' he said.

"'However, there are various groups which practice rituals that are of no harm to anyone.

"'This may have been a group of nature worshippers...or students up to some kind of prank.

"'We are keeping an open mind on the subject, and certainly do not want to deter families from getting out and enjoying the countryside.'

"The investigation began after a couple staying in a caravan nearby took a woodland stroll at dusk, and stumbled across the group who were clutching home-made candles suspended on canes, he said.

"The couple watched from a distance, and after half an hour, saw the group – who were dresesd in everyday clothing – depart in a fleet of cars.

"Stunned by their experience, the pair did not report the incident until the following day, when they revisited the glade and found the scattered shoes, circle of wood, and crosses made from strip of ordanance survey maps tied to twigs."

However, in the following week's Courier, the bizarre incident was cleared up – it had all been to pay homage to a piece of contemporary art.

The unusual ritual had been the "prized creation" of Jim McKevitt, a Belfast-based professional artist, who had flown to Scotland and travelled to East Lothian for the task.

Mr McKevitt's art work, called the Carrickfergus Spiral, was commissioned by an Edinburgh art gallery as part of an exhibition into 'New Irish Realities'.

Malcolm Dickson, the chief inspector, said his officers saw the funny side of the bizarre gathering.

He said: "We are glad that the whole thing has been nipped in the bud before it could assume more sinister proportions."