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Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World April 3, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World

Year in year out birds follow migratory routes from north to south and from south to north. These travelling birds have long intrigued humans who have looked amazed as waves upon waves of birds fly to destinations unknown. These birds have entered human legend: the storks going to Africa to fight the pygmies, the wild […]

Magic Bathing in the Far North February 9, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Magic Bathing in the Far North

This was a story that came up in the search for nineteenth-century superstitions relating to Loch Ness. We are c. 1870. The lake in question is apparently Loch mo Naire (which might be the Serpent’s Lake or the Lake of Shame) aka Lochmanur just on the northern tip of Scotland. Dipping in the loch for […]

Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse? February 2, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse?

Two of the most interesting Christmas books this year were Roland Watson’s The Water Horses of Loch Ness and Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. As is evident from the titles these books take opposite sides of the crypto argument: in fact, the authors […]

The Dragon of Dornoch? January 26, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Dragon of Dornoch?

Dragons… It has been so long. The last dragon story of kinds was the serpent crown in the summer of 2012 and the last proper dragon tale was back in spring of 2012, a seventeenth-century Essex wyrm. Here, instead, is a fascinating but potentially dodgy source for a twelfth- or thirteenth-century dragon: a letter sent […]

A Scottish Earthquake Remembered? December 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
A Scottish Earthquake Remembered?

David Murray Rose was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historian and, a far nicer word, an antiquarian. This comes from a letter he wrote in 1930 to the Inverness Courier and relates to an obsession of this blog: the degree to which information can be transmitted orally through time. First, the legend. Many years […]

Was Nessie a Kelpie? December 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Was Nessie a Kelpie?

A post a couple of weeks ago on the kelpie of Loch-na-Bestie got Beach thinking about the most famous kelpie in Caledonia. Who else but that stalwart of Scottish tourism, that gift to fake photographers everywhere, the greatest floating log of them all, Nessie?  Yes, it is true that Nessie has been seen, photographed and […]

Killing a Nineteenth-Century Nessie December 3, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Killing a Nineteenth-Century Nessie

There is a fabulous Scottish water beast story that is worth repeating. Today we scour lochs for fantastic animals. In the early nineteenth century they scoured at Loch na Beiste (literally Loch of the Beast) to kill the same. The story of the celebrated water-kelpie of the Greenstone Point is very well known in Gairloch. […]

Crypto Fairy Hippo Cow in Scotland and Ireland?! November 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern, Prehistoric
Crypto Fairy Hippo Cow in Scotland and Ireland?!

Fairy cows are occasional adjuncts to fairy legends and in the Gaelic world, particularly in the Irish west and the Scottish highlands there is the fairy water cow, a creature that comes from out of the water to land to graze. A little legend illustrating this from Limerick in Ireland, more specifically Lough Guir (aka […]

Dreaming Murder in Parliament #6: The Bude Kirk Rumours October 20, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Dreaming Murder in Parliament #6: The Bude Kirk Rumours

Now consider this strange little annex, in Lang. One very curious circumstance in connection with the assassination of Mr. Perceval has never been noticed. A rumour or report of the deed reached Bude Kirk, a village near Annan, on the night of Sunday, May 10, a day before the crime was committed! This was stated […]

The Bird Whisperer! October 12, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Bird Whisperer!

Horse whisperers are there in fiction and film and perhaps in fact and Beach previously had fun with East Anglian horse whispering (with many reader’s emails elucidating). But what about bird whispering? What could you possibly do to calm a bird? This blogger would find it easier to relate to a reptile or an insect […]

Fairy and Diary September 26, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Fairy and Diary

Just recently Beach came across an eighteenth-century diary with a strange fairy reference and wondered if any readers could help with trying to get to the bottom of it. First, we should say that the diary, by one Rev John Thomlinson, is full of highly elliptical references: it was definitely not for public consumption, but […]

Two-Hundred-Year-Old Memories of Dunbar? August 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Two-Hundred-Year-Old Memories of Dunbar?

Beach did a horrible thing yesterday and made fun of the supposed oral transmission of information across four millennia. Even at New Grange that sort of thing seems unlikely. But he does have a lot of sympathy with the possibility that stray details might make it through two or three centuries in a rural community, […]

Evans-Wentz and a Missing Thesis July 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Evans-Wentz and a Missing Thesis

Walter Evans-Wentz (obit 1965) was an American mystic who wrote, as a young man, before his interests went eastwards, the most important twentieth-century book about fairies: The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, published at Oxford in 1911. That book, available in many places on the web, can be broken down into three parts. The first […]

Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Witches and Brambles

This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop March 24, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop

Here are some extracts from the trial of one of the most interesting fairy witches of them all: Bessie Dunlop who was brought before the Edinburgh Assizes in 1576. This rendering of the trial (into English rather than Scots English) comes from Emma Wilby’s worthwhile: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Bessie’s first confession includes the […]

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