Monday 24 March 2014

Scottish sea monsters and mermaids

Around Scotland there is a history of sea monsters, not just loch or lake creatures:
  • In the Orkneys a sea monster with a 6-7 foot neck was seen in 1919.
  • In the Linnhe sea-loch a long-necked monster was seen in the 1940s and a three-humped creature was spotted in 1954.
  • A 30 feet long beast with a camel's head, a giraffe's neck and a tail covered with long hair was seen by fishermen in the Firth of Clyde (1953).
  • A 30-40 foot monster was seen on the beach at Helensburgh, Strathclyde in 1962.
  • In 1964 on the Isle of Jura, a 25 foot monster was seen swimming south.
  • A monster was seen by the side of the road near Perth in 1965.
A serpent was seen off Stonehaven near Aberdeen . The skipper of the fishing boat said it was longer than his boat which was 34 feet ( 11 metres) long and had fins twenty feet(6 metres) apart .
Various sea monsters have been reported as being seen off the shores of the Scottish Isle of Lewis over the years, including a sighting reported in 1882 by a German ship off the Butt of Lewis. The ship, 15 kilometres off the coast, reported a sea serpent around 40 metres (about 120 feet) in length, several bumps protruding from the water, along its back. Sea serpents have also been reported at the southern side of the island.
In 1958:
A sea serpent was reported to have been seen on Saturday night in the Tay. The report was made to Fife police by Mr Ronald Avery, bus driver, 3, Milton Crescent, Anstruther and was confirmed by the conductress Miss Betty Kay, Cellardyke. Yesterday Mr Avery said "The bus was standing at the Newport-on-Tay terminus. We were waiting for the starting time and I was standing on the step of the bus looking over the water. It was misty, but about five minutes to eight I was distinctly, about a mile out from Newport Pier, a strange creature moving in the water. Three humps were visible and although it was difficult to tell their colouring I thought they were dark. They were movinh towards the Tay Bridge. They disappeared, and then came to the surface again in exactly the same manner a short distance forward. I drew the attention of Betty Kay and together we watched the creature moving towards the Tay Bridge. We must have seen it disappear and surface eighty or nine times, it made a circle towards some boats near the opposite bank. Then it was time for us to move, but I was so impressed that I reported it to the police. I would say it was a sea snake or serpent, about 15 to 20 feet(6 metres)  in length. I don't think the object I saw was porpoises or seals. I've seen sharks and whales in the Indian Ocean but this was the strangest thing I have ever seen in the water.
New Sea "Monster" Comes To Scotland

The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW)
Date: August 30, 1953
Page Number: 4
From Our Staff Correspondent

LONDON, August 29.
     The 5,000 people of the placid fishing village of Girvan, on the coast of Ayrshire, West Scotland, are on the hunt for a prehistoric monster.
     They firmly believe they have seen one swimming off shore during the last few days, searching for its lost mate.
     The mate, they say, was a grotesque 30ft monster washed up on the beach on August 15.
     The beast, left by the tide on rocks, had a four-foot "giraffe neck," a camel-shaped head with bone-shielded eyes, four stumpy appendages like legs, and a 12-foot tail.
     According to the Provost (Mayor) of Girvan, Mr. D. M. H, Smith, the beast also had "the intestines of a mam- mal, mon, so it could nae have been ony feesh, ye ken."


     All Girvan flocked to gaze at the creature, thrilled by the thought of having acquired a plesiosaurus, a marine reptile active millions of years ago.
     The Scottish papers, remembering it was 20 years since the birth of the still elusive Loch Ness monster, made Girvan front page news the next day, and Fleet Street (London) papers carried stories and pictures.
     Experts were hurriedly summoned from Edinburgh, but before they could arrive at Girvan, the people, revolted by the smell, had poured oil on the beast and burnt its whole carcass, except the head.
     That had unaccountably vanished almost before their eyes.
     From photographs taken before the burning, the thwarted experts decided Girvan's "missing link" was a basking-shark that had died a natural death in the sea, but had been battered by rocks and half eaten by other sea creatures. They returned to Edinburgh disappointed.
     But in London, the famous zoologist, Professor Julian Huxley, could not dismiss the affair so lightly.
     "It was a grave mistake to destroy the creature," he said. "The long neck, tail and legs were most unusual."I would welcome fragments of jaw bones and feet for analysis."
     Local people believe they have now solved the mystery of the absent head—it may be on its way to Professor Huxley under the arm of Tony McTaggart, 60, a wartime liaison officer with General de Gaulle.


     McTaggart, a tall bearded man in a black Astrakhan hat, is a local recluse, who is reported to have been seen putting the monster's head into a sack on the beach. He is now missing from his cottage.
     The Provost, Mr. Smith, also confessed he had helped himself to some of the monster before it was destroyed —a part of the backbone, which he has sent to London for analysis.
     This week-end lookouts on the harbour wall and the sloping green hills behind Girvan are maintaining a non-stop vigil for the next appearance of the monster's mate, while the village has become a trippers' paradise.
     Thousands are booked to go there by train and road, a local manufacturer is turning out women's scarves with a monster pattern, and outsize potatoes are being sold as "other Girvan monsters."
     So-called fragments of the remains will be sold to the highest bidders.
     Skipper "Geisha" Sloane, who was the first man to see the strange creatures in the Clyde, will run hourly hunts for the monster in his ketch Amethyst, with 12 passengers at 10/ each.

(It was most likely a basking shark)
The strange creatures do not end there, as there are also tales of mermaids around the Galloway coast.
The mermaid, or in Gaelic, Maid-of-the-Wave, was said to be beautiful with a lovely singing voice. The bottom half of her was like a fish and compared to a salmon skin glittering in the sunshine. She was said to have long copper coloured hair and sometimes would take off her fish skin and wear garments like any woman.
There was once a man in Galloway ,a healer , and it was said that he received some of his knowledge from a mermaid. A girl named May was ill with consumption. The healer t was very sad when he found that his herbs did not cure her as he loved her . One evening he sat on the shore and  a mermaid raised her head above the waves and sang:
Would you let bonnie May die in your hand
And the mugwort  flowering in the land?
Then she vanished. The man went at once and gathered the flowers of the mugwort, and made a medicine. This restored May to health.
Mermaids can be easily offended according to folklore too. They are not always helpful. An old family lived in a house, which stood on the banks of the Water of Girvan in Ayrshire. (same place as the sea monster mentioned earlier) There was a black stone at the end of the house, and a mermaid used to come and sit on it, combing her hair and singing. A woman who lived in the house could not get her baby to sleep because of the noise from the mermaid so she had the stone removed. The mermaid was angry yelled :
Ye may think on your cradle--
  I think on my stane;
There will ne'er be an heir
  To Knockdolian again.
Not long after this the baby died. He was the only child in the house, and when his father and mother died the family became extinct.
Another tale concerns a Forfarshire landowner who nearly lost his life by rushing into a lake to save what he thought was a young lady in trouble in the deep water. She called to him: "Help! help!I am drowning " When the landowner went to dive in to the lake his man-servant stopped him . "That wailing woman," the servant said, "is not a human being but a mermaid. If you had touched her, she would have dragged you down and drowned you." As he spoke the sound of laughter came over the lake, and the mermaid swam away.
Many people have said mermaids are simply seals or manatees that people have mistaken for something half human. As for sea serpents ,well keep your eyes open around the Scottish coast, you may see Nessie’s cousin.

1 comment:

Markus said...

Took some years to answer... it was identified in 1953 (from scientists from photo and samples) and it can be identified even today alone from a single photo. My new article, beside the history and the said photo, will also include aprivate film of Beryl MacLeod, which she took in their holidays at Girvan. I've done some explanations too why its without any doubt a basking shark. Enjoy it: