THE BROLLACHAN

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The Brollachan was a frightening supernatural beast that terrified residents of Orsay, a small island across the bay from Portnahaven.

One supernatural monster that was reputed to terrify residents of Islay in times past is the Brollachan. The Brollachan was shapeless, but could appear has a dark, misty entity with two gleaming eyes. Brollachan could be male or female and, unlike the each-uisge, could possess humans. Some only had one eye while others could have tails, manes and webbed feet. They were not brave creatures and preferred to lurk in the shadows and take people by surprise. 

The Islay Brollachan usually took the form of a hairy creature with bare skin on his face and the usual two large round eyes. One appearance of the Brollachan is said to have taken place one night on the small island of Orsay, across the bay from Portnahaven. The poet and minister, Rev Thomas Pattison, told the story of a man and his wife who lived on the tiny island and were in charge of a herd of cattle. The man had been on Islay and was unable to return to Orsay because of the weather: storms make the crossing, albeit a short one, highly dangerous. As a result his wife was left alone.


As she sat in her small cottage she became aware of strange noises outside. It could not be the cows, who would not behave like that. Neither could it be her husband – or indeed any other human being – as it would have been impossible for them to make the crossing in such severe weather and there was no-one else living on Orsay.  She went to investigate and, looking out of the window, saw two large glaring eyes that were menacingly fixed on her. When the creature saw that the woman was aware of his presence, he let out a sinister laugh and burst through the door. 


The woman was in no doubt who – or what – this was. It was the famous and feared Brollachan. He was tall and extremely hairy, with no skin on his face. It must have been a terrifying sight. The Brollachan entered the house and made for the fire, asking the woman what her name was. 

“Mise mi fhin” (me, myself) came the frightened response. The Brollachan attempted to grab the woman but she managed to get hold of a kettle of water and throw it over the beast, who screamed out in pain before joining a group of dark and mysterious companions outside. They asked him what the matter was and who had hurt him, but all the Brollachan could say was “mise mu fhin, mise mi fhin!”; this caused hilarity among the mysterious creatures of the darkness. 


To protect herself the woman took advantage of the noise of the storm and the din being made by her unwanted visitors to get out to the byre behind the cottage, moving out one of the cows in order to create a place to rest. She drew a protective circle around herself and lay there, trying to get some sleep in spite of the noise outside. In the morning the storms had subsided and the woman was safe and well, but the cow she had put outside was dead.