The Deil’s Dyke

The Deil’s Dyke

The first mention of the Deil’s Dyke, seems to have been in Chalmers ‘Caledonia’, published in 1824.  This states that he is indebted to Joseph Train, and others, for the account of the ‘remains’. A report, written by Train himself is given in an appendix in MacKenzie’s ‘History of Galloway’, published in 1841. (Graham 1949).  

Train claimed that he had discovered an ancient earthwork rampart stretching from Beoch Farm on the shores of Loch Ryan to the shores of the Inner Solway, near Annan and although it had a number of breaks in it, he asserted that it could be followed all the way.  He said that the dyke was built of large blocks of stone in some places and earth and stone in others, and was eight feet broad (2.4m) at the base but had been robbed out in places.  Maxwell thought it would have been strengthened with palisades and defended by watchtowers and camps.  It seems to be been generally assumed that it was built by the Picts as a defence against the people of Strathclyde, though Dick also states that the RCAHMS* Inventory suggests that it wasn’t defensive in nature and was more likely a boundary marker. (Mackenzie (1841, Maxwell 1896, Dick 1919)

Subsequent writers about Galloway, such as Maxwell and Dick above,  have continued to perpetuate the myth, copying one from the other until relatively recently.   In 1949, Graham published a study of the Galloway end of the Dyke, from Beoch Farm to Knockreoch.  He showed that, for example, the ‘Dyke’ at Beoch is probably part of enclosure banks, such as there are in Ireland, and elsewhere there was either nothing, or parts of old enclosure or head dykes, none of which were particularly old.

In 1956, Graham and Feachem, published the results of a survey of the Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire sections of the Dyke.  They concluded that there was evidence of an earthwork, running roughly between Burnmouth Farm, north of Enterkinfoot and Dalhanna Hill, beside Afton Water, south-west of New Cumnock, a distance of about 16 miles.  They thought that it may have been a boundary separating good land along the banks of the River Nith, but were unable to find any definite historical reason for it.

An excavation of part of the structure was carried out in 1981 as it was scheduled for destruction due to ongoing opencast mining operations.  It was found that it consisted of an earth bank, but there no ditch related to it.  Land from either side had been used to strip turves and soil to create the bank, which was about 4.5 feet (1.4m) wide at the base, and estimated the original height to be around 6.5 feet (2m).  Two shards of mediaeval pottery were found in one section and although it is possible, it is extremely unlikely that they could have been incorporated into the bank by moles or earthworms, so that section, at least appears to be mediaeval in origin.  It is also possible that the core of the bank is much older, as dating evidence from the original ground surface, under the bank, showed it to be from some time in the late Iron Age, however the excavation did not find any evidence that the bank had been constructed in two phases. (Barber 1982)  

Tabraham (1982), can find no reason for it to be an estate boundary as it passed through the existing boundaries, but suggests that it may be a mediaeval head-dyke or marking divisions within a hunting forest.  He was concerned, when walking the area, by the number of similar earthworks in the vicinity of the Dyke, suggesting that these had been too easily dismissed by Graham and Feachem.

An interesting origin for the name ‘Deil’s Dyke’ from Graham (1949), who reports that a shepherd’s wife in Kirkcudbrightshire, when asked about a nearby portion of the Dyke, called it the ‘deil-dyke’, which in Galloway used to mean ‘march-dyke’.

BARBER, J. W. (1982). 'The Deil's Dyke, Nithsdale', with contributions from Mate, I.D. and Tabraham, C. J. in Trans. Dumfries and Galloway Nat. Hist. & Antiq. Soc. (1982), pp. 29-46
DICK, C.H., Rev. (1919) Highways and Byways in Galloway and Carrick, pp. 288-290
GRAHAM, A. 1949 'The Deil's Dyke in Galloway', in Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 83, (1948-9), pp. 174-85
GRAHAM, A. and FEACHEM,  R. W. (1956) 'The Deil's Dyke in Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire'', in Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 88, pp. 137-53
MACKENZIE, W. (1841) The History of Galloway, volume 1, Appendix note B, p 2 - 5
MAXWELL, H. (1896) Dumfries and Galloway, pp. 14-16
TABRAHAM, .C.J.  (1982). contributions in 'The Deil's Dyke, Nithsdale', (see BARBER 1982) in Trans. Dumfries and Galloway Nat. Hist. & Antiq. Soc. (1982), pp. 29-46

*Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Tam Lin or Queen of the Fairies

Tam Lin or Queen of the Fairies

The maid that sits in Katherine’s Hall
Clad in her robes so black
She has to yon garden gone
For flowers to flower her hat.

She has not pulled the red, red rose
A double rose but three
When up there starts a gentleman
Just at the lady’s knee.

Say’s ‘Who’s that pulls the red, red rose
Breaks branches of the tree
This garden in Moorcartney wood
Without the leave o’ me?’

‘Yes, I will pull the red, red rose,
Break branches off the tree,
This garden in Moorcartney wood,
Without the leave o thee.’

:He took her by the milk-white hand
And gently laid her down,
Just in below some shady trees
Where the green leaves hung down.

‘Come tell to me, kind sir,’ she said,
‘What before you never told;
Are you an earthly man?’ said she,
‘A knight or a baron bold?’

‘I’ll tell to you, fair lady,’ he said,
‘What before I neer did tell;
I’m Earl Douglas’s second son,
With the queen of the fairies I dwell.

‘When riding through yon forest-wood,
And by yon grass-green well,
A sudden sleep me overtook,
And off my steed I fell.

The queen of the fairies, being there,
Made me with her to dwell,
And still once in the seven years
We pay a teind to hell.

‘And because I am an earthly man,
Myself doth greatly fear,
For the cleverest man in all our train
To Pluto must go this year.

‘This night is Halloween, lady,
And the fairies they will ride;
The maid that will her true-love win
At Miles Cross she may bide.’

‘But how shall I thee ken, though, sir?
Or how shall I thee know,
Amang a pack o hellish wraiths,
Before I never saw?’

‘Some rides upon a black horse, lady,
And some upon a brown,
But I myself on a milk-white steed,
And I aye nearest the toun.

‘My right hand shall be covered, lady,
My left hand shall be bare,
And that’s a token good enough
That you will find me there.

‘Take the Bible in your right hand,
With God for to be your guide,
Take holy water in thy left hand,
And throw it on every side.’

She’s taen her mantle her about,
A cane into her hand,
And she has unto Miles Cross gone,
As hard as she can gang.

First she has letten the black pass by,
And then she has letten the brown,
But she’s taen a fast hold o the milk-white steed,
And she’s pulled Earl Thomas doun.

The queen of the fairies being there,
Sae loud she’s letten a cry,
‘The maid that sits in Katherine’s Hall
This night has gotten her prey.

‘But hadst thou waited, fair lady,
Till about this time the morn,
He would hae been as far from thee or me
As the wind that blew when he was born.’

They turned him in this lady’s arms
Like the adder and the snake;
She held him fast; why should she not?
Though her poor heart was like to break.

They turned him in this lady’s arms
Like two red gads of airn;
She held him fast; why should she not?
She knew they could do her no harm.

They turned him in this lady’s arms
Like to all things that was vile;
She held him fast; why should she not?
The father of her child.

They turned him in this lady’s arms
Like to a naked knight;
She’s taen him hame to her ain bower,
And clothed him in armour bright.

Collected from Alexander Kirk 14/10/1886

The Herd’s Tale

The Herd’s Tale

When my grannie was a lassie her feyther used to tell her that when his grandfeyther was a wee laddie he kenned an auld, auld man whae had been a herd and whae had seen Sanct Ringan.  He was nocht but a herd laddie when he seen him, an’ he bided wi’ the herd in a wee clay hoose.  The callant was but a papist, ye ken, but for a’ that he was a dooce laddie, an’ no ill-guidit.

There cam’ a Yule-e’en when his maister bude to gang far awa’ tae a Yule Fair, an’ he says to the laddie, “Jamie, I’ll hae to lipen on ye tae look efter the yowes an’ see that they’re a’ gaithered in afore the mirk.”  Sae the herd-laddie  was left a’ his lane in the wee clay hoose, an’ afore the gloamin’ aff he gaed to gaither the yowes.  He found the a’ forbye  ane; an’ he lookit, but he found nor hide or hair o’t.  By noo it was the mirk, and gey oorie it was for the laddie; but he was a bield callant, an when he had bedded a’ the ither yowes, oot he set to seek the lost ane.

He lookit an’ he lookit till he was fell wearit an’ fair disjaskit wi’ rowmin’ ower the mosses an’ amang the brambles.  When he got to his ain door and foond nae yowe there, he was awfu’ ill aboot it and that wearit he could hardly think to gang ootbye ony mair; but he was vexed for the puir yowe an’ fear’t his maister was think he hadna’ been mindfu’.  Sae he sat doon by the hearth-stane to think what he could dae next.  Syne he minded o’ Sanct Ringan an’ hoo folk bude to gang to his Well to pray him to find what was lost (no kennin’ ony beter, puir bodies), an’ he keekit roon’ to see what he could offer the Sanct.  An’ his e’en lichted on his supper, whilk was kaik brose he had got nae time to sup, an’ says he “I’m gey toom, but there’s nocht else, so I’ll e’en gie my supper to the Sanct.”

Sae he picked up the bowl and gaed ower the brae to Sanct Ringan’s Well and laid his supper doon on the well-stane.  An’ he kneeled doon an’ says he: “O michty Sanct Ringan, I’m sair wearit an’ I doot the yowe’s awa’, but gin ye can sup brose ye’re welcome to mine, for it’s a’ that I hae.”  He took a lang pech, an’ he waitit an’ waitit, but nocht cam’ in view.  By this time it was twal’ o’ the clock, an he thocht he was seek doon to the moss ance mair; but afore he had gane faur frae the well he heard a chap on the well-stane ahint him, an’ when he turned roon’, here was a fremyt man in tattered claes suppin’ the brose.

 Says Jamie tae himsel’, “Yon’s no Sanct; I ne’er heard tell o’ a Sanct that wisna better puit-on.  But puir soul, he’s hungry-like an’ he’ll maybe think mair o’ the brose than ony Sanct wad dae.”  Then says the man, wavin’ the spun, “A fair gude-e’en to ye, my laddie.”  

“Fair gude-e’en,” says Jamie.  “It’s no fair gude’e’en, nor fair gude day wi’ me, for I hae lost an auld yowe that my maister lippened on me to gaither in.”

“Hoots,” says the fremyt man, “the yowe’s no sae faur awa’. Ye’ll find her in a bramble bush in yon deep dyke ablow the saugh-trees that aye bud the sunest ilk spring”.

 “I hae socht her frae end to end o’ yon dyke hauf a dizzen times the nicht,” says the callant, fair pit oot at sic havers, “an she’s no there.”

But for a’ that, the tap an’ tail o’t was, he went back to the dyke wi’ the fremyt man, an’ there ablow the busk was the yowe, no deid, but cam’ ower dwammy wi’ the cauld blast.

“I’m muckle obleeged to ye,” says Jamie, “but I doot I’ll no get her hame.”

“Nae fear for that,” says the fremyt man, an’ wi’ that he happit her up on his shouder an’ carried her hame to the fireside o’ the wee clay hoose.

“It’s fell dark,” says the herd laddie, “Wull ye no bide the nicht wi’ me?”

“I mauna dae that,” says the fremyt man, “or I’ll be late.”  “Late?” says the callant, “An whaur may ye be gaun?”

The fremyt man was on the door-step an’ he lookit back wi’ a queer glint in his e’en.  “Whaur wad I gang this nicht,” says he “but to Bethlehem?”

An’ wi’ that he was awa’, an’ when the laddie rin to the door there was nae man to be seen, nocht but a bricht, glisterin’ pathway to the East, for Sanct Ringan had walked that airt.

Source: A Forgotten Heritage, ed. Hannah Aitken (1973).  Taken from the Gallovidian Annual No XIV 1933.  Janet Tait heard this from her grandmother, born about 1746, who got it from her great grandfather who claimed to have got it from the herd himself, making this a genuine folk tale.

©Scottish Academic Press

The Miller’s Tale

The Miller’s Tale

Ae nicht ma grandfeyther woke up wi’ the sound o’ the mill wheel, and being a wise-like man was for biding in his bed, but my granny, whae was an auld randy wife, gied him a clout wi’ her loof and, says she, “Get up, ye donnert loon, the ghaisties and ferlies are oot.”

My grandfeyther e’en did what he was telt, and cryin’ on his collie he went ower to the mill to see what was up.  My, but he got an unco fleg, for whit did he see but a wheen corp-claes on the grund, and around the wheel footsteps gaed back and forrit, but nae man did he see.  He gaed intil the mill and the wee folk were thrang, grunin’ the corn.  They brocht a pickle meal and garred him taste it and they set some down to the dog, but he wadna tak’ it.  Mt grandfeyther gaed awa’, no carin’ to hinner the good folk, and nae sooner had he gaen through the door than it cam’ to wi’ a bang and smashed the puir collie’s heid.

Time gaed by, an’ my grandfeyther won awa an’ my granny forbye, an’ my feyther  was the miller o’ Kirkcormack.  He took nae heed o’ the auld tales o’ ghaists and ferlies but ae Hallowe’en after he was bedded he heard the soon’ o’ the water and the clack o’ the wheel.  He gaed doon in his breeks and sark for to turn it aff, but before he could sae aucht, his shouders were gruppit by someone ahint him, an’ sharp pains ran through his body in stounds, as though a hunner preens was jaggin’ him.  He was pushed back hame wi’ the grup aye on his shouders an’ the cauls sweat hailed ow’er him, foe weel he kenned the hands that haud him were no’ the hands o’ a leevin’ man.  An’ mind ye, frae that nicht till his last hoor my feyther’s shouders were aye cauld; a cauld, cauld grue was on them whilk neither fire nor lamb’s oo’ could warm.

I was but twenty year auld when I becam’ the miller mysel’, an’ I thocht the days o’ ghaisties were bye lang syne, until there cam’ a back’en’ when a’thing gaed wrang about the fairm toon.  The hinds kept threepin’ on me to let on the mill water the hale o’ yin nicht; they said that, the hairst being ower airly, the wee folk couldna wait to Hallowe’en for to get grunnin’ the corn, an’ that they could hear them ilka nicht skreighin’ an’ whushin roun’ the mill dam in a wey that was awesome to harken on.  Then the thorns by the dam dwyned awa’ an’ folk abbot the fairm telt me that was because the ferlies whae leeved in ablow the roots had tried to let on the water an’ de’ed o’t, an’ the thorns they had leeved in bude to dee alang wi’ them.  Ae man had his leg broke in a fa’ frae the laft; anither was laid by 0wi0’0 the rheumatics an’ anither was near blin’ wi’ the lime frae the kiln fleein’ intil his een for a’ there was nae win’ blawin’; an’ a’ the auld fowk said we bude tae gie the ferlies what they were wantin’ or nae guid wad follow.  But I was aye yin to gang my ain gait, an’ for a’ the hinnerin’ o’ the day’s darg, I let on nae water by nicht.

At last it cam Hallowe’en.  That nicht I cried on my collie and gaed oot to the fauld nearest the kirk-yard to tak’ a keek at ony ghaisties that micht be abbot.  Juist on the back o’ midnicht I lookit at the mill window and saw the maist oorie licht glintin’ oot that e’er mortal man put e’en on.

I could feel the hair raisein’ the bonnet frae my heid, but afore I could tak’ a pech there cam’ oot o’ the door a fair-farrand lookin’ man wi’ claes on him that I had nae seen the likes o’.  He loupit the kirk-yard dyke an’ vanished intil the mools afore ma verra e’en.  I gaed ower the dyke after him and sure as daith, juist whaur I had lost him there was an auld heid-stane pitten up tae a miller whae had de’ed in the year fifteen and seeventy-aicht.  The collie had seen the ghaistie the same as mysel’, an’ he had got sic a gliff he rin ower the fauld, intil the hoose through a windy, an grat like a wean ablow the mistress’s bed.  An’, I’m tellin’ ye sooth, frae that day forrit nae mair gaed wrang aboot the fairm toon.

Source: A Forgotten Heritage, ed. Hannah Aitken (1973).  Taken from the Gallovidian Annual No XIV 1933.  Kirkcormack Mill was situated between Rhonehouse and Tongland, overlooking the river Dee.  The narrator, tenant at the mill in 1788, was a pious man declared that these things really happened.

©Scottish Academic Press

The Fause Knight

The Fause Knight

“O where are ye gaun?”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“I’m gaun to the schule,”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“What is that upon your back?”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“Atweel it is my bukes,”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“What’s that ye’ve got in your arm?”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“Atweel it is my peit.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“Wha’s aucht they sheep?”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“They are mine and my mither’s.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“How mony o’ them are mine?”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“A’ they that hae blue tails.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“I wiss ye were on yon tree:”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“And a gude ladder under me.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“And the ladder for to break:”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“And you for to fa down.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“I wiss ye were in yon sie:”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“And a gude bottom under me.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

“And the bottom for to break:”
Quo’ the fause knight upon the road;
“And ye to be drowned.”
Quo’ the wee boy, and still he stude.

Source: A Forgotten Heritage, ed. Hannah Aitken (1973).  A nursery tale of Galloway
©Scottish Academic Press