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The Water Horse Bridle of Nether Lochaber


In Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs (1893), James Mackinlay quotes an anecdote by Rev Dr Stewart, 'A drover, whose home was in Nether Lochaber, was returning from a market at Pitlochry by way of the Moor of Rannoch. Night came on; but, as the moon was bright, he continued his journey without difficulty. On reaching Lochanna Cuile, he sat down to refresh himself with bread, cheese, and milk. While partaking of this temperate repast he caught sight of something glittering on the ground, and, picking it up, he found it to be a horse's bridle. Next morning he was astonished to find that the bit and buckles were of pure silver and the reins of soft and beautifully speckled leather. He was still more surprised to find that the bit when touched was unbearably hot. A wise woman from a neighbouring glen was called in to solve the mystery. She at once recognised the article to be a water-horse's bridle, and accounted for the high temperature of the bit on the ground that the silver still retained the heat that it possessed when in a molten state below ground. The reins, she said, were made of the skin of a certain poisonous serpent that inhabited pools frequented by water-horses. According to her directions, the bridle was hung on a cromag or crook of rowan wood. Its presence brought a blessing to the house, and the drover prospered in all his undertakings. When he died, having no children of his own, he bequeathed the magical bridle to his grandnephew, who prospered in his turn.'

I am not sure where Lochanna Cuile is exactly and Nether Lochaber is the modern name for the parish of Ballachulish and Onich, formed in 1911. The map is not accurate and only illustrates the rough region in which this piece of folklore is based.


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