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Ferne, in the latter part of the last century. James, was compiler of the greater part of the Encyclopædia Britannica,
other works of established merit. He was author of the well-known Scottish songs of “The Bonnie Bruiket Lassie," "Loch Erroch-side," and "I canna come ilka day to woo." Henry is famous as the first Scotsman who published a translation of the Greek classics. He was also author of several poems of sterling merit, amongst which may be mentioned a “Voyage from the Cape of Good Hope.”
The Castle of Vayne is situated on the brink of a romantic den, on the north bank of the Noran. With the exception of the gable wall on the east, the building is now a total ruin. It is described, however, by Ochterlony, subsequent to some alterations made in the time of Robert Earl of Southesk, as “a very good house, called the Waird, well planted, good yards, the house presently repaired by him (the Earl of Southesk) and well furnished within ; it hath ane excellent fine large great park, called the Waird.”
Here Vandalism has done its work in a more systematic and prosaic manner than is usual with the detestable race of Goths, inasmuch as part of the castle has been blown down by gunpowder, by a tenant farmer, and the stones used for building dykes, and similar purposes ! The only roofed part of the building remaining is a vault, forming the ground floor of the east wing, under which is said to be a deep dungeon, into which the family before taking their final departure, threw all their treasure of money and plate! Although often sought for, only one person is believed ever to have found it. In his haste to be rich, this worthy was just about to descend in search of the valuables when “he was forcibly thrust from the mouth of the yawning gulph by an uncouth monster in the shape of a horned ox, who departed in a blaze of fire through a big hole in the wall (still pointed out) and before the terrified treasure-seeker could recover himself, the chasm which he had wrought so hard to discover, was again shut from his view !”
This locality seems to have been a favourite haunt of his Satanic Majesty, for according to provincial belief
There's the Brownie o' Ba’quharn,
And the gaist o' Brandieden;
The deil burns up the Vayne." The Noran seems also to have been a favourite haunt of the Water-kelpy, who, it is said, with a view to deceive the neighbours as to the depth of the water at the ford of Waterstone, when
any real case of drowning occurred called out“A’ the men of Waterstone !—Come here ! come here !” Nearly opposite Vayne castle, there is a small piece of ground in the middle of a moor, called the “Deil's Hows,” where the personage after whom the place is named, has made, within the memory of the present generation, some wonderful manifestations of his presence. From this place, according to the old Statistical Account, large lumps of earth have been thrown to a considerable distance without any visible cause !
There are some wonderful ghost stories connected with Ferne, for the most popular here of all the spirits, undoubtedly are the ghaists and the brownies. Here, these are considered by some one and the same, but in other quarters the brownie was an independent and entirely different being altogether, and similar in his disposition and habits to the Lar Familiaris of the ancients. He was equally well known in the classic lands of Greece and Italy, as in these Northern latitudes. The brownie seems to have derived his name from his assumed swarthy complexion, and his partiality to old ruinous buildings, and the solitary banks of unfrequented rivers. The Shetland brownie, according to Jamieson, differed in his habits from all others, assuming “all the covetousness of the most interested hireling, instead of performing the laborious and self-imposed services which characterised his fellows in other quarters.” Having at present more to do,
however, with these mysterious beings, inhabiting places very much nearer home, I shall confine myself, in the meantime, to their peculiarities as evidenced in the brownies of Ferne.
In addition to the leading characteristics of Brownies in general the more prominent of these being, that they forded the rivers when their waters were at their highest, and that the sage femme always landed safely at the door of the sick wife—the brownies of Ferne are connected with scenes of cruelty and bloodshed. This peculiarity would seem to indicate that the brownie and the ghaist of Ferne, were one and the same.
The Ghaist Stane is in the vicinity of the church. To this piece of isolated rock, it is said this disturber of the peace was often chained as a fitting punishment for his misdeeds, but tradition is silent as to the brownie being similarly dealt with, which strengthens the supposition that they were, in this quarter at least, generally regarded as one being.
Equally as much secluded as the Castle of Vayne, the old fortalice of the lords of Ferne in Brandyden, situate between the Kirk and Noranside, was, according to tradition, occupied at one time, by a sort of Bluebeard who punished his miserable menials with the utmost cruelty. One of his vassals offended this cruel lord of Ferne so grievously, that his bloodthirsty master sentenced him to die the death of a traitor. Thrown into a deep dungeon to await his execution, death in some mysterious form, relieved him from its ignominy, and his body was secretly buried in a solitary spot betwixt the Castle and Balquharn. From that time the laird's conscience never ceased to upbraid him, and he could find no peace in his house -the doors and windows, in summer and winter, flying open of their own accord, and ghostly yells and piercing screams continuing to reverberate at all hours through his lonely dwelling.
Worn out by fear, and dejected by despondency, the laird at last died mysteriously and unseen.
The laird's death completely changed the character of his vassal's spirit, who now seemed to delight in acts of usefulness, especially to the gude
wife of the farm house in the district made so famous in “ The Ghaist o' Ferne-den.”
There are several versions of the tale, but I prefer that given by Mr Jervise, as in early youth I often heard my mother repeat some stanzas of this ballad, which she had heard recited by our parish minister, Dr Lyon, of Glamis. Curiously enough the Rev. Mr Harris, minister of Ferne, received this version from the worthy doctor, and communicated the same to Mr Jervise.
THE GHAIST O' FERNE-DEN, There liv'd a farmer in the North,
Nae far frae Ferne-den.
Baith women folks an' men,
The muckle ghaist, the fearfu' ghaist,
The ghaist o' Ferne-den;
As four-an'-twenty men !
Or ony byres to clean,
O' workin' late at e'en !
He scuddit througb the glen,
The ghaist o' Ferne-den!
Ane nicht the mistress o'the house
Fell sick an' like to dee,“O ! for a canny wily wife !”
Wi' micht an’ main, cried she ! The nicht was dark, an' no a spark
Wad venture through the glen, For fear that they micht meet the ghaist
The ghaist o' Ferne-den !
But gbaistie stood ahint the door,
An' hearin' a' the strife,
They soon wad tyne the wife !
Aff to the stable then he goes,
An' saddles the auld mare,
As fast as ony hare !
Says ho—"mak' baste an' rise ;
An' take ye nae surprise !”. “ Where am I gaun?" quo' the wife,
“Nae far, but through the glenYe're wantit to a farmer's wife,
No far frae Ferne-den!”
He's taen the Mammy by the hand
An' set her on the pad, Got on afore her an set aff
As though they baith were mad ! They climb'd the braes—they lap the burns--
An' through the glush did plash :
Nor ony kind o' trash!
An' scudden through the glen :
“ Are we come near the den!
Tush, weesht, ye fool!”quo' he;
This nicht ye winna see !”
He set the Mammy down :-
I am a clever loon !
An' see that a' gae richt,
At twal' o'clock at nicht !” “What maks yer feet sae braid ?" quo' she,
“ What maks yer een sae sair ?”
Without a horse or mare !
'Cause they were scarce o' men ; Just tell them that ye rade ahint
The ghaist o’ Ferne-den!”