The Selkie’s Song

“What is that noise?” 

We, my parents, my dog and I, were walking along our ‘special secret beach’ just yesterday.   Deerness beaches are beyond beautiful and bursting with enchantment, but being a dweller of this small parish, I’m biased. 

A Deerness beach looking out to the island of Copinsay and its small friend.

It was a beautiful summer’s day for Orkney: soft sunshine soothing your skin, the sky settled, the clouds lazy, the sand warm.  And, most peculiar of all, there was only the faintest tickle of a breeze.  Highly unusual.  

Perhaps because of the lack of ear-thumping wind, sounds from far away carried across the dazzling blue sky.  I’m not talking about the common sounds.  Kids squealing in water fights and lawnmowers droning on and on.  This was the strangest natural sound we’ve ever stumbled upon.

It was eerie.  An other-worldly wail arising from the ocean.  It encouraged thoughts of mermaids lamenting, a kraken keening in far off lands, or Finfolk singing in an underwater choir.   Could it be the ghosts of sailors mourning sunken ships, sunken fellows, sunken souls?  Could it a selkie mother, returned to the sea, calling for her human children, who she left behind? 

Maybe, maybe not.  But selkies I’m sure it was.

The stage of the selkie’s song… with a small skerry at it’s centre.

It is not easy to spot on this photo (above), but there is small ragged skerry, right on the horizon.  On it, were small grey lumps, the unmistakable blobs of seals.  I cannot be sure, but I feel those seals were singing.  A beautiful echo of distant voices, bouncing off the waves, skimming the sky, filling the beach with their music.  It is a spectacle to be heard to be appreciated.  There was no chill air that day, but still we got goosebumps. 

A selkie’s song…

There are many stories of selkies, their coming to shore, their deep sea adventures, their unparalleled beauty and enchanting songs.  I imagine all those who have trod these islands before me, their stories, their lore, their songs.  The two are wonderfully connected.  These were insightful and poetic people, in love and in awe of their wild home.  

It is easy for us today to deem the people of the past ‘ignorant’ and ‘simple’ folk who believe in fairy tales.  Live in their world, experience this wonder… you will be listening to selkies in no time. 

A footnote:


Monty was unimpressed with the eerie sounds and stunning views.  Instead he tried to dig up a burrowing Sea-Fumbit.  Sea-Fumbit unharmed, if not a little irritated to be woken before nightfall.  Dog unharmed, if not a little stunned to be squawked at and have his tennis ball stolen.  
All photos and artwork created and belong to Ellen and her beasties. 

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