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The inventor of dowsing was a priest in Wirwignes


Abbé Bouly was appointed minister of the Saint-Quentin church in January 1909. He remained so for eight months before joining his last appointment: the new church of Hardelot-Plage, where he remained until his death on January 29. 1956.


He was born on December 11, 1865 in Condette. The Departmental Archives of Pas-de-Calais keep his birth certificate: his father is François Alexis Bouly, 29 years old, wheelwright and his mother, Euphrosine Irma Fauquembergue, 26 years old, laundry. His first name is spelled "Timothée" but today, because of its etymology, we note "Timothée", the one who fears (Latin timeo, timere, I fear) God (Greek theós). Trained at the Minor Seminary of Boulogne from 1879 to 1886 then at the Major Seminary of Arras, he was ordained a priest on 13 VII 1890[1]. He teaches English and German at the Institution Saint-Vaast de Béthune, recently founded in 1887 by Dean Cornet[2]. In 1894, he began studying Modern Literature at the Sorbonne, which enabled him to teach at the Collège Saint-Stanislas in Boulogne, where he became superior in 1900. 


[1] Cléton Directory, Diocesan Archives of Arras

[2] College website


Nine years later, he was appointed to Wirwignes where he remained for a short time. John WHITLEY, wealthy founder of the Hardelot-Plage resort, had him appointed to the new church which he had just had built by the architect Louis Marie Cordonnier, who had drawn up the town's urbanization plan and built numerous villas. Located in the axis of the tennis courts, the church is placed under the patronage of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. 


His charge leaves him, because of the resorts of his parishioners, many leisure activities in winter. He botanizes, is interested in science. In April 1913, he met the Lapparent family and in particular Albert de LAPPARENT, geologist, member of the Academy of Sciences and president of the Geological Society of France.  He realizes that he has a gift for divining: “The wand turned better with me than with him. He develops it: “It is only through hard work, constant practice, that one can achieve a result. He participated in the discovery and drilling of many wells and acquired a great reputation in the field. Thus he finds in Boulogne-sur-Mer, three meters deep, the basin of the Saint-Jean baptistery of the old cathedral for Monsignor Lejeune. He identifies sources for Roubaix spinners. Called by the government of the Canary Islands, where a severe drought had set in, he discovered several sources of fresh water which made it possible to plant crops of early vegetables and bananas. Every year, the Canaries sent bunches of bananas to Abbé Bouly. 

He was also interested in the search for metals and in 1918, the Ministry of War asked him for his help in finding and defusing shells on the battlefields of Marne, Aisne and Artois. He will be decorated with the Legion of Honor in 1950. In 1940, he helps Messrs BAUD and ALTHUSER to find a tin deposit in the region of Morzine  (Haute-Savoie). He could also find cavities and the city of Lens, in 1923, asked him for his help for the work of rebuilding the Saint-Léger church, completely destroyed by a bombardment on January 19, 1916. He avoided a disaster by pointing out the cavities hidden under the ground.

In October 1923, Abbé Bouly was consulted by Monsieur Métadier, mayor of Royan, to find a forgotten tin mine. The site of the Musée du Patrimoine du Pays Royannais evokes his intervention and gives to read a letter written about him:


The “wand prospector” first used the rib of an old umbrella and then a hazel wand and only asked for reimbursement of his expenses and possibly a donation to his good works.

Very well known, he explained his talents and skills in conferences in France and abroad.


Between 1925 and 1930, he developed another skill, the search for microbes and human radiation. He invented, with his friend Abbé Louis Bayard, professor at the Catholic Faculty of Lille, the term "dowsing" (from the Latin radius, ray and from the Greek aisthesis, sensation) on December 29, 1929 at the congress of the French Association and International Friends of Dowsing that he had created at the request of his friends Léon Delattre and Théo Gravez who attended his conferences and asked for the creation of an association for the study and development of dowsing. Great scientists adhere like Édouard Branly. 

He is president of the association but he hands over the post to Viscount Henry of France after a few months. In a lecture, he declared: “The science of waves is the science of the future. In twenty years, it will have cast its lights in areas where current investigations are excessively limited. Many people came to consult him at his home in Hardelot, his gifts as a dowser and herbalist managed to help them.


In 1934, he bought the Château d'Hardelot where he placed his immense library of scholars and priests and his research collections. He lodged there the sisters of Sainte-Agnès d'Arras. He also acquired Les Tourelles in Condette for the Sisters of Saint-Maur, the Château des Dunes for the White Fathers, properties in rue de la Marne in Condette: it is said that he had found a treasure thanks to his baguette.

He died on January 29, 1958 in Condette, but his face stood the test of time.


Albert ALGOUD sees in him one of the models of Professor Tournesol.


Albert ALGOUD, Le Tournesol Illustré, Tournai, Casterman, 1994, page 91 with Abbé Mermet

André BEAUDEL, Brief history of the castle of Hardelot and some characters, The notebooks of Callouy, Syndicat d'initiative de Condette, 1982

Canon Léon-Noël BERTHE (diocesan archivist 62) Communication given to the Academy of Sciences, letters and arts of Arras, 6th series, volume V, 1991-2006, Arras, 2007 - 1995

Jacqueline DOUARD-LOTILLIER, article in Genealogy 62, number 64

André DELSAUX, Alexis Thimothée Bouly, first parish priest of Hardelot, world-renowned dowser, Neufchâtel-Hardelot, Cultural Association of Friends of the Château d'Hardelot, Edico, 1994

Henry de FRANCE, “Today’s Sourciers”, article of January 5, 1928 in the Biographical Files of Armand BOUTILLIER DU RETAIL BnF



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