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  • Caithness Mermaid Mystery 2: More Mermaids October 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Mermaid posts. It has been a while… This one should be read together with another nineteenth-century Caithness sighting. It cannot be a coincidence that two letters were sent at the same time relating to the same village. Presumably the publicity given to Miss Mackay in late May for her sighting, encouraged or emboldened William Munro, a school teacher, to recall his own close encounter, when a Dr Torrence, his correspondent, required it.

    Thurso, 9th June, 1809.

    Dear Sir, Your queries respecting the Mermaid are before me: from the general scepticism which prevails among the learned and intelligent about the existence of such a phenomenon, had not your character and real desire for investigation been too well known to me for supposing that you wished to have a fertile imagination indulged by a subject of merriment, I would have been disposed to have concluded that in this instance you aimed at being ranked among the laughing philosophers at my expense. Sensible, however, that this is not the case, and taking it for granted that you are sincere, I shall endeavour to answer your queries, though there is little probability that any testimony which I can give respecting the mermaid will operate towards convincing those who have not hitherto been convinced by the repeated testimonies adduced in support of the existence of such an appearance.

    About twelve years ago [1797?], when I was Parochial schoolmaster at Reay, in the course of my walking on the shore of Sandside Bay, being a fine warm day in summer I was induced to extend my walk towards Sandside Bay, when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed female, sitting upon a rock extended into the sea., and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour. The resemblance which the figure bore to its prototype in all its visible parts was so striking that had not the rock on which it was sitting been dangerous for bathing I would have been constrained to have regarded it as really an human form, and to an eye unaccustomed to the situation it must have undoubtedly appeared as such.

    The head was covered with hair of the colour above mentioned and shaded on the crown, the forehead round, the face plump, the cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a. natural form resembling those of a, man, the teeth I could not discover as the mouth was shut: the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size of a full grown body of the human species, the fingers, from the action in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive. It remained on the rock three or four minutes after I observed it, and was exercised during that period in combing its hair which was long and thick, and of which it appeared proud, and then dropped into the sea, which was level with the abdomen, from whence it did not appear to me. I had a distinct view of its features, being at no great distance on an eminence above the rock on which it was sitting and the sun brightly shining. Immediately before its getting into its natural element it seemed to have observed me, as the eyes were turned towards the eminence on which I stood.

    It may be necessary to remark that previous to the period I beheld this object I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them persons whose veracity I never heard disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then like many others I was not disposed to credit their testimony on this subject. I can say of a truth that it was only by seeing the phenomenon I was perfectly convinced of its existence. If the above narrative can in any degree be .subservient towards establishing the existence of a phenomenon hitherto almost incredible to naturalists or to remove the scepticism of others, who are ready to dispute everything which they cannot fully comprehend, you are welcome to it from, Dear Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant, W[illia]m Munro.

    Why does this source ring less true than that of Miss Mackay? Beach suspects it is the anthropomorphic detail about hair-combing or perhaps it is just his long-standing ire against school teachers. WM was much mocked in contemporary newspapers: hopefully relatively little of it reached him up in the far north.

    Any other mermaid sightings rare or otherwise? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com