Friday, 11 September 2009

Brown Man of the Muirs - Part 2


Continuing on the trail of the Brown Man of the Muirs, we headed to Hermitage Castle, where according to 'Cout of Keeldar' by J Leydon, the Cout o' Keelder met his fate and was drowned by the soldiers of Lord Soulis in the nearby river. The ballad tells of young Keeldar venturing out to hunt in Liddesdale and meeting a brown dwarf, who calls himself 'The Brown Man of the Muirs'. An extract reads:
"His russet weeds were brown as heath,
That clothes the upland fell;
And the hair of his head was frizzly red,
As the purple heather bell.

An urchin, clad in prickles red,
Clung cowring to his arm;
The hounds they howl'd, and backwards fled,
As struck by fairy charm.":
The brown dwarf refers to himself as 'The Brown Man of the Muir' and is none too pleased to be awoken by "stag-hound's cry, where stag-hound ne'er should be". He warns the young man then leaves, only to reappear a few verses later when young Keeldar travels 3 times around the Keeldar stone:

"The rude crag rocked; - "I come for death!
I come to work thy woe!"
-And 'twas the Brown Man of the Heath
That murmured from below."

Young Keeldar meets Soulis of Liddesdale's men and is invited to a feast at Hermitage, where his men become enchanted, though Keeldar remains awake due to a Rowan leaf in his plume. A battle begins and the Brown Man reappears, explaining that young Keeldar's charmed mail will protect him from weapons but that "No spell can stay the living tide, or charm the rushing stream". Young Keeldar escapes and reaches the stream, but the enemy force him under where he is drowned, as predicted by the Brown Man.

Below you can see the river where the Cout o' Keelder was drowned, and the mound at the nearby ruined chapel where his body is said to rest.


The castle and grounds are owned by Historic Scotland, and are open to the public from April to September. Entry is subject to an admission fee.

Sources and Further Information
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Vol 2, Walter Scott
The Lady of the Lake, Walter Scott
Poems and Legendary Ballads Vol 1, William Stuart
Historic Scotland

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