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The Tiree Mermaid, 1812 (ref. PFV65/188)

At Tiry House in the Island of Tiry the Eleventh day of August one thousand Eight hundred and twelve. In presence of James Maxwell Esquire one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Argyll.

Artistic interpretation of the Tiree mermaid story by Pamela Campbell Bickford
Illustration of the Tiree mermaid story by Pamela Campbell Bickford

Compeared Colin MacNiven Tacksman of Grianal in the island of Tiry who being solemnly sworn Depones that one day in the beginning of Harvest about Eighteen years ago two little girls who had been walking about the shores of his farm which is situated on the Western extremity of the Island of Tiry came to him the Deponent and informed him that there was an human body cast upon the Beach that a Brother of the Deponent having been drowned a short time before this period he hastened to the Shore to examine the body. There he and some of his servants who were alongst with him in the belief that it was a human body raised it from amongst the Sand, and then perceived that down from the middle it was formed like a Fish – that it was in a very putrid state, and from having been tossed and chaffed amongst the Rocks and sand the surface skin was almost entirely rubbed off, that the upper part of the Body had a perfect resemblance to the human form. That the head was about the size of that of a Lad of twelve or fourteen years of age, the features of the face very much resembling those of a Negroe; the Ears small and flat like the Human Ear that the chin was short and projected but very little beyond the line of the neck. Depones that the arms appeared to be about fourteen inches long formed in all respects like the Human arm, and ending in hands like the human hand with fingers and nails like those of a man except that the fingers were all joined together by a membrane. That its intestines were torn out and the Deponent could not observe whether there had been any sexual distinction. Depones that the extreme length of the animal appeared to him to have been fully five feet and from about the middle downwards was formed like a fish. That at the point where the human form described divided in to that of a fish there were two broad lateral fins, and that the tail was forked like that of a Mackeral but placed flat or horizontally. Depones that there was a small part of the skin remaining entire near to the tail which resembled the skin of a porpoise and was perfectly free of hair.

Depones that from the close resemblance which the upper part of the animal bore to the human form, he the Deponent and his servants did not like to see it exposed to injury or torn by dogs, and they therefore put it upon an hand barrow, and carried it to a sand bank where they dug a hole for it and buried it. That they raised ane head and foot stone, and threw some loose stones and sand over it to protect the body and mark the place of a grave. Depones that a Grave in a sandbank near to his, the Deponents House which he has shown to the Magistrate before when the deposition is emitted, and which has been opened in his presence and in the presence of his son Doctor Neil Maxwell is the same in which the Deponent and his servants deposited the body of the animal above described and that the remains of a skeleton found therein are its remains all which is truth as he shall answer to God.

The above deposition was emitted and the grave therein mentioned was opened in presence of us.

[signed]           Ja[mes]. Maxwell J.P.

Neil Maxwell M.D.

This document was transcribed by Linda Fryer, volunteer, and illustrated by Pamela Campbell Bickford, Friend.

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