The Mysterious Shellycoat of Scotland

He lurks among rivers and waterways, a mysterious creature never forgotten, but rarely spoken of aloud for fear of summoning his unnatural presence. Only seen in the Ettrick area near the Scottish borders and Leith near Edinburgh, his wickedness is enough to make any water traveler cross himself for safety and protection. Sir Walter Scott, one of the great bards of Alba, describes the Shellycoat in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Vol 1 as a spirit who resides in the waters, belonging to the class of bogles, who gives his name to rocks and stones upon the Scottish coast. Decked out in marine byproducts, particularly shells, which clatter at his approach.

“Two men, in a very dark night, approaching the banks of the Ettrick, heard a doleful voice from its waves repeatedly exclaim – “Lost! Lost!”- They followed the sound, which seemed to be the voice of a drowning person, and, to their infinite astonishment, they found that it ascended the river. Still they continued, during a long and tempestuous night, to follow the cry of the malicious sprite; and arriving, before morning’s dawn, at the very source of the river, the voice was now heard descending the opposite side of the mountain in which they arise. The fatigued and deluded travellers now relinquished the pursuit; and had no sooner done so, than they heard shellycoat applauding, in loud bursts of laughter, his successful roguery”.


To gain the attention of a Shellycoat one runs around the creature’s fondest rock three times and recites the rhythm:

Shellycoat! Shellycoat! Gang awa’ hame. I cry na’ yer mercy, I fear na’ yer name!”

Beats me who’d be foolish enough to recited such a thing. Oh, wait. I know who. Ranald MacDonald, elder brother to Donnell who is the charmingly fearless hero of At Long Lass. Brave, loyal, and a perfectionist to duty, Ranald is in a desperate situation to call upon the Shellycoat standing at the water’s edge on the Isle of Rum. Decked out in his finest shells that tinkle with each rustle of his moth-eaten cloak, Shellycoat arrives with a roar of a threat to get lost or be drowned forever to the waves. Do our heroes run or drown??? Guess you’ll have to wait and see ; )


  1. Lisa Betz

    What fascinating nuggets we authors dig up when doing research. Even better when we can find a way to work them into our stories. I certainly hope your heroes find a way to outwit the Shellycoat.

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I love finding random stuff in research and then trying to fit it in the story somewhere. I actually went looking for the Shellycoat, or at least a creature like him, in this story and I think he’ll add something really special that maybe readers aren’t expecting 🙂


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