Arnish Moor on the Isle of Lewis has long been haunted by tales of murder and mystery. MJ STEEL COLLINS reports.

An old tale on the Isle of Lewis has it that a few hundred years or so ago, two Island boys had decided that their day would be best spent on

Arnish Moor gathering grouse eggs, rather than at school, where they were meant to be.

But the day didn’t end well. As the lads argued over their spoils, one picked up a large rock and smashed his friend over the head. Death was instantaneous.

The surviving lad, horrified at what he’d just done, buried his late associate, hid the evidence and fled to a life at sea.

Several years later, the murderous sailor returned to Stornoway and revisited his old stomping ground. The years away had changed him, plus he was now a grown man. Nobody recognised who he was.

After reacquainting himself with old haunts, the prodigal put up at a local Inn for the night.

The landlady gave him his supper, served with cutlery that boasted rather peculiar handles.

As he prepared to tuck in, the sailor commented on the unusual handles.

The landlady told him that they were fashioned from sheep bones found on the moor.

If that didn’t already put a chill down the sailor’s spine, the fact that the handles dripped with blood at his touch might have.

The sheep bones were in fact the bones of his victim, following the old dictum that the corpse of a murder victim will bleed if touched by the killer.

The horrified sailor confessed to the crime, and was hanged.

But, the story doesn’t end there.

Down the years, locals were terrified to travel along the road that stretched across Arnish Moor, from Stornoway to Harris, passing the scene of the crime.

Unwitting travellers would be accosted by the ghost of the murder victim as they went about their business.

The local minister noted in the 1870s that the road was avoided at night by those in fear of meeting the ghost.

As late as 1964, the ghost was still tormenting travellers. A motorcyclist, returning to his home in Grimshader after finishing work in Stornoway got a rather unexpected and unwelcome surprise.

He travelled on the Arnish Moor road heading to and from work on a regular basis. On this occasion, he was travelling at a speed of around 30 miles per hour on his bike, when an ethereal male figure kept up with him for several miles.

Afterwards, the motorcyclist refused to use the road and took the boat to work instead.

The story had its final sting in the tail about 20 or so years ago with the discovery skeletal remains by two men cutting peat. The body was tested by the Forensics’ Department at Edinburgh University, who reported that the body was that of a young male killed by a blow to the head.

The clothing found on the skeleton was dated back to around 1700, the time when the murder is believed to have taken place…

MJ Steel Collins
Leave a replyComments (3)
  1. Karen 6 August 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Here’s the official report on the archeology of the body. The body was estimated to be between 20 & 25 years of age so not really a ‘lad’ but apparently still of an age to attend school by local standards. I’m not sure how the bone handled tableware part of the story came about as the body was excavated more or less intact but we’ll put that down to folk embellishment. 🙂
    http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_106/106_172_182.pdf

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  2. kinnon 21 February 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Up until the second world war, young males generally left school at about 12 or 13 years of age to find work, unless they were of the few who were deemed academically fit to attend secondary school in Stornoway. People were very poor, so young hands would be put to work as soon as they were able in order to help provide for the households.
    The Nicolson Institute wasn’t built until 1873, and only provided for primary school children until 1893 when the secondary provision was started.

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  3. IAM 6 February 2018 at 5:53 pm

    This is all bollocks. I live here and have never even heard of a ghost or an old tale of one on the island, let alone the Arnish Road. Equally, there is no boat going from Stornoway to Grimshader. The only boat leaving Stornoway to take public passengers goes to Ullapool alone. If the man took a boat to Grimshader every day to work, he must have been stinking rich as the harbouring costs for two ports in Stornoway and Grimshader would cost a fortune, never mind the fuel and upkeep costs. Keep your shite to a minimum in future.

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