There are many deep pools in the River Spey between Aberlour and the dark, forbidding, ‘pot’ where the river bends sharply below the cliff face at Craigellachie. The western bank of this stretch of water borders the estates of Wester and Easter Elchies.

It is said that long ago, a white kelpie, had its lair in these waters, this beast had very particular dietary preferences and would only take young girls, then, for some mysterious reason changed its habits and took married couples instead.

And so it was that one dark and dimly moonlit night such a couple found themselves, weary and footsore by the old mill ford of Elchies as they made their way home from a busy day spent at the market in Elgin.

 The mill ford took its name from the ancient water mill at Easter Elchies and the crossing here was considered the least dangerous on the river. At certain times of the year, mainly summer, it was often so shallow that foot travellers could cross the river safely. As this route was the main highway from Elgin and the  " Laich o Moray" to lower Strathspey it was very well used by travellers who would simply cast off their footwear and wade easily across before continuing on their way.

The couple in question were a Souter called Davie Stuart, who lived near Inveravon, and his wife Janet. Davie’s skill as a shoemaker and leather worker was renowned throughout Speyside. Davie and Janet had walked the long hard miles from their home to Elgin Market to buy the bundles of fine, soft leather that he and his wife were now carrying home on their backs. Footsore and weary, they reached the mill ford about midnight.

The mill was in darkness when they passed by and it was clear that the miller had gone to his bed and no food or drink could be obtained from there. The couple set their burdens on the bank then sat wearily down to rest and take a drink of the cool water before attempting to cross the river whose waters were running higher than usual for the time of year. They had only been seated for a short, time when Davie gently nudged his wife’s arm, saying -

 “There’s the miller's broon sheltie on the Haugh, wi the saidle and bridle on't. There wad be nae hairm in ridin' it through the water. We can turn it back at the ither side. I'll tak the leather on in front an' ye can loup on ahin' me."

Janet thought this was a harmless idea and walked over to the horse. As Janet approached, the animal gazed at her with a gentle look in its large deep brown eyes Janet smiled at the horse and felt a sense of calm as the horse playfully nuzzled her side when she patted its neck and stroked its velvet soft muzzle,  

But… no sooner had Janet mounted than the beast gave out a loud and devilish scream and charged wildly into the waters of the Spey. Davie was a strong man but, despite his best efforts to control the beast, it turned its head down the stream and began to writhe convulsively, growing ever larger and gradually changing colour in the dim moonlight, To their horror the couple now knew that they were in the grip of the dreaded white kelpie that haunted  these waters, They tried to dismount, but all in vain. Both Davie and Janet felt as if they were mysteriously attached to the back of the fiendish beast, which to their horror opened its mouth and boomed eerily:

“Sit weel, Jannity, an' ride weel, Davie; this nicht ye’ll rest in the Pool o* Cravie!"

That dreaded pool was known to be the last resting place of all kelpie victims in these parts and the kelpie’s words sent an icy shiver down Janet’s back. Davie’s face drained of all colour as he realised that this would be his last day in this world.

“Lord presairve us a!” Screamed poor, terrified Janet.

Her frantic plea was hardly uttered before the couple found themselves struggling in the water. The kelpie had disappeared and they could see nothing in the river but their bundle of fine leather floating rapidly downstream.

Now, Davie and Janet were honest, god fearing, people and Davie had bought a Bible in Elgin that Janet had carefully wrapped with a silk handkerchief and mutch ribbon that she had purchased. She then tied the package in a bundle on her back. This Bible and Janet’s plea proved to be the very things that had saved them from a watery grave.

 It is said that neither book, handkerchief nor ribbon were wet although Janet had been plunged in the river. Despite this hellish encounter the couple did manage to reach he safety of their home at Inveravon with no further incident.

So tak a tellin! If, perchance, you ever encounter a handsome horse, or stranger, by any Scottish river or loch, commend your soul to your own god and you shall pass safely by, or else……….beware!

Spey Kelpies

Kelpies, the terrifying, shape shifting water spirits of legend and folklore are said to dwell in every loch and river in Scotland. Descriptions of these scary beasties vary but most commonly they appear as large black horses and  prey on unsuspecting travellers. A kelpie can take human form, usually that of a a handsome youth or an old wifie but in these guises it retains its hooves. The hooves of a kelpie are always reversed, even when it appears in horse form, A horse kelpie can extend its back to carry any number of riders. To touch or mount a horse kelpie was fatal as their coats had a magical adhesive quality from which the only escape was to cut off your fingers.

In other parts of Scotland, kelpies were most often reported as appearing in the form of a beautiful black horse. Kelpies in Speyside however are described as being either white or yellow / golden in colour.The most fearsome of which was the White Horse o the Spey. There was one that haunted the Spey at Cromdale and another prowled the stretch from Aberlour to Craigellachie.

Every fishing season in Scotland opens with a ceremony that involves a bottle of whisky being poured into the waters to appease the water spirits.

In Aberlour there is an ancient tradition that in pre-Christian days the water spirit of the Lour Burn demanded human sacrifice to sate its appetite. Almost a thousand years later, a tradition survived that the first  barrel of each new brew at the Distillery should be given up to the spirit of the Lour or else.......!

Not too long ago, in 1966, a new distillery manager, who is said to have despised the tradition, refused to provide whisky for this ceremony. A few days later, aged 57, he collapsed and died of a heart attack while fishing the River Spey at Aikenway, Rothes. 

A tragic co-incidence or......?

The last reported  sighting of a Kelpie in Speyside was in the early 1800s. The creature was seen in  boggy ground near the old Mannoch road in upper Knockando.