Tuesday 17 July 2012

The water cow of St Mary's Loch

St Mary’s Loch

James Hogg (1770 –  1835) wrote in the ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ about a water cow that lived in St Mary’s Loch. The Loch  was created during the ice age and is the largest  loch in the Borders area. According to local legend it  is thought to be bottomless. It  is situated on the A708 road between Selkirk and Moffat, and is approximately 3 miles(5 kilometres)  long and  half a mile (1 kilometre)wide. The Loch rarely freezes over and may be the coldest loch in Scotland.(NB the loch is unlikely to be bottomless and it was reported to be 150 feet ( 50 meters)deep by some people)

James Hogg wrote:
. "A farmer in Bowerhope once got a breed of her, which he kept for many years until they multiplied exceedingly; and he never had any cattle thrive so well, until once, on some outrage or disrespect on the farmer's part towards them, the old dam came out of the lake one pleasant March evening and gave such a roar that all the surrounding hills shook again, upon which her progeny, nineteen in number, followed her all quietly into the loch, and were never more seen”. 

This story was repeated by James Mackinley in his Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs 1893.There is a statue of James Hogg near the Loch by a local Inn.

Was is interesting about this folktale is that the Loch sounds like so many others that are said to have lake monsters or water horses living here. All the lochs seem to be from the ice age, be very cold and rarely freeze and are deep. Could it be a creature did live in the loch and it ate the farmer’s cows? Could it be that some sort of aquatic creature has survived from the ice age in these lochs, many of which are in quite desolate and difficult to get to places? Loch Ness had no proper road until 1933(there are those who would argue its still not a very good road lol) and many of the lochs do not even have roads to them. So the mystery remains, I hope one day it will be solved if not it may be that in the future only in folklore we will learn about the mysterious beasties in the Lochs.

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