Stories and Tales

Stories and tales, both factual and fictional.

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Maurice Fleming in Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland gives interesting accounts of more recent sightings of supernatural dogs which are summarized here. One story from the 1960’s near the Bridge of Cally, Perthshire tells of a large reddish-brown dog which crossed in front of a car and was clearly seen by all four passengers. Another episode took place in 1995 Aboyne when John Stewart of Blair Atholl saw a large dark coloured dog that he spoke to, but when he went to touch it his hand went right through it! This was not his only experience as he also saw a black dog run in front of a car but nothing was lying on the road when the car passed. Even more frightening is the account of a black dog walking so close to a woman as touch her leg, but she could see that its paws never touched the ground.

A well known story is The Grey Dog of Morar that is seen on an island on Loch Morar, apparently having been abandoned there by a man about to enlist on his return he was killed by the wild pups of this bitch who is still to be seen to this day.

Other stories of ghostly encounters are with rather more fearsome dogs and some stories connect black dogs with the devil or see them as witches in disguise. Such dogs can have other roles - for example guarding underground treasure and even being the form that a human who was committed a crime takes as a punishment.

One such tale is The Ghost o’ Mause from eighteenth century Perthshire where the black dog is the ghost of a murderer. Another story his time of a ‘green lady’ who when she makes amends for her crime a large black grey hound is seen crossing the moor never to be seen again.

Could it be that such lingering superstitions account for the difficulty of homing rescue greyhounds who are black in favour of fawns etc. which home more quickly?

Morris Fleming also gives an account of his own sighting a well known apparition the black dog of Tornacarry and concludes ‘It is to be expected that dogs which have been mans help and companion since early times have become deeply embedded in his folklore…’ Man’s best friend can have another side to him especially if he is black or grey?

The next part will look at the Sluagh or Host of the Air with a Cusidh story connected to this belief and other related stories of packs of supernatural dogs.


By Claire Cartmell

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The previous article dealt with the fairy dogs of the West Highlands and the stories of the fear that they seem to have engendered. However there are some stories of fairy dogs being befriended by humans and returning the favour. These dogs would have been held in such awe because they were part of the organized realm of the fairy, which unwary humans got involved in at their peril. However, in the stories the stress placed on the fact that they barked three times suggest that they were associated with omens and prognostications. In the West Highlands second sight was and is particularly strong and often is concerned with foreseeing death, so there may well be a connection here.

There is one particular type of dog that had a very close connection with death and this is the spectral Black Dog, best known through Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Black dogs were almost always seen as a dangerous omen and sometimes as instruments of divine justice stalking a guilty person until justice was done. Black dogs were particularly connected with England as reflected in the large number of ‘Black Dog Lanes’ in villages and towns up and down the country, but there are many variations and different names for these dogs in different parts of the British Isles.

It appearance, Black Dogs are described as usually shaggy and as big as a calf, with huge fiery eyes, but they make no sound. In the north the black dog is also known as Capelthwaite, Padfoot or Shag, and there is a black dog called The Black Angus, who is said to haunt the moors of Scotland and northern England, appearing to those destined to die in a short time.

East Anglia also has a black dog called Shuck, which may derive from the Saxon for devil (succa). Black Shuck or Old Chuck has either a single eye set in the centre of his head or has glowing red eyes, but he has even been described as headless, yet having glowing eyes set in front of him.

One of the most famous of these dogs was The Black Dog of Peel Castle on the Isle of Man, the ‘Mauthe Doog’. Though Black Dogs were dangerous and ominous as they could ‘blast’ anyone who spoke to or struck them, nevertheless the Black Dog of Peel Castle apparently gave a friendly warning of disasters at sea.

The Black Dog is particularly associated with two Scottish families one for the good, the other for ill. Ean Mac Endroe of Loch Ewe and his and descendants were granted protection from the power of the Black Dog by a fairy whom he saved about the time of Culloden (1746). On the other hand, any member of the Clan MacLartin was doomed to death on a dunghill if he were to see a Black Dog. The story goes that Jamie MacLartin was the last of the MacLartins to encounter a Black Dog and was subsequently killed by English Dragoons and throw on a dunghill in the earlier Jacobite rebellion of 1715.

The Church Grim is another kind of dog found in England - also considered a death warning. There was a widespread tradition that church yards were guarded from the devil and from witches by a spirit in the form of a Black Dog. One story tells that the Yorkshire Church Grim can be seen about the church in dark stormy weather by day and night. It sometimes tolls the bells at midnight before a death and at a funeral that the clergyman would see it looking out from the tower and would be able to judge from the dog’s appearance whether the corpse was bound for heaven or hell. There was certainly a belief that the first man buried in a churchyard had to guard it against the devil, but to save a human from this task a Black Dog was buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute.  This is similar to the belief held in Scotland, that is was the duty of the last buried corpse to guard the graveyard till the next funeral.
 
By Claire Cartmell 

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Fearsome Black Dogs!In May 1993 I was granted the Cusidh affix (now jointly held with my daughter Elise Cartmell) when I bred from my foundation bitch Ardkinglas Pattie with Fearnwood Sound of Ryan. Later Pattie’s granddaughter Cusidh Sian was mated with Chapeltower Zog whose mother was Ardkinglas Polka, Pattie’s sister. My first deerhound who was very close to me died very young from cancer. Since then I had wanted an affix that suggested a connection with the world of the spirit so I put ‘Cu’ - hound with ‘Sith’ – fairy and only later discovered that there were mythological ‘Cusidhs’. I was, and still am, living in Fife and it also turned out that the ‘sidhe’ was a name for the early, probably pictish, inhabitants of Fife so the name was appropriate for me and my dogs.

The following articles tell some of the stories about these dogs and, as Francis Thompson notes in The Supernatural Highlands 1997,

‘The existence in Highland supernatural bestiary of this creature indicates the belief that animals as well as humans populated the spirit world of the Celts.’

 

By Claire Cartmell

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The sources for these stories will be given at the end of the series.

There are many types of supernatural dogs to be found all over the British Isles.

This article focuses on the Cu Sidh – the Fairy Dog of the West Highlands, Cu (coo) being the Gaelic for hound and Sidh (shee) for fairy. A Supernatural Hound!In appearance the Cusidh was different from other Celtic fairy hounds in being dark green in colour, with a lighter green towards the feet, whereas other fairy dogs were white with red ears. It was said to be the size of a yearling bullock. It was shaggy, with a long tail coiled up its back, or plated in a flat plait. Its feet were enormous and as broad as a man’s: its great footmarks were often seen in mud or snow, but it glided along silently, moving in a straight line. It did not bark continuously when hunting, but gave three tremendous bays which could be heard by ships far out at sea. The fairy dog bark has been described as ‘a rude clamour’, sounding not unlike that if an ordinary dog, only much louder. There was usually a long interval between each bark, which gave the terror stricken listener a chance of making for safety before he or she heard the third bark. Apparently few objects produce more terror than the fairy dog if ever encountered on dark nights.

It is said that the fairy dogs were tied up inside the Brugh (broo) to be loosed on intruders. However they also went with the women looking for human cattle to milk or drive into the Sithein. Tradition has it that the Cusidh were sent out in search of human women to drive into the fairy mounds to become the nurse maids for fairy children. Sometimes a Cusidh would be allowed to roam alone, taking shelter in the clefts of the rocks. This Cusidh would be terribly formidable to mortal men or dogs, but those loosed in the brugh were driven back by the mortal dogs when they approached human habitations.

There are several stories re-told by the famous Highland folk story collector, Alasdair Alpin MacGregor, in The Peat-Fire Flame (1937) which give interesting insights into the legends surrounding these dogs.

The first, a folk-tale from Tiree, tells of an islander crossing the machair near Ceann a Mhara, and seeing a strange dog crouching by a sand dune immediately decided to take a different route home. The next day he felt brave enough to go back to the dune where he discovered the imprints of a dog’s paws as large as the spread of his palm. He traced the imprints some distance till they disappeared and could only conclude that they had been made by a fairy dog.

Evidence of a visitation by fairy dogs who leave their huge paw marks features in a story of Hynish Hill, in south west Tiree during the days when families moved to a summer shieling to pasture their cows. One night two young boys who were watching the cows to prevent them roaming off went into the sheiling to sleep, but were disturbed by heavy tramping on the turf roof and by loud howlings. Next morning the marks made in the turf by the fairy dogs were all too evident.

Also to be found in Tiree is a cavern traditionally known as the Lair of the Fairy Dog, where the barking of a huge dog has been heard.

The barking also features in a story of an old Tiree woman who, accompanied by a neighbour, was searching for driftwood on a stretch of the beach known as Reef. When she heard mysterious barking her neighbour grabbed her and rushed home with her, believing that if they had heard the dog bark three times they would have been overtaken by the dog.

Another story, this time from Lorne on the Argyll mainland, tells of a shepherd sheltering behind a rock who found two very large pups in a hollow beside him and was surprised to find that they were considerably larger than his own full grown collies. Realising they were the whelps of a fairy dog the shepherd made off quickly in case the mother should return! Apparently the shepherd’s dogs were just as apprehensive as their master.

These stories show a rich oral tradition based in a belief in fairy dogs, which also featured in Celtic religious tradition.

By Claire Cartmell

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Here is a 'charming' little tale about not very much. Written by the forum, taking turns at 5 words each. Whoever said too many cooks spoil the broth? I have inserted the odd punctuation mark. Read the full thread here.

I met a Deerhound yesterday while walking in the hills. He came bounding towards me when a rabbit shot by! Off he went a running, but the rabbit was too clever, and hid behind a large tree, with pretty flowers that harboured a large squirrel which was really a kangaroo aka sqirroo, with a machinegun! The deerhound called the pack
"you'll never take me alive!" and the sqiroo ran up the deerhound's big leg and and bit him on the hind leg, for which he let out a mighty howl! And jumped ever so high he knocked his head on the moon, saw stars and and floated down by moonbeam a branch of the tree Caught on his collar and the collar broke in half. The Deerhound stood and shook and thought...where was I???
The Squiroo laughed so much he fell off the branch and the hound pounced on sqirroo and took his machinegun and said "who's laughing now"!

The End! (or is it)