The lichtin green wiz the place faar ye lichted (dismounted and mounted) fae yer horse in days of old.
At ae time there used tae be a Tinker's encampment ontae the aal lichtin green at Castle Eden. Tinkers wid come fae far and near because it wiz weel likit as a stoppin place afore the first frosts o the year's eyn set in.
The fairmers an cottars roonaboot were affa gweed tae them giein them milk, meal an tatties for a day's yokin clearin the grun o steens, sortin ony faain doon drysteen dykes that abounded the parish. Aften the men helpit wi the tattie howkin ana for it wiz a gye hard yokin. The weemin fowk gaed oot their hawkin and ranged the parish far and wide sellin preens, buttons, pirns o threid and sic like. Maistly it wiz for barter like eggs, cheese or butter for siller wiz gye ticht in the gettin at the times I'm spikkin aboot. A lot o the aaler weemin gaed the drookerin (tellin fortunes) and could ayee mak a few coppers revealin tae servant quines secrets o their futures and the tall hansome stranger that wiz gan tae come and tak them awa fae the life o hard relentless work and mak them intae ladies waited upon haan an fit by servants buskit in fine wigs, yella cwites and siller buckles on their sheen.
The time I'm writin aboot wiz weel afore the big fairmtoons came intae bein in the aichteen forties. Castle Eden wiz still at that time made up o sma modest fairms and lots o wee crafts dotted aboot the strath o Deveron an the Den o Eden. Onywye, that year a malignant fever made it's appearance and laid its caal haan upon the countryside layin low men, weemin and bairns. The kirk bell hardly stoppit ringin nicht and day announcin tae aa that anither beerial wid be takkin place at the dawnin o the next day for that wiz fin the corp wid aye be laid low in that parish and it hid been so for lang syne.
At the aal lichtin green jist afront the ruins o Castle Eden aboot twenty Tinker faimilies were encamped there at the time. The fever raged throwe the pairish but neen so far hid came doon w't. This gave the local fowk cause tae winner as tae fit wye this micht be and like ony group o feart fowk they fun the answer in their ain waggin tongues. The conclusion they came till wiz that the Tinkies hid brocht this scourge upon them and eence the pairish wiz cleared o them then aathing wid seen be back tae normal. So a great boorach o them airmed wi oxterfaes o steens set fit tae the lichtin green wi the intention o steenin them fae the place.
By gweed luck the minister wiz makkin his wye hame tae the manse fin he come upon the githerin o angry parishioners makin their wye up tae the green. A fyowe weel chosen words fae the Gweed Buik and an appeal tae gweed sense got the bleed cweeled and the maist sensible yins made their wye hame while some o the ithers still wintit tae see the Tinkies awa. But even they saw sense as the ranks slowly thinned and they, like their neebours made their wye hame ana.
The minister, gweed man that he wiz, though himsel fochen deen, made his wye up tae the lichtin green tae mak sure neen o the mair angry parishioners doubled back. He aftimes visited the lichtin green; nae in a formal wye but as a man that enjoyed their stories and music. He hid aye been made welcome aboot their fires but this forenicht things were different- they seemed affa hung back wi him. He looked for aal Donald Stewart, a particular favourite o his, and speired o him fit wiz wrang.
Donald reluctantly tellt him fit some o country fowk hid been sayin aboot them and that a couple o the young lads hid been set upon by a troop o fairm servants. The minister wiz ootraged at this and askit tae see the laddies. His request wiz grantit and he wiz teen tae the camp o aal Magg. It wiz her that did aa the bone settin and herbal cures for ailments among the Traivellin fowk an fyles country fowk ana. The twa loons were gye blaik an blae but Magg said they were young and strong and wid seen be roadit again for nae beens were broken. He got tae newsin tae Magg aboot this putrid fever and speired o her if she kent o ony cures for it oot o her herb box. “Na” says she “Nae a cure wid I hae within it for it's nae that kind o seeckness ava laddie”!
So he pressed her as tae fit kind o seeckness she thocht it tae be and wiz shocked tae be tellt that the “Ancient Yins” were angry wi the fowk for nae peyin them homage as wid've been deen in days o lang syne.
Noo Reverend Gordon S. Gow, for that wiz his name, wiz fairly teen aback by Magg's revelation for it contered aathing he'd ivver been brocht up tae believe; but as this wiz desperate times he speired at her fit could be deen. Mair than an oor later jist as the forenicht wiz drawin in an affa thochtful man teen leave o the lichtin green.
Twa or three days aifter that nicht Reverend Gow hid jist deen owerseein the beerial o twa mair o his parishioners. Comin tae a decision he turned tae them stannin at the gravesides and gave orders that nae minister o the kirk wid ivver say, an mair than ae puzzled look did he get for it.
At twal o the clock on the day follyin the kirk bell wiz rung backwards but this time nae tae proclaim a beerial but tae signal the hale parish tae pit oot their fires. Sivven an twenty mairrit men met up at the road gyan three directions in front o Castle Eden. Wi them they cairrit twa big planks o timmer. They teen turns o nine at a time tae rub the twa planks een agin tither till the heat made fire.
Aal Magg teen the smuchterin oo and breathed it tae flame invokin the ‘Ancient Yins’ wi a canterin o strange words. Aince the flames lickit heich she placed it intae a wee caal iron three leggit pot fulled o dry twigs fae the rowan, hawthorn and willow tree. Aal Magg an the burnin pot wiz teen fae hoose tae hoose on a wee cairt riggit up for the occasion. At ilka place she lichtit a new fire fae the pot aa the while mutterin a canterin.
By hawthorn, waan an rowan tree
Bainish the shancowls far fae thee!
Syne she bid the fowk pit ontae the new fire a potfae o clear fresh waal watter and intae the pot she pit a water worn chuckie an a twig fae the boure tree wi the order tae let it bile dry.
It teen maist o the day gyan fae place tae place till she finished up faar she began, at the lichtin green. It wiz there she lichtit fire wi the very last embers fae the reekin pot.
Nae one bite nor one sup passed her lips that day nor for the three days follyin. She sat her leaf aleen intae her bow-camp an spoke tae hersel in a language neether Cant, Scotch nor Gaelic.
Some o the Tinkers said she wiz spikkin tae the ‘Ancient Yins’ in their ain ancient tongue for wiz she nae the seivinth dochter o a seivinth dochter and kent weel the wyes o them that passed afore. On the third day as Magg stottered thawless oot o her camp. The fever hid gone fae the parish. Fear gaed fae fowk's hairts and life gaed back tae normal. Reverend Gordon S. Gow, gweed man that he wiz, thankit aal Magg for appeasin the ‘Ancient Yins’ even though the very idea contered ivverything he himsel believed in.
Mony a lang year his passed syne that day, an aa the fowk that were witness tae fit happened lie peacefully in the aal kirk yard.
If by ony chance ye tak the inclination tae hae a danner doon the wye o the kirk yard some saft forenicht aboot the month o September, hae a look doon at the sooth eyn. Growin ootside the waa ye'll see the bonniest rowan tree wi the reedest berries on it ye'll ivver cast ee upon. Aneth it, in the rowan's bosie lies aal Magg, at her left side staans a gnarled hawthorn tree protectin her soul, at her richt side growes a weepin willow castin tears o sorrow for the passin o Magg. Inside the kirk yard against the same bit waa there staans a modest gravesteen in line wi Magg's rowan tree.
Inscribed ontae it's saansteen face, near worn awa wi time, are a few words:
IN MEMORANDUM OF
Reverend Gordon Skinner Gow 1781-1863
for 48 years Minister at Iden.
TILL WE MEET AGAIN MAGG
hawthorn, waan and rowan tree.
Story fae the book 'Sanners Gow's Tales an' Folklore o' the Buchan.' You can buy it here in paperback or ebook.
A series of longer stories from Sanners Gow's collected works to entertain you through lockdoon an' beyont.