Monday, 20 August 2018

The Loch Ness Kelpie in 1856

That age old denizen of the murky Loch Ness waters surfaced again in the newspapers of old as found in the Nairnshire Telegraph of the 13th August 1856. The Loch Ness Kelpie or Each Uisge as the Loch Ness Monster was known back then got a mention as our Victorian correspondent of 162 years ago (and 77 years before the Nessie era) exalted the progress of the Highlanders as the age of steam and progress marched on through the lands of Northern Britain. 

I say Northern Britain as that was a name favoured for Scotland by English people after the summary defeat of the Jacobites in 1745. That man of literature and anti-Jacobite, Samuel Johnson receives a mention as his famous tour of the Highlands with Boswell receives some short shrift as the correspondent wonders how Johnson would react to the modern Glasgow steamers upon Loch Ness and muses that he may mistake them for the Loch Ness Kelpie! Johnson had recounted the tale of the Water Horse of Raasay, though he made no mention of any similar entity in Loch Ness. 

Here is Johnson's tale to complete the picture.

He [their guide] said, there was a wild beast in [Loch na Mna], a sea-horse, which came and devoured a man’s daughter; upon which the man lighted a great fire, and had a sow roasted on it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones, which extended from the fire over the summit of the hill, till it reached the side of the loch. The monster came, and the man with a red hot spit destroyed it. Malcolm (the guide) showed me the little hiding place, and the row of stones. He did not laugh when he told me this story.

The author can be contacted at


  1. Glad Nessie's a bit better behaved these days. Though on a serious note, people of the era did seem to be prone to tall tales. Sailors as well describing krakens the size of boats etc. This may have been people in isolated communities where imagination run away with itself. It certainly didn't help the search for the truth in the end!

    1. Unfortunately it also allows hardened sceptics to entirely dismiss older reports. I regard these older Loch Ness tales as rather like a story of an exaggerated fish which got away - ok the tale has been rather embellished but that doesn’t mean that there was no fish at all.

    2. Kelpie stories are mythical with a kernel of truth. If someone looked at the exaggerated film/book/tv portayals of Nessie today they would also think it mythical.

  2. It ate his daughter.
    Her cooked a pig on a fire which attracted a beast from the ocean (a creature that likes its meat roasted?).
    Then he killed the monster.

    Obvious question is where's the carcass? Even back then I'm sure the value of such an item would be considerable.

    All of the behavioural aspects in the story are in themselves individually incredible. It doesn't exhibit any of the characteristics of Nessie in the 20th century. I'd say it was a different creature, an exaggeration or a hoax.

    1. Loch na Mna is one of those small lochs which would never support a large creature. I am not even sure how a sea creature could get into it. As I said, we should be asking what was the factual basis for such a creature story.

  3. Hello laddies and lassies, tis yer YouTube Lock Ness Monster hunter here. Now gather round whilst I regale you with some Kelpie tales.

    This one is same as above, but in the Gaelic language with subtitles:

    And these two:

    A dark, gloomy, creepy one:

    A less sinister and playful take on the Kelpie:

    One tale of love and redemption:

    And lastly, this one tells the tale and of a lad in Scotland by the name of Roland Watson, AKA Glasgow Boy who researches such mythical creatures:

    Now off to bed with the lot of you. And stay away from the loch!