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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tom nam Fead: The Knoll of the Whistles

The following story was collected on 22 January 1951 by Calum Maclean from the recitation of Allan MacDonell or MacDonald, then aged around eighty years of age, originally from Bunroy, Brae Lochaber, but latterly staying in Inverlochy, near Fort William. The hill mentioned in this short anecdote may be located near the modern-day British Aluminium factory which is referred to on the modern Ordnance Survey map as An Sìdhean. The story itself is a migratory one and was once fairly common throughout the Highlands and Islands and doubtless elsewhere. This anecdote is based upon a folk etymology for the place-name as it aptly describes that the fairy folk were once believed to have haunted this particular hillock. A more pragmatic explanation for the hillock could be explained by runnels, or underground streams, that when the conditions were right could make whistling or hissing noises just as a babbling brook would do. The alphanumeric code added to the original transcription as well as the translation refers to the Motif Index of Folklore developed initially by an American folklorist, Stith Thompson and a Finnish folklorist, Antti Aarne and improved even further by a German scholar Hans-Jörg Uther. This particular anecdote was transcribed by Calum Maclean as follows:
Tom nan Sìdhchean – an t-ainim cearst a tha air Tom nam Fead. Bha an dithist seo a’ falabh dhachaidh as a' Ghearasdan. Bha pige uisge-bheatha
aig gach fear dhiubh anns a’ bhreac(hc)an air son na Nollaig. Is dar a bha iad a’ dol air adharst air a’ mhonadh:

“Stad,” thuirst e, “dé ’n ceòl a tha siod (F262.)?”
Chunnaic iad gun robh an sìdhean fosgailte (F721.2). Bha ceòl is aighear is dannsa. An darna fear dhiubh chaidh e a staigh. A staigh a chaidh e (F302.3.1.) is chaill a’ fear eile e. Chum e air dhachaidh.
Choimhead e thall is a bhos air son an fhir eile is cha robh e ri fhaic(hc)inn. Chaidh e dhachaidh. Dh’ innis e mar a thachair. Bha iad na aghaidh aig an taigh gun d’ rinn e rud air choir eigin air an duine eile (K2116.). Thàinig a’ chailleach bhuidseachd, bana-choimhearsnach dhà far an robh e. Thuirst i ris (FD1814.1.):
“Théid thu air tòir an uisge-bheatha am bliadhna a rithist.” Théid thu sìos do’n Allt Bhuidhe. Bheir thu gobhlan as a’ chraobh chaorainn (D1385.2.5.). Gheibh thu beagan gaoisid as earaball a’ stallain (F384.3.) a tha sin thall. Fighidh tu a’ ghaoisid air a’ ghobhlan. Dar a bhios sibh a' tilleachd leis an uisge-bheatha bidh an croc(hc) fosgailte, bidh an dorust fosgailte (F211.1.).
Cuiridh tu an gobhlan am bruach^bràigh an doruist agas théid thu a staigh. Abair ris:
"Trobhad, trobhad, a Dhomhnaill." Bi a mach a sin.
Gheibh thu leat dhachaidh e.
’S ann mar seo a bha.
Rinn e na chaidh iarraidh air (F322.5.). Thuirst Domhnall a bha a staigh ri Alasdair, ’n uair a fhuair e a mach:
“Cha robh mi móran mhineidean a staigh.”
“Bha thu bliadhna a staigh (Z72.1.),” thuirst Alasdair.
“Cha d’ airich mi ach mar mhineid na dha e (F377),” thuirst Domhnall.
Tha iad ag ràdha agas bha seann-daoine ag innseadh dhomh-sa gun robh e gu math cinnteach sin.
The correct name for Tom nan Sìdhchean (‘The Knoll of the Fairies’) is Tom nam Fead (‘The Knoll of the Whistles’). Two men were going home from Fort William and both were carrying kegs of whisky for a Christmas celebration in their plaids. And when they had gone some distance over the hill:
“Stop,” he said, “what’s that music (F262.)?”
They saw a fairy knoll open (F721.2.). There was music, heartiness and dancing. The second man entered. In he went and the other man lost sight of him (F302.3.1.). He went on his way home.
He searched high and low for the other man but there was no sign of him. He went home and told what had happened. Those at home suspected that he had done something or another to the other man (K2116.). An old wise woman, a neighbour of his came to him. She said to him (D1814.1.):
“You’ll go in search of the whisky this year again. You’ll go down to Allt Buidhe and you’ll take a forked twig from the mountain ash (D1385.2.5.). Then you’ll get a little hair from the stallion’s tail over there (F384.3.). You’ll then tie the hair to the forked twig. When you return with the whisky, the knoll will be open and the door ajar (F211.1). You’ll put the forked twig in the lintel of the door and you’ll enter. Say to him:
“Come on, come on Donald.” Get out of there and you’ll take him home with you.
And so it turned out.
He did as he was advised to do (F322.5). Donald, who had been in the fairy knoll, said to Alasdair when he got out:
“I was only a few minutes inside.”
“You were in a whole year (Z72.1),” said Alasdair.
“I only felt it as if a minute or two had passed (F337),” said Donald.
They say, and old people used to tell me, that it was actually true. The fairies used to whistle (F262.7) and that’s why it was called Tom nam Fead (‘The Knoll of the Whistles’).

SSS NB 5, pp. 385-87
For more on motifs, see wiki entry:

Fairy piper

F22, Man Goes into Fairy Dwelling and Spends Year or more there Dancing with Cask or Basket on Back

F262. Fairies make music.
F721.2. Habitable hill.
F211.1. Entrance to fairyland through door in knoll.
F302.3.1. Fairy entices man into Fairyland.
D1385.2.2. Ash (quicken, rowan) proof against spells and enchantments.
D1814.1. Advice from magician (fortune-teller, etc.).
D1385.2.5. Ash (quicken, rowan) protects against spells and enchantment.
K2116. Innocent person accused of murder.
F322.5. Rescue from fairyland.
F377. Supernatural lapse of time in fairyland. Years seem days.
F384.3. Iron powerful against fairies.
F262.7. Fairies whistle.
Z72.1. A year and a day.

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