Wednesday, 6 October 2021

The Fairy Doctor of Carue

My post today tells of a curious tale I came across completely by chance whilst holidaying near the Cairngorms in Scotland. I would say it's not often I book holiday accommodation only to discover there's a fairy site a 5 minute walk away... but this seems to be happening surprisingly often!

This tale takes us to a beautiful forested area east of the Cairngorms, near the village of Logie Coldstone. According to Epitaphs & inscriptions from burial grounds & old buildings in the north-east of Scotland, by Jervise (1875) the fairies once lived in the Seely Howe, a hollow in the Carue Hillock upon the laird of Blelack's land. Before leaving for the 1745 wars he became determined to dislodge them from his land, and called upon the services of "a reputed magician, named John Farquharson, tacksman in Parks". However, the fairies refused to obey his command to leave until they were assigned a new place to live. Farquharson agreed, and sent them to the Hill of Fare near Banchory, but they deeply disliked their new abode and announced to Gordon, the laird of Blelack:

"Dool, dool to Blelack, 

And dool to Blelack's heir, 

For drivin' us frae the Seely Howe, 

To the cauld Hill o' Fare!" 

Whilst to Farquharson himself they told:

"While corn and girs grows to the air, 

John Farquharson and his seed shall thrive nae mair!". 

Jervise adds that Farquharson's luck went bad from that day onwards and he left his native country and was never heard of again. The laird died without lawful issue and his estate passed to his sister's son. 

However, according to Tales and memories of Cromar and Canada by Donald Robert Farquharson (1930s?), John Farquharson's fate was not so terrible after all, and the plot thickens! According to the author, John Farquharson was also known as "The Fairy Doctor" and the author's father told him that he lived at the farm of Carue, though his father may have been in error as another family of the same name believed that he lived at "The Parks of Coldstone", the farm on which the author's father was born. However, the fairies lived on the farm of Carue, in a knoll known as "The Fairy Seely Howe".  He tells:

"In this hollow the lingering fairies were supposed to have their abode or place of meeting, and the most friendly relations seem for some time to have existed between them and The Fairy Doctor. Their visits to his home were frequent, and there were times when, in words betokening the most tender attachment, they deigned to serenade their friend. To this latter fact witnesses the one refrain of their songs which has come through my father to my knowledge: 

"Johnny, I lo'e ye, Johnny, I lo'e ye, 

"Nine times in ae nicht will I come and see thee." 

At last, for some reason not disclosed there was a breach in the harmony. Probably the little people in green became a nuisance either to Johnny himself, or to the laird of Blelach whose residence was near Carue. Whatever the cause, Johnny, the "Witch" or "Fairy" Doctor, was constrained to summon them out of The Seely Howe. On the ground that the summons was defective inasmuch as it had failed to indicate an assigned destination, the fairies refused to move. Johnny thereupon peremptorily ordered them to remove to the "Hill of Fare," about seventeen miles distant, and near the town of Banchory. Reluctantly the little people obeyed the behest, but first left with their quondam friend a permanent reminder of their opposition and malice, in words which my father rendered, 

"As lang as corn and girse grow to the air, 

"The Farquharsons will be rich nae mair."" 

The author then mentions the story also appearing in Rev. J. G. Michie's History of Logic Coldstone (1896), and tells that the copy he was gifted in Feb 1897 included a manuscript sheet in the handwriting of Mr Michie with some further information, probably received from his friend the minister of Selkirk.

 "The full imprecation on Farquharson ran thus : 

"Now we maun awa' to the cauld hill o' Fare, 

"Or it will be mornin' e'er we get there ; 

"But though girs and corn should grow in the air 

"John Farquharson and his folk shall thrive nae mair."

However it appears that John Farquharson and his descendants did thrive, and the following record was received by Mr. Michie from one of John's descendants, but too late for insertion in his book. 

"John Farquharson, born about the year 1700 A.D., became tacksman of The Parks of Coldstone which he left soon after the Rebellion of 1745, migrating to Moray where he took a farm near Forres, in the churchyard of which he was interred, and his son after him and where there is a tomb-stone to his memory. The legend about the fairies was preserved in the family, in consequence of which he was known as "The Fairy Doctor."

The book continues with further information about the successful lives of his descendants. It appears in this instance at least, the fairies did not follow through with their threats to him, a narrow escape compared to the fate of the poor laird of Blelack.

As I was staying in a holiday lodge a short walk from Blelack I couldn't resist going for a wander to see Carrue for myself. Issue 59 of Ballater & Crathie Eagle magazine, Autumn 2010, contains an article titled The Fairy Doctor of Carrue by Ken Glennie and confirms that "Carrue, a former farm, is now a wooded area south of Blelack House, Logie Coldstone". Unfortunately it's difficult to know exactly which knoll the stories speak of, and the ground is so densely forested that it's hard to spot hollows and knowes. I hope the maps and photos below will give an idea of this beautiful location though. No wonder the fairies were reluctant to leave!



Sources and Further Information
Epitaphs & inscriptions from burial grounds & old buildings in the north-east of Scotland, Jervise (1875)
History of Logie-Coldstone and Braes of Cromar by John Grant Michie (1896)
Tales and memories of Cromar and Canada by Donald Robert Farquharson (Book is undated, some library catalogues say 1930s)
Issue 59 of Ballater & Crathie Eagle magazine, Autumn 2010, The Fairy Doctor of Carrue by Ken Glennie


A big thank you to Cairngorm Lodges, it was on their website I first discovered the story, after I'd booked a week away in one of their beautiful lodges! If anyone is thinking of taking a quiet forest break, I thoroughly recommend them.



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