The Kelpie of Slit Rig

This is from Highways & Byways in The Border

Slit rig takes its rise on the Lindbergh Hill, on the northern side of the Liddesdale watershed, a hill of old the known resort of the Good People, whose piping and revels might often be heard by the solitary shepherd. The rivulet is said to well out from a small, black, fathomless little loch high up on the hill. Here, as we all knew, dwelt the Kelpie, or other irritable spirit one to resent human intrusion and if a stone should chance to be thrown into he depths of the lakelet, resentment was pretty sure to be expressed by a sudden dangerous overflow of water into the burn, whereby destruction would be carried down the valley. That, tradition tells, is how Hawick came to be devastated, and all but swept away, early in the 18th century. A shepherd, it was said, had quite accidentally roles a large stone into the lake, and had thus round the Spirit of the mountain to ungovernable fury. Leyden thus writes of the tradition:

“From yon green peak, black haunted Slata brings

The gushing torrents of unfathomed springs:

In a dead lake, that ever seems to freeze,

By sedge enclosed from every ruffling breeze,

The fountains lie; and shuddering peasants shrink

To plunge the stone wishing he fearful brink;

For here, ’tis said, the fairy hosts convene,

with noisy talk, and bustling steps unseen;

The hill resounds with strange unearthly cries;

and moaning voices from the waters rise.

Nor long the time, if village-saws be true,

since in the deep a hardy peasant threw

A wondrous stone; when murmuring from below,

with gushing sound he heard the age overflow.

The nightly torrent, foaming down the hills,

Called, with strong voice, on all her subject rills;

Rocks drove on jagged rocks with thundering sound,

and the red waves, impatient rent their mound;

On Hawick burst the flood’s resisters sway,

Ploughed the paved streets, and tore the wall away,

Floated high roofs, from whelming fabrics torn;

While pillared arches down the wave were borne.”

2 thoughts on “The Kelpie of Slit Rig

  1. When I was very small I had a story book about a bunyip. I can’t remember when it disappeared but when reading about the kelpie I suddenly saw it with the bunyip face. Creepy!


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