Later this week, Phonefinderoftheblogbeth and I will be taking a trip to Inverness. The capital of the Highlands is an interesting place for all sorts of reasons – I’d recommend taking a look at what Ian Wiki has to say about it here.
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Among all the interesting facts about Inverness, two in particular leap out. To give you some context, Beth likes that almost all British celebrities have their favourite football teams noted in the personal section of their Wiki entries. Except the Prime Minister. I can’t imagine why it’s omitted for him.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s celebrity fan is Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth. Since choosing them as her favourites prior to settling in Scotland, she’s seen them reach their first major cup final – losing to the glorious Aberdeen FC in the 2014 League Cup – qualify for Europe for the first time via a best ever third place finish in the Scottish Premiership*, and win the 2015 Scottish Cup. If there’s any list of achievements likely to put inspiring a recovery from a catastrophic stroke in the shade….
And secondly, Inverness lies at the mouth of the River Ness. In fact, its name derives from the Gaelic Inbhir Nis, meaning “mouth of the River Ness”. The Ness flows from the loch of the same name, home to one of Scotland’s other biggest celebrities. Various attempts have been made to debunk Nessie’s existence since she was first recorded in Adomnán’s Life of St. Columba in the 7th Century. Nevertheless, each time it seems that the timorous beastie has been put to bed for good, her long plesiosauric neck pops up above the surface. I was surprised to read in Ian Wiki’s account that there has been a spate of claimed sightings, photos, videos, and sonar images since 2007?!
These might have been sightings, photos, videos, and sonar images of an otter, algae, a fibreglass prop, and a wave, but, y’know….
Mythical sea creatures are popular in Scotland. One explanation for Nessie’s longevity, offered by the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren, is that she is a descendent of the kelpies of Scottish folklore. I’m really interested in the legends of kelpies at the moment. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re shape-shifting water spirits inhabiting the lochs and pools of Scotland, which usually appear in the shape of a horse. If we don’t manage to find Nessie up in the Highlands, we’ll have to return to the Central Lowlands and see if we have more luck there.
The myths of the kelpie are various. Usually depicted as a solitary creature, the kelpie is often described as a shape-shifting demon with a hurtful nature. So, one might read of a kelpie taking its victim into the water, devouring it, and throwing the entrails back to the shore. However, I prefer a version of the kelpie legend that Ian Wiki describes as originating in Barra (citing Heather McNeil’s 2001 The Celtic Breeze: Stories of the Otherworld from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales).
Kelpies, which remind me of sirens in some cases, are often attractive in their human form. This applies to kelpies both in the form of human females and males.
In the Barra tale, a lonely kelpie transforms itself into a handsome young man to woo a pretty young girl it is determined to take for its wife. She’s a canny lass, however, and removes his necklace, upon which the kelpie changes back into horse form. She takes him home to her father’s famr, where he is put to work for a year. Long story short, a local sage then advises her to return the necklace and asks the kelpie whether he’d rather be a kelpie or mortal. Before he answers, the kelpie asks the girl whether, if he were a man, she would agree to be his wife. She says yes. He chooses to become mortal. The couple marry, and everyone gets to keep their entrails. Yay!
For all that I’m a soppy old romantic, though, I am a man of science. Even though my old biology teacher might not agree.
So before Falkirk, off to the Highland capital to see if we can find any cast iron evidence of Nessie. I’ll report back next week. Put on the travelling tunes, Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth!