CC BY, Wellcome Collection

Location: Arran
farming and crofting

Taking cows to the mainland

In the days before car ferries cows would be walked down Whiting Bay pier, herded up the gangway and fenced off in a pen on the open deck till the boat reached the mainland. One day in the late 1940s cows were being urged on board but one cow panicked and jumped off the pier into the water and started swimming out to sea. Without modern communications it took a while to alert someone with an open boat to go out and search for it. Despite hours of looking no trace could be found and the search was abandoned.

That night a lady was walking along the unlit path at the edge of the beach from Sandbraes to walk up the gulley to her home in Kingscross. It was a beautiful moonlit night with the moon making a path across the water so she didn’t need to use her torch. In one of the houses at Seaside (pre-electricity reaching there) the occupant had just lit the oil lamps and turned on the battery radio for a short time for the children before they went to bed. At the same time the lady walking along the path between the houses narrow front lawn and the beach reached the one bush surviving on the beach bank.

Suddenly the bush began to shake, a loud roaring started and from behind it a great horned head with hanging drapery appeared. In terror the lady hurled herself through the unlocked door and into the cottage. She eventually managed to calm down enough to tell the family there was a sea monster outside. The mother looked through the front window and there on the grass, silhouetted black against the moonlit sea, was one very sad looking, exhausted cow with long seaweed hanging from it's horns. It had been so relieved to have survived its long swim in the sea and, after resting exhausted in the shelter of the bush, had only wanted to make friendly human contact with the first person who passed by!

As told by Janet Mair, resident of Arran and one of the children featured in the story

More information on visiting the area can be found here.