The Portrush Selkie

Thank you for your interest in my Father’s story. I’ll just explain how I came to have it.

My Father was a traveling man, he was known as The Grey. My Mother was a settled woman. They both tried each other’s way of living but neither could manage it for more than a few months at a time. So, when I was around 6 years old, Mother and I went our own way, settling in Cornwall with her family while Father took to the road. We saw him from time to time, but he rarely came this far south.

A few months ago, a traveling family known to us paid a visit with the sad news my Father had died. They gave us his few belongings and I was surprised to find Father had been writing an account of his life. In mind, I think, to publish. It would have been a colorful read, and there are several tales of him crossing paths with the Little People.

There is one in particular I want to share with you because it seems to be one Faerie rarely mentioned when discussing the Little People.

Well I’ll give you Father’s story exactly as he had it drafted in his notes. Of course, he didn’t write it himself, a friend would have helped him with that, but it sounds like his voice good enough.

Anyway, you are welcome to share his words. Who know, one day I might make a book of his notes.

John – Cornwall

*

The year was 1966. I spent the good part of the summer and autumn working out of a pub there in Portrush (Northern Ireland). It is a fishing town ye know, and me regulars were fishing men. Twas a rough sort of place, not a place for tourists if ye get me meaning. Well i ran the bar and broke up the fights, but there weren’t many of them anyway. The job paid, and left me days to free and that suited me well enough.

I’m not one for going out on the sea meself, I prefer me feet on the ground, but often turned me ear toward the talk of the fishing men, for they were never short of a line or two.

boats-rope (2)

Well I heard manys the tale over that stained bar, and most I couldnae repeat for fear of of offending some one or another, then there are those I have long forgotten altogether, but a few I remember right well and are worth the repeating.

Ye see, from time to time, the fishing men would turn their talk to the woman of the water who dwelled at Portrush Head out there. The Selkie.

selkie freeimages (3)

One day, I heard this between two fishing men…

“I saw Herself today”

“Ah, ye did”

“She turned me round well enough”

“She turned ye round, aye she did”

“Just clear o’the harbour, She crossed me bow 3 times there”

“Not wanting ye to see open water, so?”

“Aye”

“After I’d gone out was it?”

“Aye ye were in the deep by then”

“Ye turned yerself back then”

“Aye, that I did”

I’d need both me hands to count the times I heard this conversation. The fishing men were familiar with Selkie and held that if She crossed yer path, that is yer bow, 3 times it meant ‘turn yer boat around and get yer feet on dry land’.

Twas a warning of sorts. Not that they feared Herself, not a jot of that, no, they were fond of Herself, but believed She knew if bad luck would befall them in the deep water and so at every corner, did heed her warning and stay dry that day.

They would only speak of Herself among each other mind, only among the fishing men. If a brickie or a farming man walked in the door they’d shut up quick shot. But they didn’t seem to mind me listening in, sure wasn’t I pouring their drinks anyway.

They said other things about Her too, that if ye caught Her playful she would come alongside the boat and squeal in delight as She swam through the wash, but not any boat. She had her favorites.

There were a handful o’boats out of Portrush She had no regard for at all. It was said if She saw a fishing boat take more than their share from the sea, or creatures from the water that were too small for taking, well bad luck would follow them until such time her temper cooled.

There was this one day, the fishing men came in early. They’d been drinking for hours before I got to the pub meself. All the boats had gone out that morning and why wouldn’t they? It was a clear, bright morning as I remember it meself. No sign of a Selkie warning. But not an hour out to sea, Herself appears, singing a loud, wailing song byside each boat before swimming swift onto the next.

Well, some took heed, those fellas telling the story o’course, and turned for safety of the harbor. Others couldnae see the warning for the coin ye see, and ignored Her. Didn’t a mighty storm blow up in the same hour and smash one of the boats to bits. The others who ignored Her made it back to safety of harbor but with boats battered for their trouble.

Three dead so they told me, and wishing it weren’t so with every jar.

“She told em”menacing-clouds-1312090 (2)

“She did that”

“She could do no more”

“She could not”

“They know, the fairy folk…”

“Aye, they know well enough”

Well there was a great sadness for a time and the fishing men didnae mention Selkie for weeks after. I asked em one night, how was Herself and I tell ye, it were like getting teeth pulled, getting them to talk.

“She hasnae come by, since the storm”

“But we’ve heard Her”

“Aye, we’ve heard Her well enough, singing from yonder rocks”

“Broken hearted She sounds”

“None can say they don’t care for us, the fairy folk”

“None who know, can say that”

I cannae say if those fellas told their families about Selkie, and how She took care of the fishing folk, but about a week after that they were back chatting about Her again. She was out with the boats, swimming byside and having a lark.

And their spirits were lifted. They were fond of Her and no doubt.

The Grey.

 

 

 

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