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  • Caithness Mermaid Mystery 6: There Were Mermaids! August 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 6: There Were Mermaids!

    This is the last in the Caithness Mermaid Mystery, for now. A letter written in the John O Groats, 1849 series. Here we have a trusting soul, James Taylor, who knew all the protagonists… Dublin, 4th May, 1849. Sir, A considerable portion of the John O’Groat Journal being lately occupied by the appearance of those […]

    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 4: I Shot the Mermaid July 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 4: I Shot the Mermaid

    In the 1849 the John O’Groats newspaper, the most northerly on the British mainland ran a retrospective on the Caithness mermaids. It seems to have begun 6 April 1849 with a question asked in the paper. 20 April 1849 there was the republication of Miss McKay and Mr Thuro’s accounts. Then, there came this marvellous […]

    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 3: Dad Speaks July 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 3: Dad Speaks

    [Hospital emergency continues: some reserve posts I’ve been playing around with] Several years ago Beach ran two posts on mermaids from Caithness, seen in 1809 by a pastor’s daughter (Miss Mackay) and by a schoolmaster: perhaps the most famous mermaid sightings ever published. He has now enough material in his filing cabinet to open a […]

    Dreaming Death: Early Registration of Death March 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dreaming Death: Early Registration of Death

    This appeared in the newspaper as ‘an extraordinary hallucination’: Beach had very tentatively put it in his list of Victorian urban legends until he verified the existence of Sheriff Balfour. It could alternatively be sure bloody chance; or a murder case (if you close your eyes and squint at it from an unusual angle): any views […]

    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper January 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper

    Regular readers will know that Beach has a pronounced weakness for the collision of the supernatural and the legal system: be this in Africa, Ireland or Britain. Here is a lovely case from Scotland in 1889. Five miners were charged yesterday, Falkirk Sheriff Court, with poaching on the lands of Mr William Forbes of Culendar, […]

    Unlucky Minister and Fishing Boats September 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Unlucky Minister and Fishing Boats

      Priests and monks have long considered to be unlucky in European folklore. If you met a priest in 1400 walking down a Derbyshire or Pyrenean road you would straight away do something to ward off bad luck: touch wood, your testicles etc etc. Priests and monks understandably got quite testy at being treated as albatrosses, […]

    Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution July 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Whipping Boy: Origins of a Royal Institution

    The whipping boy needs little introduction. He was the child, brought up with a prince or with a young king, and punished on his behalf, when the prince or king was naughty: crucially the royal and his proxy were friends so any pain was vicariously felt. And why not just hit the royal in question? […]

    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings February 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Violent Deaths of Scottish Kings

    Readers may remember that Beach has recently been messing about with royal statistics. The exercise is a simple one. If you happen to be born into a royal dynasty between the year 1000 and 1700 and have the great misfortune to become king or queen what are the chances that you will die by violence? […]

    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600 February 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600

    Trip away today so a brief post about a rather unusual denouement to a life, Scottish Highland style. Allan was a villainous magician. In fact, we have come across him in the past roasting cats. When Allan was dying on his home island of Mull (in the 1600s though we are in a legendary past […]

    Ghost Cart/Coach of St Andrews January 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Cart/Coach of St Andrews

    This is a ghost story that appeared in a nineteenth-century British newspaper (SDE) for 18 Aug 1888. I dare say you heard the old of St. Andrew’s in the Kingdom Fife, N.B.? A charmingly interesting place for lovers of history. However, l am not going to enter into a thorough description here, intention being merely to […]

    Last of the British? September 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Last of the British?

    There are sixty million Britons, yet if you go house to house through England, Wales, Scotland and the six counties you will find that relatively few people actually define themselves in this way. If a family from Glasgow, Cardiff or Sheffield turn up in a French hotel they will probably write (under nationality) respectively: ‘Scottish’, […]

    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons September 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons

    There is a long tradition of cats being either pampered by humans or being killed in various ghastly ways. As noted before on this blog – the cat throwing of the Lowlands, for example – cat cruelty was, in the early modern period, institutionalized. Here is one horrific example from the Hebrides. Cat lovers might want […]

    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us! August 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us!

    In the long struggle to get a handle on fairies there have been claims that ‘the good people’ were simply a human race, kept apart from the rest of us, in the bogs and the mountains of the west and north of Europe: Buchan, Jenner, MacRitchie and many, many others made this argument and it […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die? June 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Were Ancient or Modern Soldiers More Likely to Die?

    Soldier, forget principle, forget country, forget pride, forget hate: your one aim is to survive, with or without your legs. Now ask yourself this: given that you want, at all costs, to live would you prefer to fight in WW2 battle or a battle in the Punic wars in antiquity? Perhaps the first thing to […]

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