GARY KNIGHT reveals some amazing real-life tales of Scottish Mermaids!
I grew up near Loch Ness for a while and remember scanning the water as we drove along the loch side for any sign of Nessie. To this day, I will eagerly sit and watch any TV programme about the American Bigfoot or the newer Dogman phenomena. So I was extremely excited to find an old article about a mermaid. A story witnessed by more than one person, six in all, described the creature in detail.
This article was from a letter sent to the Edinburgh Magazine in 1823 by a Mr L Edmonstone, a man the magazine describes as someone “already known to the scientific world as an intelligent observer, and therefore his belief was not likely to be founded on unsatisfactory evidence”. The magazine also talks about the declining belief in creatures such as the mermaid or merman.
Edmonstone states that this Scottish mermaid was caught up in some fisherman’s nets in the waters around the Island of Yell near the Shetland Islands.
All six men were surprised when they pulled in their fishing nets; a strange-looking creature was tangled amongst the netting.
Described as “about three feet long”, the upper part of the body “resembled a human” with protruding breasts “like a woman, the face, forehead, and neck short and resembling those of a monkey; small arms, which were kept folded across its breast; distinct fingers, not webbed; a few stiff long bristles were on the top of the head, extending down to the shoulders, and which it could depress or erect at pleasure, something like a crest. The lower part of the body like a fish; the skin smooth, and of a grey colour”.
There were no fins or gills on the thing, the tail was like that of a dogfish, and the mouth and lips were “very distinct and resembled a human”.
The creature offered no resistance and did not try to bite the fisherman as they carefully untangled it from the net and removed a hook that had attached itself to its body. The mermaid’s only noise was to “utter a low, plaintive sound”.
The fishermen had this sea creature on board their boat for about three hours before they let it go. Edmonstone says that the local fishermen widely believed in mermaids and mermen; they did not fear them. In fact, the fishermen found them to be ‘a welcome guest’. These creatures were only thought dangerous if mistreated.
The belief was if you injured a mermaid, you would never prosper, and if you caught one and let it go unhurt, they would grant you three wishes; usually, the fisherman would wish for good weather or plentiful catches.
Mermaids have a history of being spotted in the waters around Scotland but being observed and handled by six fishermen who could all describe it and were all convinced this was no ordinary sea creature is unusual.
A similar tale was reported off the Island of Mull in 1894.
Scottish Mermaid reported off Island of Mull
A group of workmen working in a quarry on a small island near Mull spotted something strange in the sea about 200 yards from the shore. When first seen, it was thought to be a seal. But when the creature raised itself about a foot from the water, the men could tell it wasn’t a seal. Some men suggested it was a mermaid, unlike the fishermen from Yell, these islanders thought the mermaid to be an evil omen. Two younger men got into a rowing boat armed with an iron bar 10 feet long, desiring to attack the mermaid; as they approached, the creature dived under the waves and disappeared.
But this mermaid was seen on the surface of the water for ten minutes, and one of the witnesses reported that “it dived and rose to the surface many times, tossing its red curly hair about its ears every time it appeared. From the head down to the waist, it presented a female-like form, of a colour resembling the white belly of a codfish”. The newspaper that printed the story also said mermaids are often spotted in the waters around Mull.
Boat from Ullapool sees Scottish Mermaid
More than one person spotted another Scottish mermaid in January 1832. A boat was crossing from Ullapool to Green Stone Point when the crew spotted what they thought to be a man sitting on a rock fishing, which they thought unusual, especially as it was on the Sabbath. As they got nearer, they could see it “to be partly the likeness of a human being, of which the uppermost half resembled a female, and it was white as snow, and the other half was a sky blue colour, it had fins and a tail like a fish”. The thing did not seem afraid of them and had “soft rolling eyes”. It gazed at them for some time.
Legends about mermaids can also be found on the Ayrshire coast.
One of them sang a song to a young fisherman. The tune was so sweet that he followed her out to sea and was never seen again. Another Ayrshire story involved a mermaid sitting on a rock in the water singing so eerily that it kept the son of the laird of Knockdolian House near Girvan awake. When the lady of the house complained, the laird ordered one of his men to smash up the rock. When the mermaid returned and saw her boulder destroyed, she stated:
‘You may think on your cradle,
I’ll think on my stane,
And there’ll never be an heir
To Knockdolian again’.
The child died in an accident soon afterwards, and there was never another heir born in Knockdolian House again.
Creatures resembling part man or woman and part fish have been talked about by humankind for thousands of years. Stories of mermaids or mermen have been known from the Mediterranean to Africa and Europe.
Is there some undiscovered creature living in the depth of our oceans? It is a fact that we know more about space than we know about our vast oceans. The sea has plenty of secrets yet to be revealed.
ABOUT GARY KNIGHT: “I have been interested in the dark side of history from a young age. I loved visiting Scotland’s many castles as a child; as I grew older, I wanted to learn more about them. In my teens, I read Nigel Tranter’s ‘The Bruce trilogy’ and was blown over by the story. I could not understand why I had never been taught about Robert the Bruce at school. This has led to a lifelong passion for reading. Despite being dyslexic, I have written two books, ‘No Fair City dark tales from Perth’s past‘, and ‘Fatal Duty’ about the Scottish Police Forces’ darkest days.
“I became interested in the supernatural after listening to my granny tell me, my brother, and two cousins her ghost story (she saw a ghost while working as a maid in a big house on Mull during the war). I grew up near Loch Ness and loved the stories about a monster in the loch. I had a personal sighting near Traquair House in the Scottish Borders (also seen by my wife) of something strange crossing the road in front of our car led to a passion for Cryptozoology.
“I write a weekly blog under the heading the Dark Storyteller, and my wife and I run History and Horror Tours, where we take dark history walking tours in Perth and Dunkeld. We also run ghost in two of the most haunted locations in Scotland, Castle Menzies and Bannockburn House.”