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The Rannoch Farmer's Son and the Fairies

There once lived in Rannoch a farmer's son who fell into ill health, and who used to go to the hill, morning and evening, to see if he would get better.

When summer came, and the cattle were driven to the hill pasture, he followed and remained in charge of them till they returned home to the strath [1] in the beginning of harvest.

On a calm, misty day he went away to gather them to the milking fold, but strayed in the mist, and was a good long time seeking them before he happened to come upon them. He found them at last grazing in a fine large corrie [2] with green juicy grass up to their eyes. The day was warm, and a misty, drizzling rain falling, and the grass was springing up rapidly from the ground. As he was tired with the heat and travelling on the hill, he sat down on a green hillock [3] to take a rest.

He was not long there when he heard a voice coming from the root of every blade of grass at his feet, saying: "Some of it to me, some of it to me!"

He then listened a while, and now the same voice came from the root of every blade of grass in the corrie. He looked to see if he could find out who the voices came from, but no man, small or tall, was visible.

He listened again, and when he heard the same din the third time he understood that it came from the fairies, and so he cried as loud as they did: "And some of it for me also!"

At once the din of voices ceased, and then he drove the cattle to the fold.

The milkmaids were waiting for them to come, and wondering what had kept them so long. They began to milk, but before they had gone over the half, every vessel in the fold was overflowing with milk. They could not comprehend how the milk became so abundant in so short a time; at length they began to praise the weather and say it was the cause of the abundance.

The farmer's son listened patiently to all that he heard; but he said to himself that the milk was not so plentiful on every farm as it was on theirs that day, and that it would not be so plentiful on theirs either, had he left the fairies alone when they were drawing it to themselves in the corrie.

(MacDougall 1910)

  1. Strath: A large valley, typically a river valley that is wide and shallow.
  2. Corrie: A round hollow in a hillside; a steep-walled semicircular basin in a mountain.
  3. Hilloch or knoll: a small hill.


The Little Men of Mulinfenachan in Duthil

Farm fields on the Dulnain flood plain by Shillochan

Once on a time there lived at Mulinfenachan in Duthil [1] a miller who was so strong that he was called Strong Malcolm. But though Malcolm was strong, no man in the parish was as lazy as he. That laziness was encouraged by "little men" that nobody ever saw, and very few ever heard.

When water was scarce, and corn had to be ground, Malcolm, would place a lippy [2] of barley meal in the hopper [3] before going to bed. During the night the mill would light up and the wheel turn without water. There would be noise of shouting and laughter inside the mill; and in the morning all the corn in the mill would be ground, the meal in bags, and everything left tidy and in order.

If any man was so bold as to enter the mill while the little men were at work, some unseen power would kick him in the rear with such force that he would fall to the ground, and when he would rise from the fall, the mill would be in darkness and all would be silent.

When straw was wanted for the cattle, a large basin of sowens [4] was left on the thrashing-floor at night, and in the morning all the corn was found thrashed, the straw in bundles, and the grain winnowed and ready for the mill.

One night as the little men were busy in the mill, the grain kiln [5] of Tullochgriban was seen to be on fire, and the little men were heard to exclaim, "We will have plenty of meal now, and sowens too, for Tullochgriban kiln is on fire, and Strong Malcolm must from now on work for himself, or starve." The little men then went away and never more returned.

(MacDougall, p. 186-90. Retold)

  1. Duthil is a small village in Inverness-shire, Scottish Highlands.
  2. Lippy: About 2 l.
  3. Hopper: Container.
  4. Sowens: A pudding made from oatmeal husks steeped and boiled.
  5. Kiln: Oven, etc.


A Scot and a Sot

Hoveden, a writer of the thirteenth century, informs us: Once the early Scotch philosopher Joannes Scotus was in company with Charles the Bold, King of France, the king asked him good-humouredly:

"What is the difference between a Scot and a sot?"

"Only the breadth of the table," Scotus answered. He was sitting opposite the king.

(Chambers 1880, 107)



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