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Fact of the Week: Blue Men of the Minch

A Blue Man of Minch?

A Blue Man of Minch?

  • by STEPHEN EMERSON
 

SEAFARER diaries are littered with encounters from sailors who testify to witnessing sea-dewelling supernatural creatures on their travels around the globe.

It therefore comes as little surprise to discover that sailors crossing one of Scotland’s roughest stretches of water, the Minch, have reported seeing mysterious male forms of mermaid emerging from the water down the centuries.

The Blue Men of the Minch, also known as Storm Kelpies, are said the reside in the body of water which lies between mainland Scotland and the Outer Hebrides and occasionally prey on sailors making the crossing.

This extract from Donald Alexander Mackenzie book Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, published in 1917, describes the legend:

“The strait which lies between the island on Lewis an the Shant Isles is called the ‘Sea-stream of the Blue Men’. They are of human size, and they have great strength. By day and by night they swim round and between the Shant Isles, and the sea there is never at rest. The Blue Men wear blue caps and grey faces which appear above the waves that they raise with their long restless arms. In summer weather they skim lightly below the surface but when the wind is high they revel in the storm and swim with heads erect, splashing the waters with mad delight. Sometimes they are seen floating from the waist out to sea, and sometimes turning round like purpoises when they dive.”

Minster of Tiree between 1861 and 1891, John Campbell, reported on one journey that he saw “a blue-covered man” however the Reverend came to no harm.

Other historical notes on the Blue Men say that they lived in underwater caves in a clan system while fanciful stories passed down the generations say that they can only be beaten by making sure the last word is achieved in a rhyming duel. It is said many a captain has escaped disaster on the seas with the sharpness of his tongue.

The origin of the Blue Men legend is unclear with some suggestions that the tale originally came from memories of Moorish slaves marooned in Ireland in the 9th Century by Viking pirates and slave traders.

It is also claimed that men are a personification of the notoriously dangerous waters of the Minch.

 

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