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The Long Glen
Chapter XVIII - Bean Air Seachran


ON a very dark night, about Halloween, Ewan Mor met with a droll misfortune, and gained fame by figuring in a ballad. Ewan was not at first grateful for the honour done him. He suspected Diarmad of having had a hand in the cooking of the ballad, which was one of those rhymed effusions that formerly were often turned off by a company sitting round the winter fireside, or resting on the lee-side of a peat bank during the dinner hour. Each person that could contributed a verse, and lo! the thing was done immediately. But the poetic exercises of previous generations had been banned by the new religious school, and this ballad was deemed a grievous scandal by the Elder Claon and the pious sisterhood. When Ewan heard of their vexation he took most kindly to his ballad notoriety, and freely forgave the makers.

In the coterie of the "unco guid" the rhymed scandal was attributed to the club of the Scorners; but when Ealag, specially commissioned to ferret out the facts, began to question Diarmad, that young man seriously pretended to believe that Ealag herself and Meg of Camus, assisted by the other sisters, were the concocters. They were holding house to house prayer meetings among themselves, and Diarmad argued to Ealag's face the strong probability of theirindulging in co-operative ballad-making as an agreeable change. Ealag plied the sisters with Diarmad's chaff until she made some of them who had secretly tried hymn-making quite uncomfortable.

But, whoever the authors, the ballad went round among saints and sinners. It cannot be translated into English very satisfactorily, but the 1bllowing attempt contains the substance of it :—

CRUAIDH-CHAS OIDHGHE.

The biggest man in all the Glen,
Perhaps in all the shire,
Is Ewan Ivlor, and you must know
The Ciotach is his sire.

To Caoide's clachan Ewan went
To fetch a piggie home.
He put the beast into a poke,
The poke upon his drome.

When home he turned his face at night,
Such blackness hid the sky
That not a tree, or rock, or hill
Appeared to mortal eye.

Feeling his way by foot, by staff,
By groping everywhere,
He reached at last St Mungo's fount,
And horror seized him there.

" Bean air Seachran !"—fearful cry!
Rang from St Mungo's Kil. "
Bean air seachran!"—Ewan ran,
But fell into the rill.

The pig and poke, from off his back,
Boiled o'er the wall-like bank.
The poke it rolled, the piggie squealed,
Till in the linn they sank!

Then Ewan prayed, and Ewan groaned,
With twisted ankle sore.
"Bean air seachran!"—voice of woe!
Rang shriller than before.

Along the road, by great good luck,
Came by a sturdy tar;
Who did not fear with man, or beast,
Or ghost, to go to war.

"Oh! who is this big drunken man?
Get up ye lubber, ye."
"Oh ! bless your soul, ye jolly tar,
But this is only me."

"And who are you?"—the tar enquired.
Then Ewan told him right—
His name and patronymic, too,
His hurt, and dreadful fright.

The tar ho-ho'ed! the tar ha-ha'ed!
" A ghost in Mungo's Kil!
 I'll slay the ghost, and eat it, too,
And that with right good will."

"Bean air seachran!"—sounded clear,
And gave the tar a start;
But, bless you, not a touch of fear
Came near his manly heart.

"Ho, ghost ahoy! your colours show;
Who, in God's name, are ye?"
I'm not a ghost, but woman lost:
I'm Peggie of Auchree."

" How got you there, in Heaven's name?"
Quoth she—"I cannot say.
I kept the road until I met
A wall just every way."

"The door is wide where you got in ;
By that get out "—said he.
"I dinna ken how I got in ;
But door I cannot see."

And Ewan laughed, and straight forgot
His twisted ankle sore.
"Come, jolly tar, you'll rescue Peg,
And find for her the door."

But where's the piggie, where's the poke?
The knowing ones will say.
The Water Kelpie them had got,
And claimed them for his prey.

The biggest man in all the Glen,
The jolly tar, and she,
Made out the change-house ere the morn,
And called for barley bree.

And Do'ull Gow, with grimy hands,
Seized on the ankle sore;
And with a pull, a twist, a snap,
'Twas right as 'twas before.

The pig and the poke did not go into the maw of the water Kelpie, for they just escaped that fate by the breadth of an alder bush, which kept them from falling into the linn. Do'ull the Sailor, who was the general rescuer on the occasion, went in search of piggie with the first dawn of day, and brought it safe and hungry enough to the little change-house, where Ewan had to remain until a cart was sent to fetch him home, for although the old bone-setting smith, Do'ull Gow, settled the dislocation with perfect success, Ewan did not get liberty to use the injured foot very freely for several weeks.

The ballad tells the story pretty correctly, but perhaps not very clearly to people ignorant both of Gaelic and the locality. In plain prose, Ewan was sent on several errands to the village of Kilmachaoide. When there he met about dusk a man who had promised to send his father a seven or eight weeks' pigling as soon as he had one ready. He told Ewan there was one ready then, and induced him to take it home with him in a poke on his back. The night was dark enough when Ewan left the village, and he found it so pitchy dark in the wooded pass that he lost much time in feeling the way step by step.

Peggie of Auchree was a spinning woman who did not belong to the glen, but used now and then to be sent for by house-wives who had much wool or flax on hand. On this black night she was passing, just when Ewan was getting out of the wood, from a house where she had finished her task near supper time, to another house a mile and a half further up, where she was to begin a new spinning job next morning. But, not being well acquainted with the country, and the night being dark, when she came to the division of ways, she followed the lane leading into the old burial place, or Kil of St Mungo, instead of the highway. The Kil is round, and is surrounded by a high wall; but at this time the old gate had fallen to pieces through age, and it had not yet been replaced by a new one. Peggie felt round and round for an opening. She did not know where on earth she had got to, or how to get out; and so she began to cry out dreadfully, just as Ewan reached St Mungo's Well, less than a hundred yards below the Kil, "Bean air seachran," that is "A woman on the wanderiug," or "A woman lost," as the words might also be translated. And Ewan, much frightened by such a voice from the dwelling place of the dead, when running away, fell, and dislocated his ankle. It was near midnight when Do'ull the Sailor, returning home with his pension and three sheets in the wind, rescued the ghost and ghost's victim from their unpleasant dilemmas. It was not without pain and trouble, notwithstanding the help the sailor and Peggie gave him, that Ewan managed to limp on to the change-house. The old bone-setting smith's house was near, and the sailor soon brought Do'ull Gow to his patient, and Do'ull Gow, an adept in the art, was not long in giving Ewan great relief. Then Ewan was free with his money, and there were no closing hours for public houses in the Highlands at the time we are speaking of. So, to tell the truth, Do'ull the Sailor and Do'ull Gow sat up till morning ; but Ewan, who was forbidden to drink, was allowed to sleep in peace.


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