The Conan is a real pretty river bending here and there in the far north of Scotland. It runs from Loch Luichart south-easterly before it opens up in the Cromarty Firth and the North Sea. At parts it rushes over rocky waterfalls and is known for its salmon and eel fishing.

There are few places where the frigid waters form shallow pools where one can cross to the other side, and where one can wade in for a ‘cool off’ on a hot sunny day. Along its banks lie wooded valleys and large marshes where one can get swallowed up in the murky water. There too is a church, now all fallen down, but many years ago it was surrounded in wide lush cornfields.

I don’t know when this legend was written but the Highlanders were many and they were all busy reaping in the harvest. It was getting to the hottest time of the day when suddenly a voice was heard coming out of the river, “The hour, but not the man has come”. 

Well! everyone stopped and stood like frozen in time. There before them rose out of the ford a ‘kelpie’, a sea monster, of the deep.

As they stared they saw a horse & rider galloping down the far hill towards the crossing as though the devil himself were after him. And the ‘kelpie’ screached louder, “The hour, but not the man has come” and with that, splashed back from whence it had come into the tumbling waters.

The men determined to avoid a disaster struck out at the horse and brought him to a stop and all struggled to push the horese and rider into the said church. Which was big & eerie back then. And they locked the door tight.

Once the sun had passed over-head and the noon time was gone, the men went to the church. They opened the door & called for the man to come out so he could go on his way. When they got no answer, they called again.

Hearing naught they peeped into the gloomy church and couldn’t believe what they saw. 

The church is in ruins now and amongst the debris of rocks & stones still stands a water trough. Back in the days of long ago the Highlanders peered inside and saw a body of a man who had dived head first into the trough and immediately been snuffed out. The horse could not be found.

So you see, no matter how hard you try, you cannot fall stall the workings of the “kelpie”. How he had come so far from the North Sea, no one could guess, but you can’t change their prophecy.

As the evening mist draws in, you can hear the horse thundering along the river,  looking for its master. And the ‘kelpie’, still lies lurking beneath the water waiting to grab him, if he ventures too near the edge.

So this is not the place for a stroll, or skinny dipping, on those sultry nights of summer.







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