Monday, 31 October 2011

Auld Dunrod's Legacy

It wouldn't be Halloween time without a look at Inverclyde's favourite Warlock; landed gentry turned evil witchlord..Alexander Lindsay of Dunrod.

It was rumoured that Dunrod became involved with witches living on his lands in Inverkip, gathering with them at Dunrod’s Seat, located on the slope of Dunrod Hill. Further rumours suggested that he entertained the Devil himself at his castle. It is worth noting the possibility that Dunrod had inherited his connections to the practice of witchcraft from the Lindsays; it is now thought in some circles that members of the nobility at that time were involved in a highly organised cult which they used for their own means. Some would argue they still are.

The image of Dunrod as a dark and powerful Warlock is a far cry from the man he was at the end of his life; he was a penniless hermit, his lands having been seized by the Kirk in recompense for his evil deeds, selling charms and potions at the Greenock riverside to any who would entertain him. Dunrod died soon after in a barn on his former lands in East Kilbride.

As recently as a century ago, parents enforced children’s bedtimes with the chilling promise that ‘Auld Dunrod’ would get them. Thus, this larger than life character has become woven irrevocably into the folklore of the area, celebrated in numerous tales passed from generation to generation, and most famously in two anonymous poems commemorating his dark deeds.

“The Ballad of Auld Dunrod” is thought not to have been written down until more than a century after Dunrod’s death, and was probably composed while Dunrod was extant. Presented in its fullest original form, the poem chronicles his black deeds, and ends rather cryptically with Dunrod flying on his broomstick to the Bogle Stone; this, in turn, gave rise to a second poem, “Auld Dunrod’s Vision at The Bogle Stane”. The second piece was composed a good many years later than its companion, and gives an account of a mystical vision Dunrod experienced at the Bogle Stone, concerning Inverclyde’s past, present and future. At this point he may have been "drucken on the barley bree".

You can still see our short experimental film featuring a recording of the poem by our old english teacher on youtube. And Dunrod randomly makes 21st Century appearances via his evil facebook page and haunted twitter account.

This recording of "The Balld of Auld Dunrod" was made for our Downriver project. It features
Jim Lang and some appropriate  spooky noises.

Jim Lang : The Ballad of Auld Dunrod by Auld Dunrod

The Ballad Of Auld Dunrod

Auld Dunrod was a gowstie carl,
As ever ye micht see;
And gin he wisna’ a warlock wicht,
There was nane in the haill countrie.

Auld Dunrod he stack a pin -
A boutrie pin - in the wa’,
And when he wanted his neighbour’s milk
He just gaed the pin a thraw.

He milkit the Laird o’ Kellies kye,
And a’ the kye o’ Dunoon;
And auld Dunrod gat far mair milk
Than wad mak’ a gabbert swim.

The cheese he made were numerous,
And wonerous to descry
For the kyth’t as gin they had been grule
Or peats set up to dry.

And there was nae cumerauld man about
Wha cam’ to him for skill,
That gif he dadna dae him guid,
He didna dae him ill.

But the kirk got word o’ Dunrod’s tricks,
And the Session they took him hand;
And naething was left but auld Dunrod
Forsooth maun leave the land.

Sae auld Dunrod he muntit his stick -
His broomstick muntit he -
And he flychter’t twa’r three times aboot,
And syne through the air did flee.

And he flew awa’ by auld Greenock tower,
And by the Newark ha’.
Ye wadna kent him in his flicht
Be a buddock or a craw.

And he flew to the Rest and be Thankfu’ Stane -
A merry auld carle was he;
He stottit and fluffer’t as he had been wud.
Or drucken wi’ the barley bree.

But a rountree grew at the stane -
It is there unto this day,
And gin ye dinna find it still,
Set doun that it’s away.

And he ne’er wist o’ the rountree
Till he cam dunt thereon;
His magic broomstick tint its spell,
And he daudit on the stone.

His heid was hard, and the Stane was sae,
And whan they met ane anither,
It was hard to say what wad be the weird
Of either the tane or the tither.

But the Stane was muilt like a lampet shell,
And sae was Auld Dunrod;
When ye munt a broomstick to tak a flicht,
Ye had best tak anither road.

The neighbours gathert to see the sicht,
The Stane’s remains they saw;
But as for Auld Dunrod himsel’,
He was carriet clean awa’.

And monie noy’t, as weill they micht,
The Rest and be Thankfu’ Stane;
And ilk ane said it had been better far,
Gin Dunrod had staid at hame.

And what becam o’ Auld Dunrod
Was doubtfu’ for to say,
Some said he wasna there ava,
But flew anither way.

goustie - ghostly, unearthly
boutrie - of the elder tree
Laird o Kellie - Bannatyne, the Laird of Kellie in Innerkip Parish
soum - make a lighter swim
grule - appeared as if they had, like moss, ben baked in the sun
flychterit - fluttered
huddock - from a carrion crow
wud - bounded and whisked about
barley bree - ale
rountree - mountain ash
daudit - fell violently down
muilt - crushed
noy’t - blamed
ava - at all

And in closing, we were delighted today to see this bit on the BBC news, and in fact all over the press; a local Greenock school, defending their right to Go Galoshans! Well done Aileymill.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Winter Fires

A couple wander through the street of 18th century Greenock on Halloween....

It was a perfect Halloween night, cold and clear, and Bobbie had come calling on Mary so they could walk out in the moonlight.
“Mary! Yer man’s at the door!”
Mary ran to the door, wrapping a green shawl about herself.
“Ah brought a lantern in case it gets dark,” smiled Bobbie, holding up a turnip. “Howked it oot yesterday.”
“And whose face is this,” asked Katy, pointing at the crudely carved lantern “only it looks awfae like yerself.”
“Is that so?”
“Bobbie I have to take this shawl back to Katy. She’s jist doon at the bottom end o’

Charles Street
. Will you walk with me there first?”
“Of course I will.”
Bobbie and Mary wandered out into the cold evening, already little flocks of goloshans scuttled busily between tenements, working hard for their bounty. But at the bottom of the street, one company did not look quite so happy.
“Look, it’s Katy’s youngest, ah better go and see what’s the matter.”
A small crowd of girls huddled around a sobbing girl, much younger than the rest.
“Betty? Betty what’s wrong?” asked Mary.
“They keelies knocked ower wee Betty’s curly kail.” explained an indignant young lady, pointing to a gang of boys, already disappearing around the corner 
“Did they now?”
“Mah candle fell out.” She sniffed, holding up the broken kail-stock.
“That’s terrible Betty. You can have mah lantern if you like.”
Wee Betty smiled as Bobbie handed over his lantern.
“Ah yer face is lit up like a wee lantern itself.”
“C’mon Betty, we’re away tae yer mother’s jist now. Time fur you tae go home ah think.”
Happy with her new toy, Wee Betty skipped and sang the whole way home.
“Tell your mother we’re here Betty.” Said Mary, but Betty had already run into the house. Smiling, Katy waved them both in.
“Hello Katy, Bobbie and me are oot walkin’ and I jist wanted tae return yer shawl.And wee Betty.”
“Hullo you.” Said Katy as Wee Betty scurried over to her brother and sisters. “Thanks Mary, but ye didnae need tae hurry back wi’ it. Come away in.”
Katy’s house was bursting with children; half a dozen were crammed around the bath tub trying to get to the apples that floated there and a small group of older girls were whispering and laughing conspiratorially by the fireplace.
“Look whose come come tae visit!” said Katy “Mary, and her handsome young man Bobbie.”
“Hullo Katy! Hullo Bobbie!”
“Bobbie these wee yins aw dressed and dookin’ are Johnny, Kerr, Jamie, Conn and Morven. Ye’ve met wee Betty.”
“Bobbie gave me his lantern!” explained Betty.
“Handsome and a gentleman. Hang ontae this yin Mary. The lassies standin’ by the fire lookin’ aw shy and pretty are mah eldest Agnes and her friends Polly and Rhona.”
The girls giggled as Bobbie bowed
“Ye’ve jist missed the play.” Said Katy.
“I was Galatia!” said Kerr.
“And who wis the Doctor?” asked Bobbie, “Ah wis aye the Doctor.”
“Me!” squealed Johnny.
“Ah should’ve guessed! And what can you cure?”
Johnny smiled.
“The itch, the pitch, the palsy and the gout. If a man had nineteen de’ils in his skull, I’d cast twenty one of them out!”
“Ah bet ye would.” Laughed Bobbie.
“When are we burnin’ the nuts?” asked Agnes.
“Och ye’ve been harpin’ on aboot that aw night!”
“Right.” Said Katy “Stoke it up then, Johnny you fetch the nuts.”
“But ah want to dae the treacle scones.”
“You’ve jist had yer fun wi the Galoshans, it’s Agnes and the girls turn now.”
Johnny stomped off looking not at all amused.
“Who’s first?” asked Mary.
“Me Mary! Me!” said Agnes.
“Well then, and who’s the young man?”
“Stuart McGhee.” Laughed Morven.
“Oh really?” said Katy “The wee boy frae the market? Aye he’s fine right enough.”
Johnny returned with a small bag of nuts, Mary took two from the bag and handed them to Agnes.
“On ye go then.”
Agnes placed the two nuts in the fire, and the room watched and waited until…with a tiny crack, the nuts burned and glowed together.
“Oh Agnes! There’s a good omen fur ye!” said Mary.
“Aye.” Agreed Bobbie “Look’s like ye’ll be goin’ tae a weddin’ Katy.”
“As long as ahm naw goin’ tae a christenin’ first ah don’t mind.” Said Katy, looking towards Agnes, now flushed scarlet with embarrassment.
“Who’s next?” asked Mary “Rhona?”
“Aye okay.” Said Rhona. “But ahm naw sure which boy ah prefer.”
“Well, let the fire decide fur ye!” said Mary.
“Right. Well ah’ll start wi Wullie Johnstone.”
“Rhona! He’s rotten!” said Polly.
“Aye well it’s naw up tae you is it? It’s up tae the fire.”
“Right ye are.” Said Mary.
Rhona put the two nuts in the fire, and again they waited…then once again, the nuts crackled and burned.
“His jumped Rhona!” said Polly. “His nut jumped away. See ah told ye. Try somebody else.”
Mary handed the bag to Polly and stood up.
“Are you no takin’ a turn Mary?”
“No thanks Polly. Ah think Bobbie and I should be off.”
Katy walked over from the stove.
“Are ye no stayin’ fur blind man’s buff and apple dumpling?”
“No Katy, sure Bobbie and me are going for a wee walk”
“So ye are. Here then.” Smiled Katy “You’ll be wanting this for later.”
Katy threw Mary an apple and winked.
“Huv a nice walk.”

Outside, gangs of lanterns still huddled together and bobbed along the cobbled paths, their candle light glowing around each and every corner of the densely packed streets.
The two wandered up towards the darkness of the Crow Mount, the chants of the children following them up the hill.
“Hallowe’en, a nicht at e’en,
Three witches on the green,
One black, one white,
One jumping over a dyke.”
Further up the hill, well beyond the path, a little orange column of smoke trickled up between the trees.
“Look there Mary.” said Bobbie, “Can you see the wee fire gaun?”
“Well, the one burnin’ that fire is the Witch of Lochwinnoch.”
“Is that so?”
“It is Mary. It is. They say she comes down here every seventh Halloween for her own wee black mass.”
“It’s as like to be a farmer out burning leaves.” laughed Mary.
“Aye it could be. It could be right enough. Still…ye'll huv heard aboot aw the witches doon at Inverkip."
"Aye. Poor lassies.” Mary shook her head.
“Ye don’t believe in witches?”
“Mebbe there used tae be witches. Mebbe. But everyone knows they girls were killed for their faces didnae fit.”
“That’s as may be. But there are witches Mary. There’s witches around still.”
“Ach Bobbie stop tryin’ tae scare me.”
“Oh ahm no tryin’ tae scare ye. Ahm jist explainin’ the facts o’ the matter. There are still witches. They’re not all bad right enough. There’s a wee wifie down the coast still makes a decent livin’ oot o curin’ folk and tellin’ fortunes. Aye. Good witches, but there’s still plenty bad yins. It wis a grey day in December, naw too long ago, and a cousin of the local landowner wis to be laid tae rest in the family vault. Aw the mourners filed through the kirkyard up tae the crypt, which stood at the top end o’ the cemetery. As they passed an old grave, the turf split and tore and a witch jumped out shrieking. She started tearing at the hair of the lassie nearest her, and clawing at the men who came to her aid. This witch was an auld enemy of the landowner, and had cursed him and all his kin. Damned as she wis, she wisnae gonnae let the funeral pass. The men grabbed her, and tried tae push her back down intae the ground, but she hauled and howled and whirled. At last aw the men were at her, tryin’ tae push her back down tae hell, but she wis haudin on tae the cemetery wall. Pushin as hard as they could, the mourners kept forcing her back down and finally she lost her grip and she fell. And tae this day, if ye go up tae the back wall of the cemetery in Innerkip, ye’ll see the five wee holes her gnarled old fingers left in the wa’.”
“Is that true Bobbie?”
“Well ah’ve seen the holes fur maself Mary. As tae the story, well, ah’ve jist telt you as it wis telt tae me.”
Mary stopped to sit by some rocks.
“Ah wonder if aw the girls have found true love at the fire yet.”
“Ach they’ll be there aw night wi’ a list o’ different names.”
 “We used tae do a thing a bit like that. Ye’d thraw a clue of blue yarn intae the kiln, and wind it back tae yerself. As ye’ve almost wound it aw back, somethin’ will haud the thread. Ye pull on it and ask ‘Who hauds?’ Then, whatever’s in the kiln has to tell ye the name of your true love.”
“Playin’ wi spirits! Ahm surprised at ye Mary.”
“Ach nobody ever answered. Naw tae me anyway.”
“Ye couldn’t huv been askin’ the right spirits.”
For a time, the two sat in silence, watching the smoke from the hill fire drift in front of the moon.
“Walk me home Bobbie.”

There were still a few groups of children wandering around the streets, but now, those little gangs of goloshans were giving way to older gangs of ne’er do wells, already thrown from the pubs and taverns at the far end of the town; they too had their songs and dances to perform, though people were less inclined to enjoy them.
Bobbie walked Mary to her door, and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“Goodnight then.” She said.
“Night Mary.” Said Bobbie “See ye soon.”
Mary climbed the stairs to her house, and quietly opened the door. Everyone seemed to be sleeping, just as she’d hoped. Taking care not to make a sound, she took the comb and the candle from beneath her sheets where she had hidden them. The candle she placed by the looking glass, the comb she held in her left hand. Finally, she took the apple from her pocket. Mary lit the candle and took a bite from the apple Katy had given her. Closing her eyes, Mary slowly combed her hair, starting to feel a little silly. She counted to twenty and could manage no more, she opened her eyes and stared into the mirror. There was no one behind her. More disappointed than she would admit, Mary smiled to herself.
“No true love for me then.”
She set the comb to one side and took to her bed, the laughter and songs of the children still echoing around the streets.

Monday, 17 October 2011

All Hallows Read - Some Scary Stories

All Hallows Read is the festival of sharing and terror, where you give your loved ones and mortal enemies something scary to read during Halloween week.

Here's a few FREE stories you can read and share online totally legally, give yourself a wee spare moment for a read and a fright.

Dracula's Guest is a chapter excised from Bram Stokers original draft of Dracula. It's like a dvd extra. But a really good one.

W.B. Yeats is remembered for his poetry, but in "The Curse of the Fire and of the Shadows" some Puritan troopers are in for a bit of a fright at the abbey.

And who doesn't like spooky forests..take a walk through "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood.

What will you share for All Hallows Read?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Going Galoshans - 2

Today we are very pleased to pass on a version of The Galoshans Play for you to adapt and perform at your leisure this Halloween and in hopefully in the future. A wee bit of a living tradition jumpstart if you will. Read it and download right here.

If you choose to perform it , please let us know, or send us on some photos / video.

We'll continue to look at Galoshans / Halloween traditions over the next few weeks, and obviously throw in a few spooky stories for good measure.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Going Galoshans - 1

“Guising”, “Trick or treating”, down our way in Inverclyde, it’s “Going Galoshans”.

Many of the traditions which were observed for decades before falling out of fashion were in fact brought down with Highlanders fleeing the clearances, or came over with Irish migrant workers. These traditions and many more are recorded in John Donalds “Old Greenock Characters”.

“In the early part of the evening the streets were thronged with children, bands of them, mostly girld, singing in chorus;
            Hallowe’en, a nicht at e’en
            Three witches on the green
            One black, one white
            One jumping ower a dyke

“After the dooking for apples came the burning of nuts. Two nuts are placed in the fire side by side, one for a lad and one for a lass. Should they burst into flame and glow quietly together, the omen is favourable; but should they spring apart trouble is portended, and the course of true love will not run smoothly.”

“A three footed pot filled with champit tatties was placed in the middle of the kitchen floor. Mixed with tatties were a ring, a doll, a thimble, a button, and a threepenny ‘bit’ betokening respectively that the finder would be soonest married or a parent, remain an old maid of bachelor, or acquire riches. The guests were then seated on stools  around the pot , each armed with a spoon , and at the word ‘go’ an onslaught was made on the tatties.”

People are now less likely to set fires to burn nuts, but the tradition of “going Galoshans” around the doors, performing and collecting sweets, remains the most popular part of all Halloween celebrations. It is the part of the tradition which was popularly transferred to America when those same migrant workers and highlanders left these shores.

In the nineteenth century, “The Galoshans Book” was a chapbook printing of a short play based on the legend of “Saint George and the Dragon”, more traditionally performed by mummers. Children would dress up and travel from house to house performing their interpretation of this play, it is from this that we derive the term “going galoshans”

“Little companies of Goloshans, too, were to be seen rushing from one tenement to another, seeking admission, sometimes indeed insisting on their assumed privilege to perform ‘The Wonderful Tragedy of St. George and The Dragon’.
Their faces wear fearfully camouflaged, and their ordinary garb was embellished with various coloured trimmings, and a wooden sword where required. The kitchen floor was the bloodless scene of many an encounter with such swords, but all ended happily; for when ‘Dr Brown, the best old doctor in the town’ administered to the slain hero his marvellous life-restoring potion saying ‘Rise, Jock, and fight again!’ everyone was highly gratified , including the actors – if the collection was satisfactory.”

In his study of mumming plays, EK Chambers notes a number of regional variants, including this apparent explanation for why our play is Galoshans.

"But the chief feature of the Scottish versions is the regular replacement of St. George by a hero called Galatian, Galations, Golashans, Galacheus, or Galgacus. Presumably this last is the original form, since Tacitus makes Galgacus or Calgacus the leader of the Picts in their battle with Agricola at the Mons Graupius. Irish versions naturally introduce St. Patrick, with a gibe in which St. George is called St. Patrick's boy."

The full text of  E.K. Chamber's "St George and the Dragon : The English Folk Play" 1933 can be read here. It is a fascinating (and very thorough!) look at how mumming plays across the United Kingdom have been performed, adapted and recorded across the centuries, from harvest ritual to fertility festivals through to Christmas celebrations and arguably into pantomime.

What continues to interest us, is how a tradition which was largely English found its way to the West Coast of Scotland and continued to be a term of reference for going round the houses telling jokes long after the original meaning and purpose had ceased. Just marvellous. By the early 90s, Greenock and Port Glasgow were among only a handful of places in Scotland who still used the term.

We'll be providing you with a wee downloadable chapbook later in the week if you want to stage your own performance.

The heritage lottery funded project Identity is working with two Greenock schools to share more local halloween traditions and stories and will be having a traditional Halloween party, later in the month you can read more about it on the Identity project blog.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

National Poetry Day - Chrisswell

To celebrate National Poetry Day, we are publishing poems all day across the different blogs.

Chrisswell is located between Greenock and Inverkip, on "the IBM road", following a curse from the Prophet Peden, it has played host to a number of spectres, including these two traditionally doomed lovers...


(being several verses detailing the untimely demise of a young couple and the subsequent haunting of their homestead)

Beyond the path, before the trees
Cresswell’s blessed spring
A silence all round broken stones
And the birds don’t stop to sing.

A foolish lord of Cresswell Grange
An angry prophet cross’d
He cursed the land, and cursed the well
And cursed the souls since lost.

A youth sits pale and trembling,
Weeping echoes round the stone,
He stole her and her heart away
But now is empty and alone.

Her father had rejected him,
Too young, too weak to wed,
So wind behind them skies to guide them
The two young lovers fled.

They cross’d the river and she must
Have frowned upon their love,
She clawed their boat beneath the waves
Howled skies down from above.

They sank into the wretched dark,
Death’s damp dank hand took hold,
But he would not let his lady die
And he dragg’d her through the cold.

Ashore. At last ashore and now
His lady cough’d and woke
And they struggl’d through the sand and dusk
And neither spectre spoke.

He hurried her into the house
Beside Christ’s hallowed well
She stepped across the threshold
Cried out once and then she fell.

His lover lay down dead
And he would ever be alone
Doomed to solitude entombed
Behind decaying stone.

The cries of all the cursed
Will echo down the years
All lost and yet still wandering
By the holy well of tears.

Two lovers wander silently
Amid the rubble strewn
And celebrate perpetual love
That time may never ruin.

Monday, 3 October 2011

All Hallows Read

Autumn and winter are a great time of year for folklore. But last year, an already action packed season added a NEW tradition. Acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman instituted the very first All Hallows Read.

It's fairly straightforward, on the week of hallowe'en, or on the night itself, you give someone a scary book or comic to read.  There's a FAQ over at the All Hallows Read Blog. That's it. A scary, for freaking out your friends. Because you love them.

So, you've got a few weeks to choose how best to scare your nearest, dearest or for best results, random strangers in the street. What will you choose? Would love to hear yer selections...