Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Blue Men of the Minch

I really enjoyed reading tales and legends from Scotland whilst researching for my historical romantic trilogy DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, which is mostly set in the far north of the Highlands.

In Book 1 of the Trilogy - THE DREAM CATCHER - my heroine's first experience of Scotland is a terrible storm as her ship sails through the Minch - the body of water stretching between the north-west Highlands, the northern Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Folklore tells of a tribe of supernatural sea creatures who inhabited these waters - the Blue Men of the Minch. Partly human and partly mermen, they had blue skin and used to swim alongside ships and try to lure sailors into the water. They also had the ability to conjure storms and wreck ships, but interestingly they spared sailors who had a talent for poetry...

They were said to live in caves at the bottom of the sea but their sentinel were always on the look out and alerted the others when a ship was sailing through the Minch. The chief of the Blue Men then gathered his men, ready for the attack. Before attacking the ship he would rise high in the water and shout to the skipper two lines of poetry. If the skipper was unable to respond immediately by adding two lines to complete the verse, the Blue Men would take the ship and drag it down to the bottom of the sea. If the skipper could complete the verse, his ship would be allowed to carry on safely.

Here is a traditional boatman's song about the Blue Men.

Here is a boatman's song about the Blue Men:

When the tide is at the turning and the wind is fast asleep,
And not a wave is curling on the wide, blue deep,
Oh, the waters will be churning in the stream that never smiles,
Where the Blue Men are splashing round the charm├Ęd isles.

As the summer wind goes droning o'er the sun-bright seas,
And the Minch is all a-dazzle to the Hebrides,
They will skim along like salmon--you can see their shoulders gleam,
And the flashing of their fingers in the Blue Men's Stream.

But when the blast is raving and the wild tide races,
The Blue Men are breast-high with foam-grey faces;
They'll plunge along with fury while they sweep the spray behind,
Oh, they'll bellow o'er the billows and wail upon the wind.

And if my boat be storm-toss'd and beating for the bay,
They'll be howling and be growling as they drench it with the spray--
For they'd like to heel it over to their laughter when it lists,
Or crack the keel between them, or stave it with their fists.

Oh, weary on the Blue Men, their anger and their wiles!
The whole day long, the whole night long, they're splashing round the isles;
They'll follow every fisher--ah! they'll haunt the fisher's dream--
When billows toss, Oh, who would cross the Blue Men's Stream!

(taken from

So where does the legend of the Blue Men of the Minch come from?
The obvious explanation is of course that the Blue Men are in fact not magical creatures at all, but porpoises which are often seen in the seas around Scotland.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Historians also suggest two other possibilities. Firstly, the tales of Blue Men may refer to the ancient Picts who used to paint their body and may have used kayak-like boats to cross the waters of the Minch, therefore giving the impression that they were only half human.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Another explanation links the Blue Men to the time of the Vikings who around the 9th century took Moors captured in North Africa to Ireland to be slaves. The Vikings spent winter months near the Shiant Isles in the Minch, and some historians believe the blue men are in fact "marooned foreign slaves" (Mackenzie (2013), loc. 1391). More specifically, these Moors may be Tuaregs, who were always called the 'Blue Men of the Desert' owing to their indigo clothing and headscarves.
Then again, they might just be magical merfolk...

THE DREAM CATCHER is available from

Friday, 11 December 2015


I am delighted to welcome Julie Ryan today to talk about her writing and her novel CALLIE'S CHRISTMAS COUNDOWN. There is a great giveaway at the end of this post, so don't miss out!

Hello Julie, what can you tell us about you?
I’ve always had a love of languages so after studying French at University I went off to live in Greece, spent a year in Thailand and then started a language school in Poland. I now live in rural Gloucestershire with a husband, young son and two cats but draw on my travels for inspiration in my writing.

We have been renovating our run-down property for ten years now and I can’t wait until I have a study of my own. Actually, I’d settle for having a room that is finished! I usually end up writing on the dining room table.

When not writing I can be found reading or blogging and I am a keen member of our local amateur dramatic group, taking part in the annual panto – Oh yes I am!

How lovely to hear that you love languages and that you speak French. C'est merveilleux! And how exciting to set up a language school in Poland. You certainly have led the life of a globetrotter!

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to write? 
I’ve always loved writing and as a child wrote little sketches for my friend and I to perform. I never thought of it as a career though. In primary school I fancied myself as a musician, then as an actress before finally becoming a teacher. It’s only in later life that I’ve found the right moment to fulfil my dream of becoming a writer.

I know this is a difficult question, but I am always fascinated to find out how other writers get ideas for their stories, so I must ask... Where do you get your inspiration from, Julie?
It can be a line from a song or something heard on the radio. I take inspiration from anywhere, as I think everything in life influences you; all the books I’ve ever read, all the people I’ve ever met all play a part.

It's true that anything can trigger an idea!

‘Callie’s Christmas Countdown’ is a short novel with a feel good factor. It’s humourous and just the thing to dip into when you need a break from all the festivities. Callie wants everyone to have a good Christmas and puts everyone else first. For the perfect Christmas, she has to get her divorced parents talking, sort out her flatmates lives and as a wedding planner organise the best Christmas Eve wedding ever for a client. In doing so, however, it means that she’s likely to end up spending Christmas alone.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished my first Christmas story. I’ve been working on it for the last two years. It really shouldn’t have taken so long but I’ve got about four WIP at the moment. There might be a fourth book in the Greek Island mystery series, I’m working on a cosy mystery set locally plus a couple of other ideas. I don’t know which one will win but I’ll go with whichever seems to be pulling me the most.

Locations are very important in my writing. What about you? How do you pick the location for a story?
I think the locations just pick me. For the Greek mysteries the setting is an amalgamation of several islands I’ve visited, mainly because I loved them all and couldn’t decide which one I preferred. This way I get to choose the best bits from them all.

For the Christmas novel I decided to set in close to where I live. There’s always room for artistic impression though!

What comes first when you are thinking of a new story - the plot or the characters?
It depends. Sometimes I have only the vaguest idea of a plot and a couple of characters. It’s only when I start writing that other characters suddenly appear and drive the plot forward. Sometimes it all starts with a novel title and takes off from there. Either way I just love the idea of creating something from absolutely nothing. Try as I might I can’t plot out a whole book. I think that even as the author I need to have that element of surprise myself to keep me guessing.

I am just the same, Julie! What was your best ever moment as a writer?
The moment I hit publish on my first novel was pretty awesome. Getting my first five star review also left me on a high but I guess the absolute best moment was holding the paperback copy of my first book. That is such a special moment and I couldn’t stop stroking it. It made me feel like a ‘proper’ author as I can now add my own book to my bookshelf.

Thank you very much!

You are welcome, Julie. I wish you good luck with your novel.

Callie is an event planner, organising weddings and corporate parties. What she'd really love however, is to organise the perfect Christmas. How difficult can it be after all? She simply needs to get her divorced parents talking to each other, sort out a Christmas Eve wedding for the daughter of a millionaire and wait for her hunky, rich boyfriend to propose. What could possibly go wrong?


About Julie Ryan
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of the Greek Island Mystery series, Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy, each of which can be read as a standalone. She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can.

Twitter  @julieryan18


1.£5.00 amazon giftcard uk OR $10.00 paypal int

2. ebook Callie's Christmas Countdown

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