The spirit of a dead man asked a fisherman to take three mes...

Date 22 September 1970
Track ID 68046
Part 1

Track Information

Original Track ID


Original Tape ID



The spirit of a dead man asked a fisherman to take three messages to people he had wronged.

One night James Dempster, who lived in Tresta in Fetlar in the 19th century, went to the craigs [rocks] to catch fish, which he took home and gutted. When he went to the midden with the fish guts there was a man standing there. He recognised the man as someone who had just been buried the week before.

The man confessed that he had done things that were bothering him and he could not rest. He explained that he had come to Dempster as a man of good nerve. He asked Dempster three questions, which he answered correctly, proving himself fit to take a message. He was to tell a girl and her parents that the dead man was the father of the girl's child; he was to tell an old woman that the dead man had stolen and eaten her hogg [sheep]. The dead man was also bothered about saving driftwood on the sand, and Dempster was to ask the minister to offer up a prayer for him. If Dempster did not do these things, the ghost would be back. Dempster took the messages and never saw the spirit again.

Jeemsie Laurenson heard the story, which he called 'Dempster and the Spirit', from Willa May Brown, one of the greatest storytellers Fetlar has ever produced.

Item Notes

In other tellings of the story, it is made clear that the dead man had collected driftwood on a Sunday, breaking the Sabbath.

Item Subject/Person

Dempster, James; Brown, Willa May

Recording Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Fetlar

Island - Fetlar

Item Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Fetlar

Island - Fetlar

Village/Place - Tresta


English, Scots



Source Type

Reel to reel

Audio Quality