The 'Inchcape Rock' is a perilous reef off the east coast of Angus Scotland near the mouth of the river Tay. The rock would just protrude for a few inches above the surface of the sea in low tide and be completely covered by the sea in high tide or when the sea was rough. Many ships had been wrecked by this 'inchcape rock' when they mistakenly struck it when it was covered by the sea.
In the fourteenth century an abbot from Arbroath (Aberbrothok) in nearby Angus tied a bell to the inchcape rock to warn the passing ships of the danger due to the notorious rock. When the sailors heard the bell ringing they knew that their ship was near the inchcape rock which had been covered by the sea, and they would steer their ship to safety thanking and praising the abbot:
When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
The Mariners heard the warning Bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok
Robert Southey's literary ballad "The Inchcape Rock" written between 1796–8, and published in 1802 is based on this legendary 'Inchcape Rock.'
Southey's poem tell us of a pirate who was jealous of the abbot's fame and reputation and out of spite he cut off the bell gloating maliciously and sadistically,
Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock,
Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.
But the poem ends with Sir Ralph being punished for his evil deed. Once when he was returning home with the loot he had plundered his ship sails into a fog and he becomes completely disoriented:
So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky,
They cannot see the sun on high;
The wind hath blown a gale all day,
At evening it hath died away.
From the sound of the waves breaking they realize that they are near the shore. Even as one of the sailors wishes that they could hear the inchcape bell and be warned of the danger ahead the ship strikes the inchcape rock. The pirate ship sinks with Sir Ralph tearing his hair and cursing himself. The ballad concludes with the sound of the funeral bell ringing for Sir Ralph and Satan waiting to receive him in hell:
But even is his dying fear,
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear;
A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
The Devil below was ringing his knell.
In Scotland, by the mouth of the Tay, there is a sub-marine rock called The Inchcape Rock. Its dangers have been known for hundred years.
The legend says, the Abbot of Aberbrothok, hung a bell to a floating buoy. The waves rolled over it and it rang a clear note of warning to all passing vessels.
Ralph, the Rover determined to do a mischief, to cut the Bell off the Inchcape Rock, upon which the safety of so many ships depended. He carried out his evil purpose at once.