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Swearing to Mermaids December 3, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

A further Scottish Mermaid sighting, dating to October 1809. This one is particularly interesting because there seems to have been a concerted effort to get the local ‘yokels’ – whose testimony is usually reckoned at less than naught – to swear to what they saw.

Neil McIntosh in Sandy Island, Canna, states that he has heard from different individuals in the island of Canna, that they have seen the fish called Mermaids; that these animals had the upper parts resembling the human figure, and the lower extremities resembling a fish. In particular, about six years ago, Niel Stewart and Neil McIsaac, both alive in Canna, when walking upon the sea beach on the north end of the island, on a Sunday, saw, stretched on a rock at a small distance, an animal of this description, having the appearance of a woman in the upper parts, and of a fish below; that on seeing them it sprung into the water, after which they had a more distinct view of its upper part, which strongly resembled a female of the human species. That Lachlan McArthur, of the same island, informed McIntosh, that some years ago, sailing from Uist to Skye in a stormy day, he saw rising from the water, near the stern of the boat in which he was, a. figure, resembling a human in its upper parts, which terrified him extremely. Neil McIntosh further states, that he himself, about five years ago, was steering a boat from Canna to Skye in a stormy day; that when about one-fourth of the passage from Canna, he saw something near him of a white colour, and of the human figure, spring almost out of the water, which he took for the animal above described; but as it instantly disappeared again, he had no opportunity of examining it minutely; that he felt considerable alarm at the sight of it, as a general opinion or prejudice exists amongst the inhabitants of the Western Isles, that it is extremely unlucky to meet with or look upon such animals at sea, or to point them out to the rest of the crew, unless they observe it themselves.

Fairly modest stuff, but in many ways the most interesting part of the letter is the legalistic coda. Oaths and attestations are breaking out in folklore.

Signed, Neil McIntosh; Robert Brown, factor for Clanrannald witness; Donald McNeil, of Canna, witness; Wm Campbell, W. S. Edinburgh, witness; James Gillespie, architect, Edinburgh, witness. Portree, 2nd October, 1809.

That what is above written is a true copy of the original.

Attested, Malcolm Wright, N. P.

Beachcombing should say that since writing this up he has come across a second copy of the same with some variants. Not sure what that is about.

Strangehistory is always interested in mermaid stories! drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com