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Book of Scottish Story
Ewen of the Little Head


A Legend of the Western Isles

About three hundred years ago, Ewen Maclean of Lochbuy, in the island of Mull, having been engaged in a quarrel with a neighbouring chief, a day was fixed for determining the affair by the sword. Lochbuy, before the day arrived, consulted a celebrated witch as to the result of the feud. The witch declared, that if Lochbuy’s wife should on the morning of that day give him and his men food unasked, he would be victorious; but if not, the result would be the reverse. This was a disheartening response for the unhappy votary, his wife being a noted shrew.

The fatal morning arrived, and the hour for meeting the enemy approached ; but there appeared no symptoms of refreshment for Lochbuy and his men. At length the unfortunate man was compelled to ask his wife to supply them with food. She set down before them curds, but without spoons. The men ate the curds as well as they could with their hands; but Lochbuy himself ate none. After behaving with the greatest bravery in the bloody conflict which ensued, he fell covered with wounds, leaving his wife to the execration of his people.

But the miseries brought on the luckless chief by his sordid and shrewish spouse did not end with his life, for he died fasting ; and his ghost is frequently seen to this day riding the very horse on which he was mounted when he was killed. It was a small, but very neat and active pony, dun or mouse coloured, to which Lochbuy was much attached, and on which he had ridden for many years before his death. His appearance is as accurately described in the island of Mull as any steed is in Newmarket. The prints of his shoes are discerned by connoisseurs, and the rattling of his curb is recognized in the darkest night. He is not particular in regard to roads, for he goes up hill and down dale with equal velocity. His hard-fated rider still wears the same green cloak which covered him in his last battle ; and he is particularly distinguished by the small size of his head.

It is now above three hundred years since Ewen-a-Chin-Vig (Hugh of the Little Head) fell in the field of honour; but neither the vigour of the horse nor of the rider is yet diminished. His mournful duty has always been to attend the dying moments of every member of his own numerous tribe, and to escort the departed spirit on its long and arduous journey.

Some years ago, he accosted one of his own people (indeed, he has never been known to notice any other), and shaking him cordially by the hand, he attempted to place him on the saddle behind himself, but the uncourteous dog declined the honour. Ewen struggled hard, but the clown was a great strong, clumsy fellow, and stuck to the earth with all his might. He candidly acknowledged, however, that his chief would have prevailed, had it not been for a birch tree which stood by, and which he got within the fold of his left arm. The contest became then very warm indeed. At length, however, Ewen lost his seat for the first time ; and the instant the pony found he was his own master, he set off with the fleetness of lightning. Ewen immediately pursued his steed, and the wearied rustic sped his way homeward. --- ‘Lit. Gazette’.


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