1870 (ca.): Visit of a Water-Horse

Sometime around 1870, when the small island in the middle of Loch Cuaich, Scotland, was tenanted by a "Highland freebooter" named Macphie and his wife, a deserter from the army, who supported himself by fishing, hunting, and occasionally "borrowing" a sheep or goat from the lands around the lake. He was always worried that the army would come looking for him, and so slept with a byonet and loaded gun beside his bed each night. At this time, it was also known that there was a water-horse in the lake. It was said to be often seen floating on its side at the surface, "disporting itself" (presumably ejecting waste of some sort), and disappearing beneath the waters again.

        One stormy night, these two unusual chracter met. Macphie was awakened from his slumbers by a rattling noise from door, and found the figure of a man standing in his doorway. Giving the remote location of macphie's house, he knew at once his visitor was the water-horse in human shape; and Macphie was not the sort to discuss matters, so he immediately fired his gun at the figure twice. The figure did not move. Macphie called to his wife to bring him a silver coin, which he quickly loaded and fired at the water-horse, which got a much more satisfying reaction from this nocturnal visitor... the figure quickly vanished from the doorway, and something was heard to splash into the waters of the lake shortly after.


        The odd account above was published by John Gregorson Campbell in 1900, roughly thirty years after the events had supposedly happened.

        We are told by Campbell that the people who lived near the lake had heard the three shots being fired; and, if true, they likely would have heard the story explaining the shots from Macphie himself. Given Macphie's dubious sociality and reputation, it's hard to say if it's the truth or if he wanted to cover up some other reason he was firing his gun that night. Macphie, we are told, was eventually evicted from the island, and moved with his wife to Fort Williams. There is no statement of whether or not the poor water-horse was seen again!

        Even if the tale is considered untrue, it is still a fine example of water-horse legend and belief from around 1900 in Scotland.

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