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Loch na Beiste


In his 'Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree' (1886), John H. Dixon gave the following account of a creature that was said to live in Loch na Beiste roughly 50 years early. 'The existence of water-kelpies in Gairloch, if perhaps not universally credited in the present generation, was accepted as undoubted in the last. The story of the celebrated water-kelpie of the Greenstone Point is very well known in Gairloch. The proceedings for the extermination of this wonderful creature formed a welcome topic for Punch of the period. The creature is spoken of by the natives as the "Beast." He lives, or did live, in the depths of a loch called after him Loch na Beiste, or "the loch of the beast," which is about half way between Udrigil House and the village of Mellon Udrigil. About 1840 Mr Bankes, the then proprietor of the estate on which this loch is situated, was pressed by his tenants to take measures to put an end to the Beast. At first he was deaf to the entreaties of the people, but at length he was prevailed upon to take action. Sandy M'Leod, an elder of the Free Church, was returning to Mellon Udrigil from the Aultbea Church one Sunday in company with two other persons, one of whom was a sister (still living at Mellon Udrigil) of James Mackenzie, when they actually saw the Beast itself. It resembled in appearance a good-sized boat with the keel turned up. Kenneth Cameron, also an elder of the Free Church, saw the same sight another day. A niece of Kenneth Cameron's (some time housemaid at Inveran) told me she had often heard her mother speak of having seen the Beast. It was the positive testimony of the two elders that induced Mr Bankes to take measures for the destruction of the Beast. The proceedings have been much exaggerated; James Mackenzie states that the following is the correct version of them :—Mr Bankes had a yacht or vessel named the Iris; James Mackenzie was a sailor in the Iris, along with another sailor named Allan Mackenzie. For a long time they and others worked a large pump with two horses with the object of emptying the loch. The pump was placed on the burn which runs from the loch into the not far distant sea; a cut or drain was formed to enable the pump to be worked, and a number of pipes were provided for the purpose of conducting the water away. The pipes are now lying in a house or shed at Laide. James Mackenzie often attended the pump. He and others were employed parts of two years in the attempt to empty the loch, or as James Mackenzie puts it, "to ebb it up." It was after this that the Iris was sent to Broadford in Skye to procure lime. James Mackenzie went with her. They brought from Broadford fourteen barrels of " raw lime." They came with the lime to Udrigil, and it was taken up to the " loch of the beast," and the small boat or dingy of the Iris was also taken up. The ground-officers would not go in the boat on the loch for fear of the Beast, so Mr Bankes sent to the Iris for James and Allan Mackenzie, and they went in the boat over every part of the loch, which had been reduced only by six-or seven inches after all the labour that had been spent on it. They plumbed the loch with the oars of the boat; in no part did it exceed a fathom in depth, except in one hole, which at the deepest was but two and a half fathoms. Into this hole they put the fourteen barrels of lime. It is needless to state that the Beast was not discovered, nor has he been further disturbed up to the present time. The loch contained a few good trout above the average size when I fished it in 1873. There are rumours that the Beast was seen in 1884 in or near another loch on the Greenstone Point.'

Greenstone Point is a promontory between Loch Ewe and Loch Gruinard.


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