Scottish myths 13



The fairy lad of Leith

This legend was published in Pandaemonium, or The Devil's Cloyster, by a Richard Bovet, in 1684. The story was entitled, "A remarkable passage of one named the Fairy Boy of Leith, in Scotland, given me by my worthy friend, Captain George Burton, and attested under his hand."

The allusion to the boy was made by a woman of honest reputation who was the owner of a public house in Leith. The person to whom she spoke, a man of some standing familiar with Leith and on business there at that time, paid particular attention, as he was well aware of the innkeeper's honesty and good standing.
She informed him that there was a Fairy Boy, (as he was locally called) who lived in the town. She added such details that the person was intrigued enough to want to meet the lad. She promised him that she would see what she could do to bring this about. And this is how it happened, as narrated by the man himself.

'One day not long afterwards, as I entered the inn for a glass of wine, the innkeeper recognised me and immediately came in order to show me from the open doorway that the Fairy Boy was there quite near, playing in the street with several other boys. "Look you there sir, the one with the grey-green smock is the Fairy Boy".

Whereupon I carefully approached the boy, talked to him calmly and gave him a silver coin. I asked him several questions, some on astronomy, to which the boy answered in an astonishingly subtle and intelligent way, far beyond his apparent age of ten or eleven years.
We continued to talk whilst seated at a wooden table just outside the inn. During our conversation the boy began to drum on the table-top with his fingers in such a way that it was clear that he had the talent of a drummer. When I asked him about this the boy replied "I can drum as well as any in Scotland; for every Thursday night I beat all points to those that are wont to meet under yonder hill."
He then pointed to the huge hill between Edinburgh and Leith.
I then asked him about those who meet there. "There is a great company, both of men and women, entertained with all kinds of music as well as my drum. They are served with a great variety of game and wine, and often in a night we are conveyed to France and to Holland and back, and whilst we are there we enjoy all the pleasures each country doth afford."
I then asked him how the company got beneath the hill, to which the boy replied, "There are a great pair of gates that open, though they are invisible to others. Within there are brave, large rooms, as well accommodated as any in Scotland."

Although the innkeeper had informed me that no one could prevent the Fairy Boy from attending his Thursday night ventures, I managed to persuade him to meet me again the following Thursday evening at seven o'clock.
The boy returned as promised to the appointed place of meeting. I had brought some acquaintances with me in order to try to prevent the lad from ever leaving us.
He answered our questions patiently until almost 11 o'clock, and then, without any announcement he suddenly wandered away. I excused himself to my friends, then hurried after the boy following him very closely. Suddenly he made a noise as though he had been set upon, and then he simply disappeared.
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Scottish myths 14
Scottish myths 12

Tale retold © Mirino. Source- A Book of Scotland, Collins. 
Photo of Leith (modified by M) by kind permission © Alf Thomas, with thanks. March, 2012

2 comments:

rob said...

What a strange tale it is and how well told!

Mirino said...

Thanks Rob. It must be nice to be able
to just disappear, from time to time.