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Whale sightings are rare in the Highlands and Islands but every so often you can spot a fin! Bonar Bridge, 1927. (Credit: Tain & District Museum)
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The Wail of the Whale

The following poem, written by an unknown author, describes a concerned whale warning his son, Johnnie, of the dangers of the Dornoch Firth. It is likely based on the tragic 1927 stranding of a pod inbound from the firth:

Said Father Whale to Johnnie Whale – Come laddie len’s your ear, And weel tak’ tent to hints that I Will gie on your career.

In coorse o’ natur’ you will sune Be slingin’ o’ yer hook, And will in company o’ yer friends On wild adventure look.

Noo, Johnnie, there are certain rules That ye maun aye respec’, If ye should purpose for to grow An auld heid on yer neck.

In maitters o’ geography Some points your brain maun store, As you gang roond stravaigin’ By mony a northern shore.

Should e’er you “blow” by Tarbat Ness, Then Johnnie tak’ a swither And set your course by Lossie licht If again you’d see your mither.

For ‘twixt the point o’ Tarbat’s nose, And Dornoch ower the watter, There lies a fell and waesome bar, On which the waves do batter.

At full o’ time you micht get ower If favoured by the win’, But aince yer in, your trouble is To hide your dorsal fin.

Across the bar when wast’s the win’ Ye’ll hear enticing sounds. For though the waters shallow are Yet fairy land surrounds.

Auld Tain will cry “Come Johnnie, come, We’ve pleasures ripe in store Which we have hoarded up for you Since Canmore’s days of yore.

Our golf course tak’s some beatin’ – ‘Deed aye ye needna sniff – And if ye pass Glenmorangie, Ye’ll surely get a whiff.

Then hie ye on dear laddie, Dinna fear to tak’ a “Chance,” And when you sight Ardchronie By the “Brook,” stay your advance.*

And noo, my son, I’ve cautioned you – Thus spoke the ancient whale – If ye neglect my warnin’ Ye’ll hae guid cause to wail.


Alas! Joh, ruled by impulse, Found the way of sinners hard; So his bones now rest in Bloomsbury, And Leith has claimed his lard. *With apologies to the Lairds of Spinningdale and Midfearn.

A pod of whales just visible in the Dornoch Firth. The town of Bonar Bridge sits in the centre, background of the image. Whale sightings are rare in the Highlands and Islands but every so often you can spot a fin! Bonar Bridge, 1927.
Image provided by Tain & District Museum

Whales at Bonar Bridge, 1927.

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