Away with the faeries
I was sitting reading a book the other day by Stuart Hardy called ‘Speakin O Dundee’, when I came across a rather far-fetched tale of a young man called Jamie Moir from the Hilltown. Jamie was found by some local men one morning rather worse for wear on the slopes of the Law – covered in bruises and with his clothes all mangled. More tellingly, an empty whisky bottle lay near to his splayed out body. Probably fearing the worst upon finding this body, the men would have been fairly relieved to find Jamie still alive, despite his roughed-up appearance. As they walked him back home, Jamie began to relay a tale to them that gave him a wee bit of a reputation afterwards, if the tale is anything to go by,
Jamie told them that he had been travelling on foot back home from the Longforgan fair, when, in the distance, he spotted a group of people. He called them over to chat, but, as they got closer, he could tell that they were not folk whom he knew. The group of around a dozen were a lot smaller than Jamie, and wore clothing which he found to be old fashioned and strange looking. By his own admission, Jamie was fairly drunk, having stopped off at an Inn on his way back to partake of a few (too many) refreshments. He bought a bottle for his journey home – the very bottle which lay empty beside him on the Law.
Despite this, Jamie said that the people he had met had asked him for a drink, which he willingly gave. They all had a sip, and, before he knew it, he had been lifted from the air and carried away to the Sidlaws, where he spent the rest of the night laughing and drinking liquor with his new companions – the fairies! How he ended up back on the slopes of the Law, he could not say. As you could imagine, many folk were more than sceptical, especially considering the evidence and the reliability of the ramblings of a drunk man.
However, others did believe him – those who believed in such legends, or perhaps those who have had their own experiences with the fairy folk. Many explanations have been given for a belief in fairies. Some say that they are like ghosts, spirits of the dead, or were fallen angels, neither bad enough for Hell nor good enough for Heaven. Some people believe them to be more like the modern adaptations, with pretty wings and magic wands, whilst others think that fairies are just an older version of our alien abduction stories of today.
Could it be that our tales of fairies are no more than interpreted tales about our Pictish ancestors? A 12th century document tells of the Picts as being no more than ‘pygmies’ in stature, working hard during morning and night, but staying out of the sunlight during the day. Scottish tribes in our earliest times used to kidnap the healthy children of their foes and replace them with sick children from their own tribe, which is a trick attributed to fairy folk. Were those who could see the future later labelled as fairies in an attempt to explain away their abilities?
The expression “away with the fairies” is meant to imply that someone is not facing reality or living in a dream world, which could definitely be the case in Jamie’s tale of the unexplained. Whether you believe or not, we, as a race are obsessed with ‘the unknown’ and strive to find an answer for anything. Nowadays, when we can’t validate something, we dismiss it as myth or fallacy…but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not there. Perhaps the fairies just don’t want to play with us anymore because we’re all too busy with technology?
Stuart McHardy, Speakin O Dundee, Luath Press Ltd, 2010