The Legend of Stumpy’s Brae

audio version coming soon

(Between St. Johnston and Strabane)

Heard ye no tell O’Stumpy’s Brae,
Sit doone, sit down, young friend,
I’ll make your flesh to creep this night
And your hair to stand on end.

Young man, it’s hard to strive wi’ sin
And the hardest strife o’ a’
Is when the greed o’ gain comes in
And drives God’s grace awa’.

O, it’s quick to do, but it’s lang to rue
When the punishment comes at last
And we’d gi’ the whole world to undo the deed
That deed that’s gone and past.

Over yon strip of meadow land
And over the bintie bright
Dinna ye mark a fir-tree stand
Beside yon gable white.

O, I mind it weel, in my younger days
When the story yet was rife
There dwelt within that lovely place
A farmer man and his wife.

They sat together all alone
That blessed autumn night
When the trees without and hedge and stone
Were white in the sweet moonlight.

The Boys and Girls had all gone down
A wee tae the blacksmith’s wake
When passed my on by the window small
And gi’ed the door a shake.

The man he up and opened the door,
And when he had spoken a bit,
A pedlar man stepped in to the floor
Down tumbled the pack he bore right heavy pack was it.

“God save us a’,” says the wife wi’ a smile
“But yours is a thriving trade”
“Ay, ay, I’ve wandered many a mile,
And plenty I have made.”

The man sat on by the dull fire flame
When the pedlar went to his rest
Close to his ear the Devil came,
And slipped into his breast.

He looked at his wife by the dim fire-light
And she was as bad as he.
“Could we no’ murder yon man tonight?”
“Aye, could we no’?” ready quo’ she.

He took the pick-axe without a word
Where it stood behind the door.
As he passed it into the sleeper he stirred
And never wakened more.

He’s dead, says the auld wan coming back,
“What o’ the corpse, my dear?”
“We’ll bury him snug in his ain bit pack,
Never ye mind the loss o’ the sack,
I’ve taken out a’ the gear.”

“The Packs ower short by two guid span,
And what’ll we do?” quo’ he.
“And you’re a doited thoughtful man,
We’ll soon cut him off at the knee.”

They shortened the corpse, and they packed him tight
Wi’ his legs in a pickle o’ hay.
Over the burn in the sweet moonlight,
They carried him to this brae.

They shovelled a hole right speedily
And they laid him on his back
“A right pair are ye” quo’ the pedlar,
He sitting bolt upright in his pack.

“Ye thought ye’d lay me snugly here
Where none should know my station
But I’ll haunt ye far, and I’ll haunt ye near
Father and son, with terror and fear, to the nineteenth generation.”

The two were sitting the very next night
When the wee bit dog began to cower
And they knew by the pale blue fire-light
That the evil one had power.

It had just struck nine, just nine o’ the clock,
That hour when the man lay dead,
When there came to the outer door a knock,
And a heavy, heavy tread.

The auld man’s head swam round and round
The woman’s head gang freeze,
T’was not like a natural sound, but like someone stumping over the ground
On the bones o’ his raw bare knees.

In through the door like a sough of air,
And stump! stump!! stump!!! around the twa’
Wi’ his bloody head, and his knee bones bare
They had maist tae die awa’.

The wife’s black locks ere the morn grew white,
They say, as the mountain snows,
The man was as straight as a staff that night
But he stooped as the morning arose.

Still day by day as the clock struck nine,
In the house where they did the sin,
The wee bit dog began to whine
And the ghost came clatterin’ in.

Av night, there was a fearful flood,
Three days and nights the skies had poured
And white wi’ foam and black wi’ wind
The burn in fury roared.

Quo’ she, “Guid man ye needna turn sae pale
In the dim fire light
The stumpy canna cross the burn
He’ll no’ be here the nicht.”

“For it up the Jinn and it’ ower the bank
And it’s up to the meadow ridge”
But the stumpy he came harplin’ in,
gave the wife a slap on the chin
“Sure came round by the bridge.”

And stump, stump, stump to his ploys again
Over the stools and chairs,
Ye’d surely hae thought ten men and women
Were dancing there in pairs.

They sold the gear and across the sea,
To a foreign land they went
But sure what can flee from
His appointed punishment.

The ship swam over the water clear
Wi’ the help o’ an Eastern breeze
But the very first sound on the wide, smooth deck,
That fell on their ears, was the tappin’ o’ them bare knees.

Out in the woods of wild America
Their weary feet they set,
But stumpy was there first they say, and haunted them to their dying day.
And he follows their children yet.

This is the story o’ Stumpy’s Brae
And the murderer’s fearful fate.
Young friend, your face is turned that way,
You’ll be ganging the night that gate.

Yell ken it well, through the few fir trees
The house where they were wont to dwell
if ye meet ane there as daylight flees,
stumping about on the banes o’ his knees
It’ll just be Stumpy himsel’.

C. F. A. Dec. 1844