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The Ghosts Of Craig-aulnaic






Source: Folk-lore And Legends Scotland

Two celebrated ghosts existed, once on a time, in the wilds of
Craig-Aulnaic, a romantic place in the district of Strathdown,
Banffshire. The one was a male and the other a female. The male was
called Fhuna Mhoir Ben Baynac, after one of the mountains of Glenavon,
where at one time he resided; and the female was called Clashnichd
Aulnaic, from her having had her abode in Craig-Aulnaic. But although
the great ghost of Ben Baynac was bound by the common ties of nature and
of honour to protect and cherish his weaker companion, Clashnichd
Aulnaic, yet he often treated her in the most cruel and unfeeling manner.
In the dead of night, when the surrounding hamlets were buried in deep
repose, and when nothing else disturbed the solemn stillness of the
midnight scene, oft would the shrill shrieks of poor Clashnichd burst
upon the slumberer's ears, and awake him to anything but pleasant
reflections.

But of all those who were incommoded by the noisy and unseemly quarrels
of these two ghosts, James Owre or Gray, the tenant of the farm of Balbig
of Delnabo, was the greatest sufferer. From the proximity of his abode
to their haunts, it was the misfortune of himself and family to be the
nightly audience of Clashnichd's cries and lamentations, which they
considered anything but agreeable entertainment.

One day as James Gray was on his rounds looking after his sheep, he
happened to fall in with Clashnichd, the ghost of Aulnaic, with whom he
entered into a long conversation. In the course of it he took occasion
to remonstrate with her on the very disagreeable disturbance she caused
himself and family by her wild and unearthly cries--cries which, he said,
few mortals could relish in the dreary hours of midnight. Poor
Clashnichd, by way of apology for her conduct, gave James Gray a sad
account of her usage, detailing at full length the series of cruelties
committed upon her by Ben Baynac. From this account, it appeared that
her living with the latter was by no means a matter of choice with
Clashnichd; on the contrary, it seemed that she had, for a long time,
lived apart with much comfort, residing in a snug dwelling, as already
mentioned, in the wilds of Craig-Aulnaic; but Ben Baynac having
unfortunately taken into his head to pay her a visit, took a fancy, not
to herself, but her dwelling, of which, in his own name and authority, he
took immediate possession, and soon after he expelled poor Clashnichd,
with many stripes, from her natural inheritance. Not satisfied with
invading and depriving her of her just rights, he was in the habit of
following her into her private haunts, not with the view of offering her
any endearments, but for the purpose of inflicting on her person every
torment which his brain could invent.

Such a moving relation could not fail to affect the generous heart of
James Gray, who determined from that moment to risk life and limb in
order to vindicate the rights and avenge the wrongs of poor Clashnichd,
the ghost of Craig-Aulnaic. He, therefore, took good care to interrogate
his new protegee touching the nature of her oppressor's constitution,
whether he was of that killable species of ghost that could be shot
with a silver sixpence, or if there was any other weapon that could
possibly accomplish his annihilation. Clashnichd informed him that she
had occasion to know that Ben Baynac was wholly invulnerable to all the
weapons of man, with the exception of a large mole on his left breast,
which was no doubt penetrable by silver or steel; but that, from the
specimens she had of his personal prowess and strength, it were vain for
mere man to attempt to combat him. Confiding, however, in his expertness
as an archer--for he was allowed to be the best marksman of the age--James
Gray told Clashnichd he did not fear him with all his might,--that he
was a man; and desired her, moreover, next time the ghost chose to repeat
his incivilities to her, to apply to him, James Gray, for redress.

It was not long ere he had an opportunity of fulfilling his promises. Ben
Baynac having one night, in the want of better amusement, entertained
himself by inflicting an inhuman castigation on Clashnichd, she lost no
time in waiting on James Gray, with a full and particular account of it.
She found him smoking his cutty, for it was night when she came to him;
but, notwithstanding the inconvenience of the hour, James needed no great
persuasion to induce him to proceed directly along with Clashnichd to
hold a communing with their friend, Ben Baynac, the great ghost.
Clashnichd was stout and sturdy, and understood the knack of travelling
much better than our women do. She expressed a wish that, for the sake
of expedition, James Gray would suffer her to bear him along, a motion to
which the latter agreed; and a few minutes brought them close to the
scene of Ben Baynac's residence. As they approached his haunt, he came
forth to meet them, with looks and gestures which did not at all indicate
a cordial welcome. It was a fine moonlight night, and they could easily
observe his actions. Poor Clashnichd was now sorely afraid of the great
ghost. Apprehending instant destruction from his fury, she exclaimed to
James Gray that they would be both dead people, and that immediately,
unless James Gray hit with an arrow the mole which covered Ben Baynac's
heart. This was not so difficult a task as James had hitherto
apprehended it. The mole was as large as a common bonnet, and yet nowise
disproportioned to the natural size of the ghost's body, for he certainly
was a great and a mighty ghost. Ben Baynac cried out to James Gray that
he would soon make eagle's meat of him; and certain it is, such was his
intention, had not the shepherd so effectually stopped him from the
execution of it. Raising his bow to his eye when within a few yards of
Ben Baynac, he took deliberate aim; the arrow flew--it hit--a yell from
Ben Baynac announced the result. A hideous howl re-echoed from the
surrounding mountains, responsive to the groans of a thousand ghosts; and
Ben Baynac, like the smoke of a shot, vanished into air.

Clashnichd, the ghost of Aulnaic, now found herself emancipated from the
most abject state of slavery, and restored to freedom and liberty,
through the invincible courage of James Gray. Overpowered with
gratitude, she fell at his feet, and vowed to devote the whole of her
time and talents towards his service and prosperity. Meanwhile, being
anxious to have her remaining goods and furniture removed to her former
dwelling, whence she had been so iniquitously expelled by Ben Baynac, the
great ghost, she requested of her new master the use of his horses to
remove them. James observing on the adjacent hill a flock of deer, and
wishing to have a trial of his new servant's sagacity or expertness, told
her those were his horses--she was welcome to the use of them; desiring
that when she had done with them, she would inclose them in his stable.
Clashnichd then proceeded to make use of the horses, and James Gray
returned home to enjoy his night's rest.

Scarce had he reached his arm-chair, and reclined his cheek on his hand,
to ruminate over the bold adventure of the night, when Clashnichd
entered, with her "breath in her throat," and venting the bitterest
complaints at the unruliness of his horses, which had broken one-half of
her furniture, and caused her more trouble in the stabling of them than
their services were worth.

"Oh! they are stabled, then?" inquired James Gray. Clashnichd replied in
the affirmative. "Very well," rejoined James, "they shall be tame enough
to-morrow."

From this specimen of Clashnichd, the ghost of Craig-Aulnaic's
expertness, it will be seen what a valuable acquisition her service
proved to James Gray and his young family. They were, however, speedily
deprived of her assistance by a most unfortunate accident. From the
sequel of the story, from which the foregoing is an extract, it appears
that poor Clashnichd was deeply addicted to propensities which at that
time rendered her kin so obnoxious to their human neighbours. She was
constantly in the habit of visiting her friends much oftener than she was
invited, and, in the course of such visits, was never very scrupulous in
making free with any eatables which fell within the circle of her
observation.

One day, while engaged on a foraging expedition of this description, she
happened to enter the Mill of Delnabo, which was inhabited in those days
by the miller's family. She found his wife engaged in roasting a large
gridiron of fine savoury fish, the agreeable smell proceeding from which
perhaps occasioned her visit. With the usual inquiries after the health
of the miller and his family, Clashnichd proceeded with the greatest
familiarity and good-humour to make herself comfortable at their expense.
But the miller's wife, enraged at the loss of her fish, and not relishing
such unwelcome familiarity, punished the unfortunate Clashnichd rather
too severely for her freedom. It happened that there was at the time a
large caldron of boiling water suspended over the fire, and this caldron
the enraged wife overturned in Clashnichd's bosom!

Scalded beyond recovery, she fled up the wilds of Craig-Aulnaic, uttering
the most melancholy lamentations, nor has she been ever heard of since.





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Previous: Elphin Irving



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