Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Robert Kirk - Part 3 - Doon Hill

Finally, on my trip to investigate the life of the Reverend Robert Kirk, I come to Doon Hill. It is said that while ministering at Aberfoyle church, Robert Kirk enjoyed taking regular strolls up Doon Hill, known locally as a 'Dun Shi' or Fairy Hill.

One evening however, Robert Kirk did not return from the hill as usual, infact he never returned at all. His body was found dead on the hill, but it is said that his soul was stolen away by the faeries, who were angry at him for revealing their secrets in his book. The following extract from 'Sketches of Perthshire' by the Reverend Patrick Graham (2nd ed. 1812) tells the story:
"He was walking, it is said, one evening in his night-gown, upon the little eminence to the west of the present manse, which is still reckoned a Dun shi'. He fell down dead, as was believed ; but this was not his fate:

"It was between the night and day,
When the fairy king has power,
That he sunk down (but not) in sinful fray,
and, 'twixt life and death, was snatched away,
To the joyless Elfin bower."

Mr Kirk has the near relation of Graham of Duchray, the ancestor of the persent General Graham Stirling. Shortly after his funeral, he appeared in the dress in which he had sunk down, to a mutual relation of his own and of Duchray. "Go," said he to him, "to my cousin Duchray, and tell him that I "am not dead ; I fell down in a swoon, and was carried into Fairy-land, where I now am. Tell him, that when he and my friends are assembled at the baptism of my child, (for he had left his wife pregnant) I will appear in the room, and that if he throws the knife which he holds in his hand over my head, I will be released, and restored to human society." The man, it seems, neglected, for some time, to deliver the message. Mr Kirk appeared to him a second time, threatening to haunt him night and day till he executed his commission, which, at length, he did. The time of the baptism arrived. They were seated at table; Mr Kirk entered, but the laird of Duchray, by some unaccountable fataility, neglected to perform the prescribed ceremony. Mr Kirk returned by another door, and was seen no more. It is firmly believed that he is, at this day, in Fairy-land."

So up the faery trail I ventured, to the summit of Doon Hill. As I strolled along the pathway the sunlight twinkled through the tree branches, and mushrooms glistened with the morning dew...

Up we go, further up the hill... past the faery washing line...

As you reach the top of the hill the pathway leads through 2 trees, as is often the case when entering the land of faery, and before you stands a large imposing figure of a tree, a solitary pine. The Minister's pine.

I love the photo below with the light shining through the branches of the Minister's Pine. My camera has this lovely habit of sticking random blue and green lights in photos when it feels like it, I've been told it's something to do with light reflecting off the lense and bouncing off the camera goblins that lurk in the dark spaces where the film would go in normal cameras.

A quick note: I'm not sure how other people feel about this, and I don't mean to offend anyone, but I feel a little sad at the amount of man made materials left at fairy sites. I'm sure the fairies would much prefer natural offerings like pretty stones and shells, feathers, or perhaps some hazelnuts they can share with the squirrels. Plastic ribbons and bags will take an age to decompose, and might get eaten by wildlife and make them very ill, so please take care and don't make the fairies angry.

Sources & Further Information
Sketches of Perthshire, Reverend Patrick Graham (2nd ed. 1812)
Walk Highlands - Doon Hill
Site of Scientific Interest - Doon Hill & Fairy Knowe


Anonymous said...

My favourite place in the heart of Scotland!we visit the fairy tree at least once a year!simply stunning and peaceful.however,if you take time to read when there,the little things left behind are in exchange for those wishes.sometimes,a very sad place too.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled as to why the sparkling folk are spoken of in patronizing terms and we readers are condescended to. The Sidhe in Ireland (just outside of the town of Sligo)are not cute little winged kiddies. With that overpowering sweet perfume (Bubblegum and cinnamon, I recall!) and a stature in the vicinity of ten feet, shining like sunlight on rippling water, I could not dare to regard them as cute, or quaint. There was just a beyondness that was nothing but majesty and freedom from the conceit of knowledge. They were not the slightest bit interested in my presence. They were too busy "swimming" inside a joy that intellect could not touch, laughing for no particular reason.

Maybe I misunderstand the demographic you're writing to. Apologies if I offend.

The Faery Folklorist said...

Hiya! Everyone is welcome to their opinions but I don't mean to patronize or speak in a condescending tone. I try to write from a folklorist point of view, passing on quotes from previous publications and quoting original sources where possible, in the hope of keeping the stories alive and passing them on to the next generation. If anything I think this helps encourage people not to see the fae as 'cute little winged kiddies', as you put it, as I speak of the way they were viewed in the past, as beings to be feared due to their unpredictable nature. After all, most old stories about the fae were about people having negative experiences with them, and the stories served as warnings. I too get frustrated at times with the way faeries are often portrayed in modern times, first by the Victorians turning them into cute little flower fairies, and today by the media seeing the fae as sparkly tutu wearing tinkderbells. But I am pleased that the faeries are still spoken of at all and have not been forgotten, and accept that each reader is entitled to their views on the fae and perhaps they appear differently to each of us. My blog will always remain impartial and unbiased wherever possible and I try not to include my own views on the fae. Hope this helps answer any questions you may have.

Matt Baldwin-Ives said...

Hi Faery Folklorist

If you don't like Victorian flower fairies, you may like these:

Kind Regards

Matt Baldwin-Ives

Sarah-Jayne Chapman said...

We have recently stumbled upon your blog :) I've been enjoying the read, especially your posts on Robert Kirk, as we're working on some material based around his work too (Matt posted the link above to our most recent offering above).

Great blog, well written and a great read.

The Faery Folklorist said...

Thanks Matt and Sarah, I look forward to reading more of your blog. I very much enjoy reading different interpretations of the writings of Robert Kirk, his book never seems to be the same book twice, no matter how many times I read it! :)

Matt Baldwin-Ives said...

Hi Faery Folklorist!

Thank you for you kind comments about our work and hope you don't mind but we have placed a link to your excellent site on "In the Chimehours" :)

Kind Regards

Matt Baldwin-Ives