The Pot of Nigg Sands


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A wee story from Hugh Miller regarding the death lights and wraiths said to haunt the sands of Nigg.

There is on the northern side of the Firth of Cromarty, a shallow arm of the sea several miles in length, which dries during stream tides throughout almost its entire extent, and bears the name of the sands of Nigg. Like the sands of the Solway, it has been a frequent scene of accidents. Skirting a populous tract of country on both sides, it lies much in the way of travellers and the fords, which shift during land floods and high winds, are often attempted at night, and occasionally at improper times of the tide. A narrow river-like channel in the middle, fed by the streams which discharge themselves into the estuary from the interior, and which never wholly dries, bears the name of "The Pot," and was infamous during even the present century for its death-lights and its wraiths, and for the strange mysterious noises which used to come sounding from its depths to either shore previous to "a drowning."  

Little more than half a century ago, a farmer of the district who had turned aside to see an acquaintance, an old man who lived on the northern shore of the sands of Nigg, found him leaning over the fence of his little garden, apparently so lost in thought that he seemed unconscious of his presence.  "What ails you, Donald?" inquired the visitor. "There will be a drowning today in the Pot," replied Donald. "A drowning in the Pot!—what makes you say so?" "Do you, hear nothing?" "No'o — and yet I rather think I do; — there are faint sounds as of a continual knocking — are there not? — so very faint, that they seem rather within the ear, than without; and yet they surely come from the Pot; — knock, knock, knock — what can it mean?"  "That knocking," said the old man, "has been sounding in my ears all this morning. I have never known a life lost on the sands but that knocking has gone before."  

As he spoke, a horseman was seen riding furiously along the road which skirts the opposite shore of the estuary. On reaching the usual ford, though the rise of the tide had rendered it impracticable for more than an hour before, he spurred his horse across the beach and entered the water. "Surely," said the old man to his friend, "that madman is not taking the ford, and the sea nearly at full?" "Ay, but he is though," said the other; "if the distance does not deceive me, it is Macculloch the corn agent, in hot haste for the Tain market. See how he spurs through the shallows; and see, he has now reached the Pot, and the water deepens — he goes deeper, and deeper, and deeper.  Merciful heavens! he is gone!" Horse and rider had sunk into one of the hollows.  The horse rose to the surface a moment after, and swam to the shore; but the rider had disappeared forever.