Heritage and Culture
Folklore Friday - The Mermaid of Benbecula
In 1830 and a group of people were busy at work cutting seaweed on the West Coast of the Island of Benbecula. Spotting a creature several yards out in the water, one woman cried out in surprise. In the form of a miniature woman, the creature was like nothing the beach goers had ever seen before. Alarmed at their discovery, the men of the group waded into the water to attempt to catch the mysterious creature, but she evaded them. Aiming a rock at her, a boy threw it as hard as he could, striking her on the back of the head. The creature cried out in pain, but disappeared beneath the waves.
A few days later a creature washed up dead on the beach at Culle bay, near the township of Nunton, which lies a few miles north of this spot. The creature was said to have a upper shape of a developed woman, but the size of a four year old girl. She had long, dark, glossy hair and pale white skin. The bottom half of the creature was described as being like a Salmon, but without the scales.
As the word spread, crowds of people gathered on the beach to take a look at this mysterious creature. Each one of them agreed that she was a mermaid. The local sheriff, the factor for the chief of MacDonald of Clanranald, was called. On seeing the creature he confirmed that it was a mermaid. Calling for a coffin and a shroud to be brought to the beach, he laid the creature into the coffin and buried her in a nearby churchyard. It was said that the funeral for the creature was one of the largest and well attended on the island, and was carried out the same way a proper Christian burial would.
There was no grave marker at the church, related to the incident, so many think that the creature was buried near the dunes instead. A recent survey of a large stone near the south end of the bay was carried out, suspecting this may be the resting place of the mermaid, however the results were inconclusive.
There have been many other tales of mermaids existing on the island. Colin Campbell, a crofter from Barra, spotted what he thought was an otter fishing near the shore. About to shoot it, he decided instead to check it through his telescope. He was shocked when he saw what he described as a woman carrying a small baby in her arms. Spotting him on the shore, the creature disappeared.