Monday, 6 April 2015


The most famous Kelpies - or Water Horses - in the county of Angus lived in the sister rivers, the North and South Esk.  The favourite haunt of the North Esk Kelpie was the Ponnage (Pontage or Ferry) Pool, a fortunate spot where it could take advantage of human traffic  and drown those unfortunate people who fell into the water when the ferry boat overturned.  Once the Laird of Morphie captured this supernatural beast by throwing a pair of branks over its neck.  He then used the creature to carry stones for his new house and power his mill on the Mearns side of the river.  When the work was completed, Graham of Morphie freed his slave.  As the Kelpie dived back into its watery abode, it pronounced a curse upon its tormentor:

                                              Sair back and sair banes,
                                              drivin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes:
                                              the Laird o' Morphie'll never thrive
                                              as lang's the Kelpie is alive!

    Another Kelpie haunted the River Isla and also the 'dowie' Dean Water, terrifying people by rushing up and down both waterways, roaring like thunder.  He once overturned the Isla ferry at Crathies, but was captured by the farmer at Balmyle, who made him clear his field of stones.  Capture and enforced manual labour was obviously an occupational hazard for Kelpies.  Upon his liberation this Kelpie uttered the familiar refrain:

                                               Sair back and sair banes,
                                               carryin' auld Bawmyle's stanes.

    The North Esk Kelpie was sometimes seen in Glen Lethnot's West Water, near Craigendowie.  The North Esk was apparently also haunted by an Urisk, an odd being sometimes described as halfway between a goat and a human being, or else likened to a kind of wild man of the woods.
    The South Esk Kelpie favoured a spot at the confluence of the Esk, Posen Water and Quharity Burn:

                                                The Water o' Prosen, Esk, an' Carity
                                                meet a' at the birken buss o' Inverquharity.

    This Kelpie is said to have built the old Shielhill Bridge, and he was so proud of it that he set up a carved image of his own head on the structure.
    The Noran Water, a tributary of the South Esk, had a particularly nasty Kelpie.  When a person fell into the river the Water-Horse lured away any rescuers by calling out from a distance, 'A' the men of Waterstone!  Come here!  Come here!', causing enough of a diversion to ensure that the endangered person drowned.  There is a place in the Noran Water called Tammy's Pot commemorating a drowned child, who was possibly one of this Kelpie's victims.  Close by this pool is a flat rock with a strange hollow in it, known as the Kelpie's Footmark.  It was formed when the river was raging in full spate and the Kelpie leapt around the rocks, lustily calling out for human blood.

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