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The white horse o' Clumly

Flee! - Artwork by Sigurd Towrie

The farm of Clumly, in Sandwick, is about a mile to the southwest of Hestwall, and four miles north of the town of Stromness.

There, on certain nights, it is said that the ghostly White Horse o' Clumly, and its rider, haunt the area, re-enacting the events of a dark night, many years ago.

According to the story, the phantom rider is a murderer whose spirit is condemned to relive the terrible events of a night at the end of the 19th century.

The legend claims that a young woman from a nearby parish came to work at Clumly.

Before long, two of the farm workers became rivals for her attention. Unfortunately, the maiden did nothing to dissuade either suitor, playing one rival off against the other, until the two men despised each other.

Their consuming hatred for each other continued to grow until the day it finally came to a bloody end. The two men were threshing sheaves of oats, both standing face to face, with heavy threshing flails in their hands.

They had bickered all morning but suddenly goaded into a blind fury by the other's taunts, one swung the thresher and smashed his rival's skull with a single blow. Killed outright, the man dropped to the ground. Then, taking the corpse by the feet, the murderer dragged it into the barn, where it was carefully hidden.

Later that night, when darkness had fallen and the farm was silent, the murderer crept into the stable and saddled a white horse. Throwing his victim's cold body over its back, he led the animal to the cliffs of Yesnaby, on the westernmost coast of the Orkney Mainland.

To the sound of massive waves crashing against the base of the cliffs, he hurled the body into the boiling sea.

Mounting the horse, he casually left the scene but had travelled no further than a few miles when he was gripped by a terrible fear that the dead man's ghost was following him.

For fear of his own life, he forced his mount into a wild gallop, the terrified animal's hooves throwing up clods of earth as it sped along the track from Yesnaby.

Finally, as Clumly came into view and as he neared the farm, the murderer spurred the beast onwards towards a drystane dyke.

The horse tried to jump the wall but its hooves clipped the top stones, bringing them clattering down. The horse fell heavily, throwing its rider. Both man and beast were killed outright.

To this day no-one has been able to repair the broken section of the wall. As though it were a constant reminder of that night, whenever the wall is rebuilt, it always falls down again.