Some Folklore from Frank Maclennan’s Ferindonald Papers
Originally published in The North Star and the Ross-shire Journal 1963-76. Printed by Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society, Evanton in 1980s (undated)
The Bleeding Hand
Poem about the several boats of Munros sailing in to claim this fertile land.
‘And who to be our first and chief
In that wide and goodly land?
He who shall first lay a hand
On the sand there, on the sand …
See! One lifts his gleaming blade –
On the bench his left hand laid:
Falls the blade
And he flings the bleeding hand
Out before us on the strand.
Of the ancient princely line,
Domhnuill, hail! The chiefship thine’.
(told by Miss Jeannie Duff 1954)
Lady of Balconie
(FM’s states that his sources for the narrative ‘could be thrown back into the 18th century’)
a) He gives the full story largely as per Hugh Miller’s ‘Scenes and Legends’
b) ‘The Lady of Balconie appears to have been the daughter of an old Lord or Balconie. Her nurse was a witch and secretly trained the girl in the black art. This became known after the pupil had developed considerable skill. There were visitors; they and the family were strolling on the lawn on the eastern end of the castle. The subject of witchcraft cropped up, and someone made a scoffing or sceptic remark.
The young lady bridled: - “See what I can do!” On the instant the castle rose several feet into the air, so that the startled people were able to see, between it and the foundations, the fields out beyond, the blue reach of the Cromarty Firth and the slopes of the Black Isle. For a few seconds the building hung thus; then it was lowered to its original base – not a stone being displaced.’ (p.10)
c) ‘It used to be said, even into this century (20th), when mist rose from the water and lay along the course of the Black Rock, that it was from the Lady of Balconie’s fire, and a sign that she was baking – baking the bannocks for her master the Devil.’ (p.11)
FM writes if Dr. Robert Munro (1835-1920) remembered as a boy ‘going warily up the banks of the Black Rock, aware that it was a haunt of Satan, and sometimes wondering what strange power in past ages had been able to rend the solid stone.’ (p.75). In his autobiography he mentions that the gorge is ‘so narrow in places it may be crossed on the branches of overhanging trees – a feat which I have frequently performed.’ (FP p.79)
[James Roberston locates a key scene of The Testament of Gideon Mack (2006) in the Black Rock gorge ]
The Kildey Wife
‘To keep a pub on a tiny hillside croft would not of itself win immortality. The Kildey Wife happened to be a witch’ ….The cows on a farm in the parish of Resolis (nearly opposite to Kildey on the Black Isle) ‘were being found many mornings stripped of their milk. A watch was kept – and there was a gun loaded with a silver bullet. One night a hare appeared among the cows; it was fired at, and apparently hit a hind-leg. But it was able to escape. Thereafter, it was noticed, the Kildey wife went with a limp.’ (p.14)
Also the story of Kenny Kildey, Kenneth Cameron, ‘a descendant of hers (son? grandson?). ‘Something of the reputation of his ancestress attached to him; village children used to give him a wide berth.’ Story of how en route to Falkirk Tryst, near Dalwhinnie, a lady offered them lodgings – the pig sty. ‘For want of a better place they had to take it. But their feelings were hurt. On the way home a few days later, they found that the house had been burnt down, and the woman herself was living in a sty … What could people conclude, but that Kenny Kildey had put a curse on the woman, and that it had worked!’ (p.94)
Katharine of Foulis
Much abbreviated story: Elf-arrow heads, witch and rat poison.
See Foulis Witchcraft Case for Sir Walter Scott’s version taken from the actual trial related in Pitcairn’s Trials.
FM gives abbreviated story from Hugh Miller’s ‘Scenes and Legends’:
The Ministers of Kiltearn and Cullicudden
‘who were concerned to prevent the Devil from having unhindered scope during all the hours of darkness. They arranged that one should sit up, engaged in devotional exercises, for the first hald of each night; the other would then take over the duties and continue them until daybreak ….’ (p.15)
Bard Macra. Robert Macrae
Lived at Ballavullich (in the field where the Filter Station now is situated).
(Was in the Ross-shire Militia in 1827; died prior to 1855)
FM gives various stories eg.
a) His twitting of the Master in Drummond School, George Mackintosh
b) His barbed poetic response to the farmer at Fyrish for reproving him for putting his head in the well in which he concludes
Chan aite Comhnuidh Fyrish dhuit Fyrish is no dwelling-place for you
‘S an oidche nis ann And the night now in it
FM suggests ‘the last line suggests that death is at hand for Mr. Walker. But the farmer survived for several years after the demise of the Bard.’ (p.73)
The Bard fell in love (according to Hugh MacNair, possibly with Miss Munro of Balconie). ‘It was a hopeless passion; and the outcome was that Rob hanged himself from a tree in the old graveyard, Cladh Churadin…’..’a neighbour, Hugh Urquhart, Am Brebadair Bodhar (The Deaf Weaver), a good pious man …. Was aware, in some occult way of what had happened, and told those concerned where to look. As the body of the suicide could not be laid in consecrated ground, Bard Macra was buried in Balconie ground, on the other side of the river from Kiltearn.’ (pp.72-4)
Craig na Cailleich
Big John Cameron, the contractor at the quarry in the 1880’s, employed an Evanton man, notable in that he used to tie strings for the cure of sprains.’ (p.92)
Tealoid (above Foulis Castle)
Extract from OSA 1790s: ‘It was a common practice in the memory of some still alive, for superstitious persons to frequent the well, and after drinking the water, to tie some rags to the branches of the surrounding trees.’
Tigh na Faoileig – House of the Gull
Kiltearn shore en route to church.
At end C19 the wife of the fisherman, who was from the ‘other side’/ The Black Isle? ‘had a reputation of being a psychic. Prior to a funeral, she used to hear the spirit of the dead scream as it passed over the tiny stream …. One day the fisherman was in the village, and looked into the carpenter’s shop where my father was making a coffin. “I knew you’d be at the coffin,” said he, 2 last night the wife heard the soul of the dead give skirl as it went over the water to the churchyard.” “The spirit was going the wrong way then,” responded my father, “for the corpse that’s to be in this coffin is for the Alness Churchyard.”’ (pp.94-5)
Tobar na Slabhraidh – Well of the Chain
At Balconie. ‘There was supposed to be a curative property about the water. About a century ago, an Evanton boy had a rash which was not leaving him. A wise woman known as Mhaighdeann Bhan meaning Maiden White, because her white hair hung down over her shoulders, told the parents the rash had been caused by someone with an Evil Eye. She made the father fetch water from Tobar na Slabhraidh. Into it she put a gold ring, a shilling and a halfpenny, muttered a few words over it, and washed the affected part. The boy was cured.’ (p.96)
Jaydac the Witch
(Lived near Drummore)
‘She once put a spell on the Drummore cows, preventing their giving milk. The farmer did not know who was responsible. But he knew what to do. He filled a bottle with water, corked it, and set it by the byre door. Perhaps he said a few words over it, I do not know. So long as the water was in the bottle, so long would his enemy be unable to empty his or her bladder. In a day or so Jaydac turned up. She took the spell off the cows, and the bottle was emptied to her great relief..’ (p.97)
Aileen na Keever
By the right bank of the Allt Granda, several yards above the main road. ‘A mound here is known as the Dead Man’s Grave’ after ‘a tramp’, who ‘got too much drink’ and ‘went over the high bank’. ‘A suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground, so a hole was dug close by where he was found. His name was probably Maciver.’ ‘Of the heap of stones on the grave it would be necessary to shut your eyes and throw a stone, otherwise you would dream of the dead man in the night.’ (p.97)
Glenglass Road, near turn to Lagvullin.
‘I have heard of a dying woman from Assynt asking for a drink from it. A lady ghost, it was said, used to be seen at that spot; perhaps because at night it was very dark, being thickly roofed by trees. It was also said that “things” were sometimes seen on the stone steps to the gate into Assynt House grounds…’ (p.98).
Clach el a Reach (NW of Wyvis Lodge)
Possibly Clach ‘Ille Reaich, Stone of the Brindled Lad.
The Brindled Lad, or Grey Lad, was one of the many names for Satan (p.102)
Loch a’Chapuill - Horse of the Horse or Mare
Behind the Glen Glass peat mosses.
‘It was a haunt of an each-uisge, a water-horse. I do not certainly remember which of the old ladies of the glen told me, when I was a boy, that she had seen that each-uisge in her young days – sometime in the first half of last century (C19)’. (p.107)