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Reminiscences of Cromar and Canada
Chapter V - The Fairy Doctor and the Curse


OF the early history of the Coldstone Farquharsons to whom we belong not very much appears to be known. Not all of the name, indeed, are known to be blood relatives of ours, though most likely their descent and ours are traceable from a common ancestor. William Farquharson of Newton of Melgum was a full cousin of my father, while Alex. Farquharson of Loanhead was a cousin, one step, and John Farquharson of Cairnmore a cousin two steps, farther removed. These all trace their ancestry through John Farquharson known as "The Fairy Doctor," whose home, as my father, Charles Farquharson, understood, was at the farm of Carue in the said Parish of Coldstone in which all the alleged activities by which he earned this unusual title, were carried on. In this it is possible that my father was in error, as another family of the name, and claiming like descent, identify "The Parks of Coldstone" (the farm on which my father and all the members of his family except my sister Betty and myself were born) as the place of the magician's residence, though not the scene of his extraordinary activities.

On the farm of Carue, is a knoll known as "The Fairy Knowe," on the summit of which is a hollow known as "The Seely Howe" (Hollow of The Fairy Court). 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 tunes 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."

Rev. J. G. Michie, in his History of Logie Coldstone, already quoted, describes the expulsion and its consequence, apparently in the words of some unnamed correspondent:—"In speaking of the rebel laird of Blelack, it may be added that the fairies abode in the Seely Howe, a hollow in the Carue Hillock, upon that property, and, before leaving for the wars of the '45, the laird determined to dislodge them from his lands and employed for that purpose a reputed magician John Farquharson, tacksman in Parks. The fairies, however refused to obey his spell, until he should assign them some other place of abode, which he did by sending them to the Hill of Fare, near Banchory. But, disliking their new quarters very much (the superstitious aver) the fairies pronounced this imprecation upon Gordon:-

"Dool, dool to Blelack,
And dool to Blclack's heir,
For drivin' us frae the Seely Howe,
To the cauld hill o'Fare!"

The malediction of the fairies against Farquharson was still more eldritch:-

"While corn and girs grows to the air,
"John Farquharson and his seed shall thrive nae mair."

"It is added that Farquharson, whose circumstances went to the bad from the day he dislodged the fairies, left his native country and was never heard of again. Matters also went ill with the Gordons."

In a manuscript sheet, in the hand writing of the late Mr. Michie, which he attached to a copy of his History of Logie Coldstone kindly sent me as a gift in Feb. 1897, is contained some fuller information, probably received from his friend the minister of Selkirk therein mentioned.

"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."

John Farquharson and his folk, however, did thrive as will be seen from the following record received by Mr. Michie from one of John's descendents, 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 lie was known as "The Fairy Doctor." His grand-son, also a John Farquharson, came back to Cromar in the capacity of an excise officer, and was stationed in the parish of Coull as supervisor of the district in the early smuggling days.

"Of his distinguished son, the Rev. James. Farquharson, M.A., L.L.D., F.R.S. it is enough to say here that while he faithfully discharged the pastoral duties of his office as minister of Alford, lie became one of the most distinguished men of science in the North of Scotland. His family, the author knew well, his equally distinguished son, the Rev. James Farquharson, D.D. minister of Selkirk, having been his intimate friend, during, and ever since college days. But the most remarkable fact of all is this, that the fifth in descent from the "Fairy Doctor," Wm. G. Fraser, son of Ann Farquharson, Wife of the late Rev. Thomas Fraser, and sister of my friend, Dr. James Farquharson of Selkirk, is this year Senior Wrangler of Cambridge University,—that is the highest rank a student can reach. The Aberdeen University is justly proud of him and has been giving him a great ovation." (Signed, J.G.M.)

From my much respected cousin Mrs. Wm. Duguid of Ballater (nee Farquharson) I have received a suggestion that would enable me to supply the name of our progenitor next succeeding John the Fairy Doctor, of whom I have never otherwise heard. She has satisfied herself at any rate, and probably she is right, that this John had two sons, that one of them named John went with his father to Morayshire, and became the father of the brilliant generations above mentioned. Certain it is that one son at least must have stayed in Cromar if we are right in regarding the Fairy Doctor as an ancestor. I had heard from my father that his own grandfather's name was John, but he did not know the name of his great grandfather. Mrs. Duguid has satisfied herself that his name was Robert and that he came to be tacksman or tenant of a small farm called Tillymutton the same on which I myself was born.

Whether Mrs. Duguid is correct or not, our great grand father John Farquharson above named, became the tenant of either the easterly or the westerly half of a knoll known as "Knocksoul," each half containing 40 or 50 acres, the two divisions being known respectively, in the days of the old Scotch Plough with its many-headed team, as "the easterly and the westerly half pleuchs o' Knocksoul."


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