A witch's attempt to attack a fisherman in the form of a sea...

Date 22 September 1970
Track ID 67506
Part 1

Track Information

Original Track ID


Original Tape ID



A witch's attempt to attack a fisherman in the form of a seal; the seal and witch were both injured.

An old woman called Minnie, who was supposed to be a witch, lived with her daughter and her husband. All the fishermen were in great fear of her and gave her fish, except for one old skipper who thought it was nonsense. One morning he had a row with her. After the lines were set, he told his crew they could sleep while he had a smoke. He saw a large seal heading straight for the boat and smashed the animal with the ricker [a large gaff]. He woke the crew to haul the lines and as they headed in, told them about his row with the old woman.

When they came ashore they met the old woman's daughter. The skipper said he had seen Minnie and asked how she was. She had fallen over the yard dyke and broken her leg. The skipper said it was a pity it wasn't her neck.

This story was handed down by the old folk to Mrs Anderson.

Recording Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Fetlar

Island - Fetlar

Item Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Fetlar

Island - Fetlar


English, Scots




Catherine Anderson: Well, this story was a handed down story from the old folks that I was told of. An het was about an old woman and she was supposed to be a witch. She lived with her daughter and her husband. [...] Everybody was in great fear of her; all the fishermen - when they came ashore, they had to give her fish to keep her in good humour, otherwise they thought that she would witch them. But there were one old man, and he thought it all a pack of nonsense. And he paid no attention to this, only his crew would see that she got the best fish in the boat when they would come ashore.

So, this man, one morning, was doing some work about the croft when he met this old woman. And I don't know what she said to him, but he got mad and had a row with her. And he told her off and told her what he thought of her. So he came in and took his packie, and he went to the shore. The men was there and ready to go, and they went off to the boat. An het was a lovely day and the sea was calm. And after they had set the lines, the old man said that they could sleep and he would sit and take a smoke and wake them up when it was time to hale [haul].

An he was looking out over the sea - the calm sea - when he noticed a disturbance in the sea. And first it came up what he thought was a big seal, and she was coming straight for the boat! And the man grabbed what the old Shetland men call the 'rikker' - it was a long piece of wood with a big iron hook at the end. When she came near enough that he thought that he could strike her, he stood up on the boat and it gave it this biggest smash as he could - and it went down. So he called the men to hale the lines, and when they were going ashore, he told them the story about him having the row with the old woman - that what he believed - she was going to destroy this boat.

And when they came ashore, her daughter came runnin down over the beach, and she says:

"Boys, have you seen Da's boat - have you seen Da - is he comin?"

"Na", says the skipper, "We've no seen Da but we've seen Minnie. And how's she?"

"Oh, she's fallen out over the yard-deck and broken her leg!"

"It's a pity it wasn't her neck!" he says.

Source Type

Reel to reel

Audio Quality