Perhaps the most astonishing incident connected with a water-horse was the dragging of a loch in Skye with a view to capturing this evil monster. Between Knock and Isle Oronsay, in the Sleat of Skye, is a loch called Loch nan Dubhrachan. So persistent in the neighbourhood were stories of the manner in which “a beast” inhabiting this loch sought to waylay islanders who dared to pass by at night-time that eventually it was decided to drag the loch with a large net. This was actually carried out in the year 1870; but the water-horse astutely evaded capture! During the dragging operations, however, the net became entangled with some obstacle under water. This so terrifed both spectators and those engaged in dragging the net on opposite sides of the loch that they all fled to their homes, convinced that at long last they had proved the existence of the water-horse.
Some years ago I visited an old man named John MacRae, who lived in a cottage by the steading within earshot of the Old Manse of Glen Elg, and who, as a boy at Isle Oronsay witnessed the attempt to capture this water-horse. So noisy in spate was the burn at the end of John MacRae’s cottage that at times I used to find conversation with him quite an arduous undertaking, even when the door was shut. But I managed to take down from him, verbatim, the following account of the dragging of Loch nan Dubhrachan:
“I was there myself at the loch between Isle Oronsay and Knock,” said John MacRae, “when they trawled for the each-uisge - for the water-horse like - just in yon loch below the road. It’s called Loch nan Dubhrachan. A cattleman and his wife came to cut rashes to thatch the house. They sat down to take a rest and the man observed a small, black object on the shore of the loch. ‘Look!’ he said to the wife, ‘that will be one of the farmer of Knock’s cows washed ashore, and that was drowned in the loch, or maybe one of the sea-cows they would be seeing in olden times.’
”So he went down. As he neared, the beast swam out with his head below water, putting little waves ashore.
You may be sure the people was terrified. They were certain it was the each-uisge. So Lord MacDonald said he would dredge the loch - trawl it like, for the monster. Well, he got all his gillies and gamekeepers out one day with a big net. And they started walking along opposite sides of the loch like, dragging the net after them.
“I saw the thing myself. I was a boy going to school. We got a holiday that day. Well, we were all watching carefully when the net got stuck, and all the gillies got the fear of death on them. So they just dropped the net, and ran back from the loch. I mind the day fine. A whilie after they commenced again; and after a whilie the net came away on a sudden. Well, then, they pulled it in like, afraid all the time what would be in the net.
“Is it pike you call them long things?” inquired MacRae, demonstrating an approximate length from the tip of the forefinger of his left hand by placing his right hand sideways on his left arm.
“Pike, I think you call them. Anyway,” he concluded, “there was nothing in the net at the finish but some mud and two small pikes.”