Caladh na cu sith: “harbourer of the abyss”
This happened to me only last summer. I live in a small fishing town on the East coast of Scotland. I was fifteen when this happened, but I am sixteen now.
In Scotland, there are many celtic myths surrounding waterways, such as the sea, rivers and of course, the ubiquitous Loch.
Such myths include Sirens, Banshees or Ban-sith as it is known in Gaelic, The Blue men of Mich, which hide in the waters between the mainland and the island of Orkney, looking for sailors to drown, Kelpies, which are supernatural water- dwelling horses, Knifehead, which has inspired many films such as pacific rim, which is a man who has the head of a swordfish and comes ashore to murder fishermen.
But then there is something far worse – Caladh Na Cu Sith.
This monster is a sort of boogeyman type thing – traditionally used as a story to keep children away from harbours and the seas so they aren’t lost to a watery grave. Even I remember being told the story as a boy.
As the story goes, the Caladh Na Cu Sith, which is translated to “Harbourer of the abyss” is a half-man half- eel that lies in shallow waters and waits for small children to approach it, thinking it is a stick or driftwood.
when the child gets too close, the Caladh weill snatch the child and drag them to sea, where it will feast on its flesh.
This used to terrify me and many other children when I was small, but now we all seem to pass it off as a joke and used to it scare our younger siblings. this was how I perceived it, until about a year ago;
My town was small, but i had a good ring of friends from my school just down the road. We had all grown up with each other and enjoyed each others company.
In the summer, when we were off school after our exams, we used to head “oot on the toon” which more or less means to go drinking with your friends in the evening. In our little group was me, my best mate Jamie and two girls, Morag and Una. I fancied Morag really badly and I tried to impress her the whole time, in that cringey way that horny, testosterone – filled boys do.
The sun was setting but it was still warm. a slight haar was pulling in over the harbour and the tide was receding. We went and got some chips from the local shop, whilst jamie and i smuggled in some cans of cider. Jamie and I had decided that tonight was going to be the night that were going to get some “action”.
we met the girls at the docks and made our way down to the shore.
The way the Harbour was set up meant that you walked down a small red-brick road to the main harbour, which housed most of the fishing boats.
then you turned left up onto a stone bridge that brought you across to an abandoned lighthouse. if you went beyond the lighthouse, there was a small, rickety wooden dock that had not been used since the 1880s and was in a severe state of disrepair and was out of bounds to the public.
We walked up to the lighthouse and sat on the rocks at the bottom whilst we ate our chips. we laughed and joked and there was a fair bit o’ flirting and touchy-feely, if you know what i mean.
But just as we were getting down to business, a stench of dead, rotting, putrid fish sank through the air.
we had smelt it enough times before, but this time it was a lot more…menacing. It didnt seem to go away. It was strange to be smelling dead fish at this time in the evening – usually the boats leave at about dawn on monday and don’t come back until midnight on a thursday, and today was tuesday.
Una, the girl hanging off of jamie’s arm, said that she felt sick and wanted to go home. royally pissed about the whole situation, Jamie wanted to go too and asked if she needed accompanying.
the two left Morag and I in an awkward silence. she then went on the say that she was glad they had gone, because now we could have some more time together – alone.
We went up the Lighthouse and looked out at the last slivers of sunset as we finished our cider. We were just casually chatting about rather personal things when a splash of water caught my attention.
Morag heard it too, so i wasn’t imagining things. We went to look out at the pier, but saw nothing.
Thinking that it might be someone who was stuck in the water, we went down to investigate. Silently i was hoping it was, so i could show off my heroics to Morag. But it wasn’t.
The haar had thickened now, and you couldn’t see anything more than five metres in front of you. We were about to leave, when the splashing continued. I walked over to the pier. the smell of rank fish returned.
I looked out onto the pier and my heart sank.
I am about 6″3, which is quite tall here, but this thing was at least eight feet tall. It was standing on the end of the pier, salt water dripping off of its multiple extremities.
it’s skin was scaly and brown and most of it was covered in sea bladders. its eyes were sunken and lifeless and it had a gaping, crack whole where its mouth would have been.
the haar surrounded most of it and i could only see its head, arms and shoulders. it made a horrific clicking noise interrupted by hissing. steam rose from its face, if you could call it that. I ran back from the pier. Morag was clearly distressed – she had heard it too. we ran until we got to the centre of town.
We never told anyone and it still remains a secret. i have no doubt that what i saw was indeed the Caladh Na Cu Sith. Morag and i don’t really see each other anymore and jamie moved away. this experience will forever haunt me.