Following on from our tales of the Loch Oich Monster. The witness who told me that story also mentioned an experience a friend had in the late 80s or early 90s at Loch Morar:
"Another pair of friends were seakayaking in Loch Morar, heading to Tarbert to portage through and paddle back down Loch Nevis and camped the night on an island in Loch Morar. During the night one got up for a pee and as he was standing in the dark a huge commotion in the water nearby went on for several minutes, then stopped.
Suddenly a large wave of displaced water rushed up the shingle beach evidence of a large object having moved about vigorously. Nothing to see and no signs of anything in the morning, and no boat engines or evidence of other craft."
"I'm afraid that the translation of Alexander Carmichael's notebooks was not one of the tasks in our project's remit, however the combination of the catalogue entry, which gives a synopsis in English, and the full-text transcription should go some way to revealing the contents of Gaelic notes. It is unlikely that translation work will take place on the notebooks unless by independent researchers."
I left it at that but some translations are beginning to come through as is evident with these items on the legendary creature of Loch Morar called "Mhorag". Cryptozoologists are familiar with modern sightings of this creature but the folklore aspects add some interesting details. The original articles can be found here, but I shall summarise the cryptozoological aspects below.
Carmichael had visited the district including Loch Morar perhaps around 1902 and as was his wont would takes notes on local stories. Three stories about Mhorag appear in his own texts from over 100 years ago.
" Morag is always seen before a death and before a drowning especially before the death of the proprietor.
When Iain Ruadh was drowned she was seen by Coll MacColl a native of Tiree.
She was seen about six years ago before a man was drowned. Eoghan Dughallach saw the Morag several times in his long life.
The Morag came to a man in Gleann Loch an aineach and spoke to him. "
"There is a creature in Lochmorar and she is called Morag. She is never seen save when one of the daoine duchasach – of the hereditary people of the place dies. The last time she was seen was when Aonas na Traigh, Aeneas Macdonnell, died in 1898.
The Morag is peculiar to Loch Morar. She is seen in broad daylight and by many persons – including church persons – parsons.
She appears in a cnap dubh – a black heap or ball slowing and deliberately rising in the water and moving along like a boat water logged.
The Morag is much disliked and is called by many uncomplimentary terms – Morag dhubh – black Morag – morally not physically – Morag Odhar – dun Morag. Morag dhuibhre – dusky Morag. Morag Ghranda – ugly Morag.
As sure as Morag is seen as surely a heredient dies immediately thereafter. She is not seen when one of the common people dies but is always seen when one of the heredients dies - One of the native chiefs or relatives of one of the native chiefs. The last time Morag was seen was immediately before the death of Aonas of Traigh in 1898.
Eoghan Dughallach Beoraid bheag – Beoraid Mhic Shimi – firmly believed in the Morag and gave many vivid descriptions of its appearance and occurrence."
“The Morag dwells in Loch Morar. She gives her name to the lake and still appears when any of the old Macdonalds of Morar die. Like the other water deities she is half human half fish. The lower portions of her body is in the form of a grilse and the upper in the form of a small woman of highly developed breasts with long flowing yellow hair falling down her snow white back and breast. She is represented as being fair, beautiful and very timid and never seen save when one of the Morar family dies or when the clan falls in battle.
Then she is seen rushing about with great speed and is heard wailing in great distress bemoaning and weeping the loss of the House of Morar laid desolate. The Morag has often brought out of their houses at night the people living along the shores of the lake and in the neighbourhood of her haunts causing much anxiety to the men and much sore weeping to the women. When the Morag was heard weeping and wailing the most thoughtless became serious and the most obdurate became subdued.
Old Macdougall, crofter, Mallaig Bheag said that the horn of the steamer, the shriek of the train and the crank of the rifle were inimical to the Morag giving no peace no rest no repose to bird or beast or fish day or night driving them all from their habitats to their secret hiding places in the recesses of sea and lake and mountain.
Macdougall described the Morag her form and face her hair and breasts her weeping and waling her rushing to and fro on the water with force and reality that carried conviction! The writer caught himself several times giving furtive glances away from his book to the calm bosom of Loch Morar in the late autumn eve.”
The blogger at the Carmichael website notes the distinction between the third account of a mermaid like creature and the less inspiring "cnap dubh" or "black heap" of the other two accounts. Here is where reality and folklore depart. The black heap is far more in keeping with modern sightings of dark humps moving across the water whereas mermaids are more the stuff of fantasy.
Although a mermaid in a loch rather than out at sea may seem more strange, this is not the first time we have come across mermaids in lochs as a previous post on Loch Duntelchaig demonstrated. What I did find interesting from the mermaid account was its aversion to modern noise which makes it flee to the deepest recesses of the loch. Researchers familiar with the Loch Ness Monster's sensitivity to shouts and car doors slamming may find a grain of truth there.
Nevertheless, our blogger theorises that Carmichael took the third account from a James MacDonald whom he may have met at a Gaelic song and story convention called the "Mod". You can read his line of thought in his third post here.
That the Mhorag appeared before the death of a person is already a documented feature of this creature and indeed the "monstrum" (Latin for "omen") or portentous aspect of water horses was already a feared attribute across the Highlands. Indeed, people even refrained from talking about seeing them for fear of a supernatural backlash.
But for those who seek the true creature behind these stories, the most telling line below speaks of the slow moving dark hump seen in the loch at the end of the nineteenth century.
"She appears in a cnap dubh – a black heap or ball slowing and deliberately rising in the water and moving along like a boat water logged."
Those further interested in the Loch Morar Monster could consult the standard book on this subject titled "The Search for Morag" by Elizabeth Campbell and David Solomon.