(To the Editor of the Stirling Journal and Advertiser – July 27th 1860)
Sir, – I send you some more of the Gargunnock stories, which please insert in your paper at your convenience. There once lived in our village a noted witch, Eppie Lorn by name, who with her cantrips kept “the hale kintra side in fear.” If a cow were elf-shot, or the gudewife’s butter did not come as usual, or the laird’s sheep were smoored in the snaw, &c., witch Eppie gat the wyte o’ a’ that fell out. No doubt the old woman got a worse name than she deserved. However, the inhabitants got so much afraid of Eppies ill do as to inform the authorities of Stirling about her wicked deeds, who at once sent out a party for the purpose of having her taken to Stirling and tried for the sin of witchcraft. It is said that the men had no sooner entered Eppie’s house then she asked one of them to whistle a tune, which he at once commenced to do, while the auld witch begin to dance in her usual fantastic manner, wheeling round and round, and at every turn she took they observed her getting smaller and smaller in size; so they stopped the tune, and laid hold on Eppie, when she exclaimed, “Now, men, had I got anither wallop ye wadna hae been fashed wi’ me.” She was then taken to Stirling, tried and found guilty of witchcraft, and burnt in the Valley there.
It is said that just before she was committed to the flames, she turned her eyes in the direction of Touch and said, “There will be a dewin’ the nicht on Touch moor, and a watin’ in the Glen of Boquhan,” which actually came to pass, for on that very night the spate in the burn of Boquhan was so great, as to change the mill from the Gargunnock side of it to the Kippen side, where it still stands, the burn having thus formed a new course for itself.
It is also told here that a farmer who occupied a small piece of ground at the mill-shot went to the mill “on halloween, when fairies as well as witches do ride,” to get some groats for his kale, and having got his pock filled he left in company with the miller; but as they had to pass the Keirhill on their way homewards – a famous haunt of the fairies, on which it was dangerous to sleep or be found after sunset – so when they came near to it they heard a sound of music, and going towards the place from which the sound came, they then saw a light gleaming, and walking in they came to a hallan – for fairies had subterranean dwellings – and leaning against it just at the cow door, and looking in they saw a beautiful sight – namely, fairies dancing in their red and green dresses which so enchanted John (which was the farmer’s name) that when the miller proposed to leave, John said,” Wait awee, man till they’re done;” hut the miller would not remain and left, saying ” You may stop for twelve months, but I’m awa.” John not returning home that night his wife and children were in great consternation about him. Search was made everywhere, but no John could be found; even the miller could not or dared not tell where he parted from him. It was at last concluded that John had been carried off by the fairies. On the next halloween coming round, and the miller passing the Keirhill on his way home, he again heard the same sound and saw the same light; and going to the same place, who did he see but his old friend John leaning with one shoulder against the hallan and his pock of groats in the other, still enjoying the sight of the fairies dancing. The miller again asked him to leave the place, but John again said ” Wait till they’re done”
He at length consented to leave with the miller. When John came to his house he was much surprised to see his children looking older than when he left them, not knowing that he had been so long absent. His wife and children were afraid of him until the minister and neighbours met with them, when a full explanation took place, and John and his family were perfectly reconciled to each other. It is said that he did not long survive the fairy adventure/
Another well known fairy tale told here is of a poor woman of the name of Jenny Clow, who lived at Muttonhole, Gargunnock. One night hearing a sound at the door of her cottage, and as her fir spouks were exhausted, she took some straw from under her bed as a substitute, and the night being windy all her attempts to carry the lighted straw to the door proved ineffectual. In a short time a diminutive creature made its appearance and pushed itself on a chair, while Jenny exclaimed, “Guid hae me, what art thou?” when the fairy said, “I am come to borrow a basin of meal, and shall pay it to you back when the mill is burned.” Not Iong afterwards the mill was burned down, and the poor woman was surprised to find that her stock of meal was abundant of course concluding that she was indebted for her supply to her guid neibours, a title given to tho fairies. Jenny Glow was thus rewarded for her kindness, and such is the moral to be drawn from the tale. And now Sir, I beg to state, for the in formation of your sermonising correspondent – the firm believer in witches – that a hundred years before our day, old Tibbie Garrow here saw a whole batch of witches take their flight from the Keirhill and fly to a spot called the Nyad Knowe, where it is possible they still may be found, and if so, he can still have an opportunity of erecting a pile and burning the poor witches. And as to his letter, I shall say – as the dying laird of Dumbiedikes said in regard to the only prayer that he ever asked for in his life – “Gang awa wi’ your whiggery, if that’s a’ ye can do; auld Curate Kilstoup wad hae read half tho prayer-book by the time one reads your letter.”