Scottish Field

The Wild, Wild West

Tales from the Trossachs and Arran have a certain charm, but beware of Glasgow’s eerie ghosts and Ayrshire’s mermaid who proves hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,

- says Rosie Morton


It is impossible to relate tales of the Trossachs without first mentioning the eminent novelist and poet that immortalis­ed this region. Sir Walter Scott, who first visited the area in the 1790s, was so taken by what he found at Loch Katrine that he composed his classic 1810 poem The Lady of the Lake to record its beauty. This, alongside his seminal novel Waverley of 1814, would later encourage tourists to the region and to wider Scotland. Chief among those visitors was Queen Victoria.

I wonder, though, if Scott knew about the supernatur­al beings that were watching him pen his works from afar? On one side of the loch lie the unforgivin­g cliffs of ‘Coire na Uruisgean’ which were once home to friendly, mythologic­al creatures known as urisks. Half goat, half human (think Narnia’s Mr Tumnus), the urisks of Loch Katrine were known for helping farmers tend to their fields – so, had Scott encountere­d one, I’m almost certain they’d have lent a hand with his next romantic poem.

And how about the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond? That melodious chorus which is so familiar to us all may be the closest assocation we have with this stretch of water, but the locals of Loch Lomond have a different story to tell. Did you know that the loch is home to a crocodile? Well, some say it actually resembles a plesiosaur (an ancient marine reptile), while others claim it’s an alligator. Regardless, something fishy is going on, and sightings have been reported for centuries. Sadly, though, these are largely undocument­ed...


They say that ‘People Make Glasgow’, and with that I cannot argue. Scotland’s Dear Green Place has gifted the world such greats as ‘The Big Yin’, Lulu, the late Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and (best of them all) my dad. Artistic, entertaini­ng, brilliant minds render this city a cultural paradise. One character, however, has added a rather more macabre dimension to Glasgow’s societal makeup: the ‘Gorbals Vampire’.

Disappoint­ingly, this vampire bears no resemblanc­e to 21st-century teenage heartthrob Robert Pattinson, AKA the Twilight saga’s honey-eyed Edward Cullen. Instead, this is a seven-foot, iron-toothed monster that was first spotted in September 1954. Rumours began when police were called to the Gorbals’ Southern Necropolis where hordes of children

– armed with crudely fashioned axes, stakes and knives – were hunting for the Gorbals Vampire which they blamed for killing and eating two young boys. Searching every nook and cranny, and behind every tree and headstone, the children only gave up on their quest when the fog and the rain rolled in (and, most likely, when their stomachs began grumbling). The following evening, a smaller group returned to the cemetery, but by the third unsuccessf­ul night their interest waned. Their concerns had, however, piqued the interest of the press by this stage, and anxious parents began wondering if any truth lay behind their wee ones’ claims. Hysteria heightened, and soon much of the local population was looking over their shoulder.

"Did you know that the loch is home to a crocodile?

It remains a mystery as to who or what the vampire was, but when you consider that flesh-eating beings were already firmly ensconsed in local myth and legend, there is little wonder that such creatures wormed their way into childrens’ minds. Is it possible that they had seen Jenny wi’ the Airn Teeth? This sabretooth­ed hag was written about in Alexander Anderson’s 1870s Scots poem and was said to have preyed on unsuspecti­ng children who refused to go to sleep. Or perhaps the Gorbals Vampire was a cautionary tale spun by parents to keep their children from wandering too far? I’d call that extreme, if irresponsi­ble parenting, but it seemed to do the trick.

When I think of Glasgow though, I don’t just think of its people – I also think of its unapologet­ically grand (and magnificen­t) architectu­re. Cathedral House Hotel, a late 19th-century Baronial-style corner building, is believed to be one of the city’s most haunted landmarks. Though it now serves as a glamourous hotel for foot-sore tourists, its original purpose was far less romantic. Built in 1896, it was used as a halfway house for female prisoners who had been released from the neighbouri­ng Duke Street Prison. Duke Street was infamous, and it was the site of many executions during the 20th century.

The prison has long since been demolished, meaning that Cathedral House Hotel is now the nearest connected structure that remains. Could this be why paranormal activity has been reported in the building? Some tell stories of furniture moving itself. Others say that a woman once drowned her children in a bath in the hotel, and today the sound of those two youngsters playing can be heard on the top floor. The most common paranormal experience to be reported, however, is the feeling of an invisible presence brushing past guests on the stairs.


Mermaids. A brilliant topic to explore as we turn our attention towards Ayrshire’s pristine coastline. We must remember, though, that no two mermaids are the same. Certainly, they aren’t all as spirited and spritely as Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In sharp contrast to Ariel’s sunny dispositio­n, the vengeful mermaid of Knockdolia­n was remembered for all the wrong reasons.

A dozen miles south of Girvan stood the family seat of the Knockdolia­ns, a stone castle which enjoyed views of the Firth of Clyde.

By day, the mermaids of Knockdolia­n would remain beneath the waves, but by night would rise to the shore, sit atop rocks, sing songs, and pin their hair back with starfish – doing what mermaids do best. All in all, there was perfect harmony between the folk of the sea and the land.

One day, Lady Knockdolia­n gave birth to an heir which caused much joy and celebratio­n in the household. That was until a month later when the whole family was woken by the baby’s piercing cry. Both the lady and her nurse ran to the child, but could find no sign of disturbanc­e, nor see anything visible to have caused the child pain. These sleepless nights turned into sleepless weeks, until they discovered that one mermaid’s song was disturbing the child. Desperate for a quick fix, the Knockdolia­ns ordered servants to destroy the rock upon which the mermaid sat. However, when she returned and saw that her favourite perch had been destroyed, she sang: ‘Ye may think on your cradle –

I’ll think on my stane, / An’ there’ll never be an heir to Knockdolia­n again.’

Tragically, the baby’s cradle was found overturned shortly after, and the infant died. The powers of the vengeful mermaid remained forevermor­e, with every subsequent Knockdolia­n heir being found dead beneath the cradle shortly after birth.


It seems that ancient stone circles go hand-in-hand with Scotland’s impossibly beautiful islands, and Arran’s Machrie Moor Standing Stones are among the island’s most prominent historic sites. The six stone circles, astonishin­gly, are thought to date back to around 2,000 BC, but archaeolog­ical digs suggest there was human activity on site as early as 3,500 BC. Human activity, or fairy activity?

As far as some locals are concerned, the fairies of Durra-na-each have a lot to answer for. To pass the time, these cheeky wee creatures would sit and flick pebbles down onto the moor. Over the years, these pebbles became large stones which eventually formed the Standing Stones. One of the stone circles (appropriat­ely labelled ‘Circle Two’ by Historic Environmen­t Scotland) is known as ‘Fingal’s Cauldron Seat’. If you look closely, there is one stone with a hole in it. Here, it is said that local giant, Fingal, would tether his dog Bran while he sat and ate his meals. I can certainly think of worse picnic spots.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Left: Is it a crocodile? Is it an alligator? No, it’s a plesiosaur.
Left: Is it a crocodile? Is it an alligator? No, it’s a plesiosaur.
 ?? ?? Clockwise from top left: The Gorbals Vampire mural, brought to life by artpistol Projects; the vengeful mermaid brings a sad tale to Ayrshire; Machrie Moor Standing Stones.
Clockwise from top left: The Gorbals Vampire mural, brought to life by artpistol Projects; the vengeful mermaid brings a sad tale to Ayrshire; Machrie Moor Standing Stones.
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom