Cauldron Gristle


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The procession [Pg ] had started for the place of execution; a crowd was collected to see the awful sight, when the spectators were surprised by seeing a very little man with white hair and beard, dressed, too, in an antique suit of green, and mounted on a white horse.

They plainly saw Sir Godfrey get on the horse behind the little man, who was no other than the King of the Brownies and thus fulfilled his promise by arriving in his hour of need : the two recrossed the loch, and, mounting the castle rock, they disappeared. A few only knew better, but these cared little to speak about the matter.

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She was very profuse with her thanks, and foretold that her donor would never be without a pinch of snuff of all things while she should require it. It was not a very hazardous prediction, nor did it give promise of great remuneration for the obligation conferred; but there was a note of gratitude in it which was thoroughly appreciated by her to whom it was spoken. A realistic account of such an ordeal is preserved in Galloway Gossip Wigtownshire.

It sets forth how a child, whose parents lived in Sorbie village, behaved in such a fretful, passionate, and vixenish way that the parents were at last forced to the unwelcome conclusion that it was not their child at all, but a changeling. Much distressed they sought the advice of a wise woman living at Kirkinner, who plainly enough substantiated the suspicion.

She then set two stools beside the fire, which, as usual at that time and for long after, was made on a slightly raised place in the middle of the floor, paved with water-stones. She motioned Peggy and Jamie to sit down on them, and lighting the candle, with the ether-stane on it, put it on the kerl, or long candlestick, and set it between them, and then took the rowan-wood and biggit it on the fire. Then there came knockings to the door, and cries and noisings all over the house; but she riddled away, and nobody ever heeded them, till at last the wean gave a great scraich, and rase out of the riddle, and gaed whirling up amang the reek like a corkscrew, and out at the lumhead, out of sight.

Everything was then quiet for a minute or two, and at last a gentle knocking came to the door, and Mally asked who was there, and a voice cried—. The district of Dalry seems to have been particularly favoured by the beings of supernatural power. Witchcraft abounded, and now we shall see that Fairyland was represented.

The place, above all, of fairy association was the Holm Glen, with which is associated a legend of the abduction of a youth, and an abortive attempt to win freedom after serving seven years.


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Round this vestige of fairy-lore Dr Robert Trotter has woven a well-told mantle of narrative, from which an extract is well worth quoting:—. I began busily to arrange and set up the stooks, which a storm of wind and rain the preceding evening had blown down. I instantly turned round to see what this troop of early travellers could be; but my eye rested not then on the broad holm of Dalarran and the grey turrets of Kenmure Castle, of which there was a goodly prospect from the place where I stood—but it fell upon the tall form of a young man standing close by my side, dressed in a riding-cloak of the lightest Lincoln green ever worn by a Nottingham Archer.

By his side hung a hunting-horn of the purest silver, whilst his spurs and the diamond chased scabbard of his sword glanced clear and bright in the rays of the rising sun. But I am not dead, as is [Pg ] generally believed, but was carried away by the fairies of Holm Glen, and a body resembling mine placed in the river ford.

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And I have been permitted to appear unto thee at this time, knowing that thou art a fearless man, and one that seeketh after the Kingdom of Heaven; and I request thee, in the name of Heaven, that this night thou wilt win me back to my family and to the world! I expressed the happiness which I felt in meeting so unexpectedly with one whom I had so long considered to be dead. I shook him heartily by the hand, and offered him my friendship and assistance. Pull me down from the chestnut-brown steed upon which I ride, for I will be the last man of that gay troop.

They will turn me into a variety of frightful shapes in thy arms, and lastly into the appearance of a red-hot coulter; but thou must [Pg ] hold me fast in the name of Heaven, for if thou let me slip from thy hands they will take thee soul and body, and I also will be lost for ever!

Through fear he refused his aid, but ever afterwards was haunted and crossed by the evil influence of the night-riding of the fairies of Holm Glen. The last Galloway fairy reminiscence we shall quote before passing into Dumfriesshire illustrates the malignant side of their nature, and tells of the drowning of the Morrisons in Edingham Loch, near the present town of Dalbeattie:—.

Swiftly the weary players returned to the margin of the loch, but nane durst venture on the ice for a considerable time. But there were three neibor lairds, in the three Mailins of Culloch, Cocklick, and Drumlane. To Allan Cunningham we are indebted for several examples of fairy-lore gathered together in his own particular district of Nithsdale. The three following illustrate the expression of gratitude on the part of the fairies when a good turn was served, or a request complied with:—.

They were surprised when, on ending the furrow, a green table was placed there, heaped with the choicest cheese, bread, and wine. A woman of Auchencreath, in Nithsdale, was one day sifting meal warm from the mill; a little, cleanly arrayed, beautiful woman came to her, holding out a basin of antique workmanship, requesting her courteously to fill it with her new meal. Her demand was cheerfully complied with. In a week the comely little dame returned with the borrowed meal.

A woman, who lived in the ancient Burgh of Lochmaben, was returning late one evening to her home from a gossiping. The ceremony usually took place on the eve of Roodmas May 3rd , and the following account is supposed to have been narrated by an old Nithsdale woman to Allan Cunningham:—. We cowered down till they passed by. The accompanying almost idealistic fairy-tale accentuates the idea of the instinct of natural affection with which the fairies were always credited, and their preference for a human mother to nurse their offspring:—.

She carried a beautiful child in her arms, swaddled in green silk. The young woman, conscious to whom the child belonged, took it kindly in her arms and laid it to her breast. The young mother nurtured the two babes, and was astonished whenever she awoke at finding the richest suits of apparel for both children, with meat of most delicious flavour.

This food tasted, says tradition, like loaf mixed with wine and honey. It possessed more miraculous properties than the wilderness manna, preserving its relish even over the seventh day. On the approach of summer the Fairy lady came to see her child. It bounded with joy when it beheld her. She was much delighted with its freshness and activity, and taking it in her arms, she bade the nurse follow. Passing through some scroggy woods, skirting the side of a beautiful green hill, they walked midway up.

On its sunward slope a door opened, disclosing a beauteous porch, which they entered, and the turf closed behind them. It was watered with fine looping rivulets, and yellow with corn; [Pg ] the fairest trees enclosed its fields, laden with fruit, which dropped honey. The nurse was rewarded with finest webs of cloth and food of ever-during substance. Boxes of salves, for restoring mortal health and curing mortal wounds and infirmities, were bestowed on her, with a promise of never needing.

The Fairy dropped a green dew over her right eye, and bade her look. She beheld many of her lost friends and acquaintances doing menial drudgery, reaping the corn and gathering the fruits. The Fairy passed her hand over her eye, and restored its mortal faculties. She was conducted to the porch, but had the address to secure the heavenly salve.

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She lived, and enjoyed the gift of discerning the earth-visiting spirits, till she was the mother of many children; but happening to meet the Fairy lady who gave her the child, she attempted to shake hands with her. She breathed on her eyes, and even the power of the box failed to restore their gifts again! With a romantic daring peculiar to a Scottish lover he followed the sound, and discovered the fairy banquet.

A green table, with feet of gold, was placed across a small rivulet, and richly furnished with pure bread and wines of sweetest flavour. Their minstrelsy was raised from small reeds and stalks of corn.

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He was invited to partake in the dance, and presented with a cup of wine. He was allowed to depart, and was ever after endowed with the second sight. The following, quite as realistic, describes a similar uncanny ceremony in Dumfriesshire:—. The mother, obliged to be from home, left it in charge of the servant girl. The poor lass was sitting bemoaning herself. Up started the elf, the wind arose, the corn was chafed, the outlyers were foddered, the hand-mill moved around, as by instinct, and the knocking mell did its work with amazing rapidity.

The girl took the first opportunity of slyly telling her mistress the adventure. At the middle hour of night, the chimney-top was covered up, and every inlet barred and closed. The embers were blown up until glowing hot, and the maid, undressing the elf, tossed it on the fire.

It uttered the wildest and most piercing yells, and, in a moment, the fairies were heard moaning at every wonted avenue, and rattling at the window boards, at the chimney head, and at the door. A further narrative, bringing out the idea of gratitude for a favour, and resentment at insult, has been gleaned from the parish of Closeburn:—. On returning to the spot he found the spurtle taken away, and bread and cheese left in its place.


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He partook of both, and likewise gave some to his horses, but his companion would neither taste himself nor allow his horses to taste. An affront of this kind could not be overlooked, and he had not gone many steps until he dropped down dead in the furrow. It came to pass, however, that the green ring where the fairies had danced and gambolled became in the times of the Persecution a place of worship.

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