The Vengeful Mermaid

“Ye may think on your cradle- I’ll think on my stane,

An’ there’ll never be an heir to Knockdolion again”.

By Taylor Petrie

A dozen or so miles south of Girvan, on the Ayrshire coast, stood the family seat of Knockdolian. This modest stone castle looked out upon the waters of the Firth of Clyde where, it was said, there once lived mermaids, who spent their days below the river’s surface and, at by moonlight, would rise to the shore to sing their songs.

There was much celebration to be had when the Lady Knockdolian was delivered of a baby- at last, an heir, the family name and future was assured. As darkness fell those first few weeks, the newborn heir slept- perhaps surprisingly- soundly through those dark and quiet nights, with only the gentle swishing of the waves against the shoreline breaking the silence. However, one night after around a month, the whole household was awoken by the piercing cry of the baby. However, as the Lady and her nurse attended to the infant, they could find no sign of whatever had caused the disturbance. 

This continued the following night, and the night following that, and the night following that one also. One night, as the Lady attempted to soothe her baby to sleep, a servant caught sight outside of the window of a mermaid, sat upon a large black rock, her song ringing out like a bell through the quiet of the night.

“My lady”, calls out the servant, “I believe we have found the cause of our ills”.

The Lady made for the window to see for herself. The mermaid, sat obliviously on the rock combing her long golden hair, the wind carrying the echo of her voice. 

“Let her find a stane elsewhere. The morrow, go down to the stane with all your best tools and don’t come back until nothing remains of it”, replied the Lady, hoping that by the following night, the mermaid would find some other perch far from the castle and they would get a full night’s rest once more.

The following night, the mermaid rose from the waters of the Clyde, her milk-white skin and golden hair resplendent in the light of the moon as she reached the surface. She swam towards her favourite seat- a large black rock- so smooth and well-shaped was it, with view of all the stars of the sky. However, once she got to its usual position, she found nothing! Nothing but some small fragments of rock emerging from beneath waves, as well as a small pick-axe. She looked up towards the castle, where she could barely see the figure of the Lady of the house, motionless at the window, her baby in her arms. Narrowing her eyes, the mermaid sang quietly a curse:

“Ye may think on your cradle- I’ll think on my stane,

An’ there’ll never be an heir to Knockdolion again”.

For the next few nights, the family slept peacefully through the night again, as they had done when the heir was first born. However, one night there was a ferocious wind, howling up the castle walls and through the windows. The whole household was awoken by this; however, the baby made no noise. Thinking this a strange occurrence, the nurse turned aside from her bed towards the cradle, which she found overturned, and the baby motionless beneath it. 

After around a year, the Lady was delivered of another baby, which lived mere hours. The year following that, she delivered another, who was brought motionless into the world. The year following that, the Lord dropped dead one evening, shortly after returning from game shooting. The widowed Lady, her spirit broken from the loss of all her children and now too her husband, became very ill with grief, and one night, she went to sleep and the next morning did not wake. 

Over the years that followed, the castle lay abandoned and fell to ruins. The Lord had no surviving siblings to become heir; the family had, just as the mermaid’s curse foretold, become extinct. The ruins of the castle at Knockdolian still stand, some dozen miles south of Girvan, where in the still of the night, one can hear nothing but the gentle swishing of the waves against the shore. 


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