Skip to main content

Story entitled 'A Mhaighdean Mhara' about a mermaid in Shawbost, 1891

Identifier: Coll-97/CW108/144

Scope and Contents

Story entitled 'A Mhaighdean Mhara' about a mermaid who followed sea-cattle ashore at Siabost [Shawbost, Eilean Leòdhais /Isle of Lewis]. It was customary for them to sprinkle urine between the sea-cattle and the shore, to stop them from returning to the sea. The sea-cattle were taken to a farm nearby and the mermaid followed. On observing the woman of the farm cleanning fish she said, 'Nigh[e] is glan gu math an t-iasg, Is ioma biasd a tha 's a mhuir', [Wash and clean well the fish, there is many a monster in the sea] which became a proverb in Siabost. One day the mermaid noticed that they had forgotten to sprinkle urine and she ran to the sea calling the names of the sea-cattle who followed her. The men saw this and chased them but only caught the last sea-cow by the tail and then it got away. The mermaid then remarked that if the men had had porridge for breakfast none of the sea-cattle woud have got away. Legend states that this is when people in Shawbost started eating porridge.


  • Creation: 1891

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 62 folios ; 23.5 x 19.5 cm

Physical Location


Physical Location

folio 38v, line 1 to folio 39v, line 11


MacPhail, Malcolm, 'Folkore from the Hebrides, IV', Folklore, vol. 8, no. 4 (1897), pp. 384-385

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379