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