Schiehallion: Highland Folklore and Second Sight

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Content warning: Discussion of death and funerals.

Join Annie and Jenny as they explore the curious Highland beliefs of the second sight. In this second part on the glorious mountain of Schiehallion, we learn about the time Robert the Bruce sought sanctuary at Schiehallion, a piper tempted by the fairy hill, and the superstitions of second sight in Rannoch. Be captured by the fairies in this enchanting episode!

Stories of Scotland is an award-winning Scottish history podcast, proudly recorded in the Highlands. We research our heritage and mythology podcast using archives, books, museum objects, and oral histories from across Scotland.

You can support Stories of Scotland on Patreon! www.patreon.com/storiesofscotland

Transcripts of oral histories:

Transcript 1, Schiehallion, festival days and sheep sheering:

Perthshire local: Well, the young people, so they tell me, and this is before my time, but the young people used to gather and they would set off up the hill to the back of Schiehallion. And there was a wishing well there and they used to put coins in there and wish for luck and that sort of thing. (Clang of grandfather clock from original recording.)

Dr Betsy Ross: And they did this on May Day?

Perthshire local: Yes, all on May Day, the first of May, aye. On Halloween Night and before that of course we had to gather all the sticks and old bracken and things and have something to make a blaze. And it was usually up on the hillside. And we all used to gather round and set fire to the thing and it was a giant spectacle and you saw it for miles around. And then we went home and would be dooking for apples and cracking hazelnuts and things like that. Well we just went to the different houses and never went too much, round all the different houses in the village. We had four people. They usually got danced the Highland Reel and I played the melodeon (a type of accordion) and of course we always got something. They gave us something.

I heard that they used to do that, there were so many people, you see. Sheep-shearers are very scarce today but at that time there would be twenty maybe thirty, nearer thirty gathering at a shearing. And when the sheep had been shorn they would start competing amongst themselves and throwing the hammer and putting the stone, but that’s all a thing of the past.

Goodness me, have you got it on?

Dr Betsy Ross: Yes

Transcript 2, Schiehallion Song:

Sound me the name on the pipes wildly screaming,

Splendour of tartan, and clashing of steal,

Grey skies above and the pipes wildly screaming,

Schiehallion forever to hearts that are leal.

Raging from Rannoch, the blast fiercely stinging,

I see the air from Glen Lyon in the snow,

Yet in my ear old Schiehallion is singing,

Songs of a summer I spent long ago.

Oh how the name of Schiehallion can brighten,

Longings and hopes that are dimmed with the years,

Dark be the day but its burden will lighten,

When that old hill comes again through my tears.

Speak the dear name when my vision is dimming,

For all life's turmoil dies down in my ears.

When all my soul the dark waters are stealing,

And heavens high hills to me shall appear!

Then I remember Schiehallion in her glory,

Purple and rosy a’ dying of the day.

Write in a word and I still heart the story:

Schiehallion, Schiehallion, Schiehallion always.

References:

Aaron Arrowsmith, Map of Scotland, London, 1807, https://maps.nls.uk/joins/747.html

John Gregorson Campbell, Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland, Glasgow, 1902

John Sinclair, Schiehallion: A Posy of Rannoch Poesy, Stirling, 1905.

Mrs Helen Strathearn missing: Dundee Courier, 29 October 1902.

Rev Dr. Marshall, Historic Scenes in Perthshire, Dundee Courier, 11 April 1879.

Schiehallion, Dundee Courier, 22 December 1926.

The Aberfeldy Mystery, Dundee Courier, 12 December 1902.

Unknown person (contributor), Betsy Ross (Fieldworker), SA1978.153-154, The School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh (https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/88935 and https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/89039)

WAF Browne, Second-Sight, or Deuteroscopia, Journal of psychological medicine and mental pathology, 1876.

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