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