Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scottish Traditional Tales
The Humph at the Fit o the Glen and the Humph at the Head o the Glen


Bella Higgins, the elder sister of Andrew Stewart, here gives a cheerful version of an international folktale in her own rather more studied style of narration. Though this story has some similarity to localised fairy legends like "The Fiddler o Gord" (track 9), its basic elements are known the world over, from Japan to Chile, and it is classified as AT 503, "The Gifts of the Little People". The fairies' gratitude is won in various ways - perhaps only by readiness to accept their teasing or to dance with them, as in a Grimm version - but the song naming the days of the week is a regular feature in Scottish and Irish Gaelic and appears at least as far afield as Turkey. In Gaelic the original song is usually "Di-luain, Di-màirt", "Monday, Tuesday", and "Saturday, Sunday" may have been chosen as the best English names to fit the original tune. We cannot be sure of this, since among a score of Gaelic versions recorded for the School of Scottish Studies not one has a clear sung tune for the words as Mrs Higgins has; but the rhythm would fit. It seems unlikely that these would be the original words, since fairies are generally represented as being afraid of the name of God or any other sacred thing, and in at least one Gaelic version (Tocher 4:106-9) the second hunchback's mistake is precisely to mention Sunday. Mrs Higgins' much younger brother, John Stewart, tells the story with the same tune in it, though with considerable differences in detail: the two hunchbacks, far from being friends, have never met, which indeed seems more probable. This recording was made during a céilidh (in the original sense of an evening with friends entertaining one another) at Bella Higgins' house, and the appreciative audience must have helped to bring out her best performance. -AJB

WELL, THIS IS THE STORY o the Humph at the fit o the glen, an the Humph at the head o the glen, this wis two men, an they were very good friends. But the wan at the fit o the glen, he wis very humphy, he wis near doublet in two wi the humph that was on his back. The other one at the top o the glen, he wisnae jist quite so big in the humph, but he wis pretty bad too.

Well, Sunday about they cam to visit one another, wan would travel up aboot three mile up tae the top o the glen, tae spend the day wi his friend, the Humph at the heid o the glen. An then the Humph at the head o the glen next Sunday would come down to the Humph at the fit o the glen an spend the day.

So anyway, it wis the wan at the fit o the glen, he had tae go tae see the Humph at the head o the glen, it wis he's Sunday tae walk up tae the heid o the glen tae see his friend. Well, he had a wee bit ae a plantin to pass, an when he wis comin past this plantin, he hears a lot o singin goin on. He says: 'Wheesht!' - an a' the song they hed wis:

[music ex1]

'Saturday, Sunday,

Saturday, Sunday,

Saturday, Sunday.'

an that's the length they could get.

'Gosh!' he says, 'I could pit a bit tae that song.' An he goes:

[music ex2]

'Saturday, Sunday,

Monday, Tyoooosday!'

O, an he heard the lauchs an the clappin o the hands.

'Goad bliss me,' he says, 'what can that be?'

But this wis three kind of fairies that was in the wood. And the wan says to the other: 'Brither, what dae ye wish that man,' he says, 'for that nice part he put tae wir song?'

'Well,' he says, 'I wish him that the humph 'll drop an melt off his back,' he says, ''at he'll be as straight as a rush. An what dae you wish him?'

'Well,' he says, 'I wish him tae have the best of health,' he says, 'an happiness. An what dae you wish him, brither?'

'Well,' he says, 'I wish him,' he says, 'full an plenty, 'at he'll always have plenty, tae he goes tae his grave.'

'Very good!'

Och, this man wis walkin up the glen, an he feels hissel gettin lighter and lighter, an he straightened hissel up, an he's wonderin what's come ower him. He didnae think it was hissilf at all, 'at he could jist march up, like a soldier, up this glen.

So he raps at the door when he came tae his friend, the Humph at the head o the glen, and when they cam out, they ask't him whit he want', they didnae know him.

'Oh,' he says, 'I want tae see So-an-So, ma friend.'

'But who are you?'

'Och,' he says, 'ye know,' he says, 'the humphy man 'at's lived at the fito the glen,' he says. 'A'm his friend, ye know me.' An he . . . told his name.

'Oh my!' he says, 'whit . . . whit . . . whit happen't tae ye? Whit come owre tae ye?'

'Oh wheesht,' he says, 'if you come down,' he says, 'wi me, or when ye're comin down next Sunday,' he says, 'listen,' he says, 'at the wee plantin as ye're gan doon the road, an,' he says, 'you'll hear singin.' An he says . . . he told him 'at they only had 'Saturday, Sunday, Saturday, Sunday,' but he says, 'I pita bit tae their song,' he says. 'I says "Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tyoooosday", an,' he says, 'I felt masel,' he says - 'everything disappearin from me.' An he says, 'If you come down,' he says, 'you'll be made as straight as whit I am.'

Anyway, this man's aye wishin it wis next Sunday, an he's comin - when Sunday cam - he's comin marchin down the road, an jist at the wee plantin he hears them aa singin, the song, the bit 'at the ither humph pit oot tae it, ye know. They're goin:

'Saturday, Sunday,

Monday, Tyoooosday!'

'Wheesht,' he says, 'I'll pit a bit tae that.' He goes:

'Saturday, Sunday,

Monday, Tuesday,

Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday, Saturday'

mair ' n what he put. And, he got no clap.

He says, 'Whit dae ye wish him, brither?' he says, 'that man, for destroyin our lovely song?'

He says, 'I wish him,' he says, 'if his humph wis big, that it'll be a thousand times bigger: an whit dae you wish him?'

He says, 'I wish him,' he says, 'to be the ugliest man,' he says, 'that ever wis on the face of the earth, 'at nobody can look at him: an whit do you wish him?'

He says, 'I wish him to be in torture,' he says, 'an punishment tae he goes tae his grave.'

Well, he grew an he grew, tae he wis the size o Bennachie - a mountain. An he could hardly walk up. Well, when he come tae his house, he couldnae get in no way or yet another. Well, he had tae lie outside, an it'd took . . . ta'en aboot seventeen pair of blankets tae cover him, tae cover him up. An he's lyin out winter an summer till he died an it ta'en twenty-four coffins to hold him. So he's buriet at the top o the glen.



This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus