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THE PEAT-FIRE FLAME
recovered her scales, used to plead with him to allow her to
return to her original element, promising him that, if he did
so, his family would be blessed at all times with a plentiful
supply of fish, and that no member of it would ever be
drowned at the Kessock Ferry.
To this day there are folks dwelling at Kessock and
elsewhere on the Black Isle, who firmly believe the story of
the Mermaid of Kessock.
Seal-folk and Finn-folk.
Between the Seal-folk of the Hebrides and western
Ireland and the mermen and mermaids of Caithness and the
Northern Isles, there are several points of similarity. Both
tribes, for example, are regarded as being of human descent.
Furthermore, both are somewhat vaguely associated with
the Finns, who are distinguished by the sleeky appearance
of their clothing.
Scandinavian folklore is rich in allusions to a curious
race inhabiting the archipelagoes, and known as the Finn-
folk. These elusive creatures are akin, it is said, to the
users of kayaks. They are described, like the Esquimos,
as spending most of their lives in paddling through the
narrow fiords in light canoes covered over with seal-skins.
During the seventeenth century, and probably at a date
more recent, Orcadian waters were occasionally visited by
Finns, who paddled in and about them in kayaks. This is
borne out by at least three contemporary writers. The
account of the Rev. George Brand, who in the year, 1700,
was delegated by the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland to enquire into the religious state of the people of
the Orkney and Shetland Isles, shows clearly that the
solitary paddler in a seal-skin-covered skifT was no
uncommon visitor to these Islands. In 1700 a Finn-man's
canoe hung in the Church of Burray, in Orkney ; but what
happened to the canoe when that church was destroyed by
fire is not known.
About a decade earlier (circa 1688) Dr. James Wallace,
son of the minister of Kirkwall, " catched in Orkney "
another specimen of a kayak, together with its occupant.
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