A pupil of the black arts offended his master by showing off...

Date 13 January 1979
Track ID 64049
Part 1

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A pupil of the black arts offended his master by showing off, and was enchanted, but got the best of it.

The captain of a ship took a simpleton away for a year and a day, and he came back much improved. After another year and a day he was rather cocky and was showing off what he had learned from the captain, a laird of the black art. The laird was annoyed and turned the lad into a horse. He chained the horse up with only salt food to eat. The lad persuaded the girl who fed the horses to take him to a burn [stream] for a drink. He turned himself into a salmon and escaped. The laird turned himself into an otter and pursued him. The lad turned himself into a ring on the finger of a lady sitting by the river.

The laird, disguised as a workman, repaired the house where the lady lived. There was a bonfire when the work was finished. The lad appeared in his own shape to the lady and told her to scatter peas and barley around the bonfire. The boy changed himself into a grain of barley and the laird changed himself into a bantam cock pecking at the barley. The lad changed into a fox, grabbed the cockerel and flung it into the fire. That was the end of the laird. The lad went back to his mother and became the laird of the black art himself, but he had learned his lesson and never showed off his magic powers.

Item Notes

'Shargar' means the weakling of a litter.

Recording Location

County - Angus

Parish - Montrose

Village/Place - Montrose


English, Scots









Betsy Whyte: Well, this wis a man an woman - they were gettin on in years, an they lived in a wee cottage near the sea. Their faimly wis aa married bar this one laddie, an he wisna jist... he wis the sharger [runt] o the faimly, an he wis a wee bit weak in the mind an aa, ye ken? But no, nothin fir tae mak him that he couldnae live a normal life, but jist enough tae keep him back in the warld, ye ken, in these days anywey when they'd naebody tae help him. So one day, the aald man an woman wis haein a walk alang the beach, an they seen this boat - a great big boat, a ship almost - an it wis comin in. An then they noticed it wis aa listin tae the one side, and it landed there. But the boat wis richt enough - it wis jist needin some repair.

But this captain o the boat, he come aff the boat, an theirs wis the only hoose on this bit o the shore, ye see. An he says: "Is there any place here where I could lodge?" An he says: "Well, ye're welcome tae oor place. It's no much," he says, "but ye can come an stay wi us if you want." So this captain came an he stayed wi them while the boat wis gettin fixed up, ye see. An he wis aye eyein this laddie, an he says: "Is this yer laddie?" He says: "Ay. He cannae get nae wark or nothing." He says: "An he's jist at a loss - disnae ken whit tae dae wi hissel, wanderin aboot an fishin on the shore." The aald man fished - that wis aa they lived on, jist whitever they got fir their twa-three fish.

So, he says: "Well, I'll tell ye whit I'll dae wi ye." He says: "Wid ye gie me the laddie tae tak awa wi me fir a year and a day?" He says: "I promise I'll bring him back in a year an a day. And when I take him back," he says, "he'll maybe be a better laddie." An the aald man an woman hesistated; he says: "I dinnae think he'd be much uise tae ye on the sea." He says: "Richt enough, he handles boats an things like that, but fir onything else I dinnae think he wad be much good." "Ach," he says, "I'll risk it onywey." And he says, "an I'll pey ye." He says: "I'll pey ye five golden sovereigns fir the laddie." He says: "And I'll gie ye the money right now." Now, that wis an affae lot of money tae them. And the laddie says: "Ay, tak it, Ma!" He says: "I've nivver took a penny intae yese in ma life." An he wis well intae his year thirty, this laddie, ye see.

So, the aald man an woman says: "Ah..." - she wis sweir [reluctant] tae pairt wi her laddie tae in case anything come ower him. He says: "I'll promise ye I'll look efter him like he wis ma ain son, an I'll bring him back tae ye in a year an a day's up." So they agreed, and he's away wi the laddie. Now, the time wore on, an wore on, an wore on, til the year an a day wis up. An this aald man an woman's aye keekin fir days afore that, ye ken - they're lookin ower the water tae see if they could see any sign o a boat.

An sure enough, on the very day that he said, in comes the boat an oot steps the captain an this laddie. Now, there wis an affae difference in the laddie! He wis straight, an a bright look in his eyes, an he wis much better lookin, ye ken? An he come runnin tae his folk, an oh! cuddlin them an kissin them, an everything else, an gien them presents that he'd took hame fae abroad, an aa that. And the captain come in, an they were sittin an eatin, aa an that. An he says: "I'll bide the nicht wi yese." An, oh! - they were that pleased - they didnae ken how tae thank this captain, because they could see the difference in the laddie.

An the next mornin, [the captain] hung aboot, ye see, an he says: "Ye ken, I would like tae tak him fir anither year an a day," he says, "if yese'll gree." Now, the aald man an woman, they says: "I'm sure ye can tak him," he says, "fir if anybody's ivver did him good, it's been you." He says: "We've tried, but we jist hinna kent the richt thing tae dae. And if he's any good tae ye, ye can tak him." So he's away fir anither year an a day. An sure enough, he come back when a year and a day was up.

Now, he come in, an this captain an him - their eyes met before they went awa an pairtit tae each other, ye ken. And the aald woman says, "There's something funny in the wey ye're lookin at the captain." She says: "Wis he daein you any hairm?" "Oh, no, no mither," he says: "he wisna daein me any hairm - he did me an affae lot o good!" But this time, she noticed that the laddie wis a bit cocky on it, ye ken? And he wis, ye ken, jist thon wey as if he didnae care fir naebody now, an she wisna sae fond o this.

Now, this sea captain - although he went awa on ships an aa that - he wis really a laird o the black airt an he had a big estate in the country, ye ken, a big estate that he bid [bade] in when he wis at hame; he went awa on his trips when he felt like it. An this laddie - he hud been teachin this laddie the black art aa the time that he wis awa, teachin him how tae dae this; he jist took an interest in daein this, because he wis gettin on in years hissel an he wantit somebody that wid cairry on wi this gift that he hud, ye see?

So the laddie, he started fir tae dae things that he shouldna be daein, this laddie. An this laird, he got tae hear aboot it. An he wis aye showin aff how he could dae things, this laddie. Wi him bein a wee bit saft in the first place, ye see, he hidnae enough sense fir tae hide whit he had. So the black laird, he come doon an says: "I'm needin yer son again fir a wee whiley." But by this time, the aald woman, she wis jalousin [suspecting] that there wis somethin no richt. An he says: "I've come tae tak him." An the laddie says: "Oh, it's aaright!" He says: "I'm quite willin tae go wi him," he says, "fir I'm as clever as whit he is!"

Now this black laird kent that the laddie wis as clever as whit he wis, an he didnae like this one bit, ye see? He says: I'm no wantin naebody tae be as clever as me when I'm alive. It's aaricht efter I'm deid, maybe him. He says: I've tutored him too well. So he says: "I'll tak him." An there's nothing the aald man an woman could dae, because this laddie wis oot o their control now. But anywey, when he'd got him, he changed him intae a horse, an he chained him intae the stable alang wi the ither horses. An he said tae his lassies in this place that fed the animals an gied them water an that, he said tae this maid, he says: "Now this horse here gets nothing but saat-meat [salted meat] - meat wi saat in it. No water. An don't it let it aff that chain!"

So fir three days this laddie's chained bi the neck an she'd bring in this saat an bran and stuff fir him tae eat. An he wis chokin. An he wis priggin [pleading] wi this maid - he could speak, ye see. He says: "Oh, fir God's sake, lassie!" he says, "could ye no bring me one drink o water? Jist one wee cup o water." He wis aye pleadin wi her. An she says: "Oh well, then" she says. "But if the laird finds oot," she says, "he'll be ma daith." "Oh," he says, "he'll never ken." An she says "Aaricht." But he says: "Better still - if ye wid tak me oot tae the wee burn an let me get a drink at the burn..." he says, "an that wid jist be fine!"

So he kept priggin on her, an she says: "Aaricht." She says: "But fir God's sake - dinnae tell the laird!" So she took him oot tae the burn, and he says: "I cannae get a richt drink wi this bit in ma mooth. Could ye no take it oot jist fir two minutes til I get a drink?" So efter an affae lot o priggin, she took the bit oot, took the halter aff his heid, and immediately he turned intae a salmon intae this water, tae the burn. An he's goin down the river at a rate o no-man's-business. But ah! This black laird - he wisna lang a-kennin, an he turned himsel intae an otter, an he's doon the water efter this salmon, an he almost caught the salmon.

But sittin on the bank o the burn, there wis a young lady, an she was sittin like this, wi her haan in the water, ye ken. And this laddie, he turned himsel intae a ring on her finger. An the black laird couldnae get him. So this lady, she went hame, an she says: "Whaar did that come fae?" And she says: "I don't remember that ring. And how could a ring be on my finger withoot me kennin aboot it?" But anywey, she jist says: "Ach, it's one of these things I suppose, but I just don't remember it."

Now, she was quite well-aff this lady. So this black laird says: I'll huv tae dae something tae get him. So he come dressed as a workman, ye see, an he come up tae this man's door - this lady's housband. An he rapped at the door an he says: "I see the gable end o yer hoose is no in very good condition. Ye'd be better tae get that fixed now, before any damage is done, or afore the winter comes." He says: "Ay, that's right enough," he says, "it is in a bad condition," he says, "but they're wantin that much tae get things done." He says: "We'll I'll tell ye," he says, "I'll dae it fir ye very, very reasonable." An he says: "I'll make it like ye nivver expectit it tae be - better than ivver ye expected it tae be." He says: "I'll make it the beautifulest house, and I'll face up all yer hoose, an put new cement an everythin all aroon it and make it look lovely fir ye." He says: "Ay, yese are aa good at promisin til it comes tae daein." He says: "I promise ye - the amount o money I'm writin doon on this bit paper is all I'll ask aff ye." He says: "An if the joab's not done tae your likin, you don't have tae pey me a penny." So this man agreed; he says: Ye couldna get fairer than that.

So this workman came - he got some men tae come, an right enough - before ye could say 'Jack Robinson', the hoose wis jist lovely, an all beautiful an aa bonnie ootside - right aa aroond the hoose. An the man wis very pleased wi't. He says: "I'm that pleased, I'm gonna have a big celebration." He says: "I'm gonna light a bonfire, and we're gonna have a good night." He says: "That's whit they uised tae dae in the aalden times, ye ken? Light a bonfire an hae a good night roond aboot it." And this builder says: "That's fine, that's jist whit tae dae - that's jist whit I wis gonnae ask ye tae dae, tae mak a bonfire an hae a celebration."

So, night come, an this ring's beginnin tae get worried - this laddie. So that night, he appeared in his ain form tae this young lassie, this young woman, and she got a fear when she saa him, and she says: "Oh my god! Where did you come from?" "Oh," he says, "now dinnae get alarmed, but I'm the ring that wis on yer finger." He says: "I've been enchanted bi the black laird." An he says: "He's asked yer man tae hae a big celebration and light a bonfire an everything." He says: "I'll tell ye whit I'd like you tae dae if ye want tae help me, because that black laird's no good." She says: "Whit can I dae?" He says: "Well, get aboot a hunder wecht o peas an barley, an scatter them aa roon aboot the bonfire - but not too close tae the bonfire so's they'll get burnt, but right aa roon aboot, scatter them roon aboot the bonfire, an that's aa ye have tae dae." "Oh," she says, "that's easy enough, darling." She says:" You've been on my finger aa this time." And he says: "Ay, but when I'm enchanted it's different. I'm jist a ring when I'm on yer finger." She says: "Oh well, that's aaricht."

So the next night, a bonfire was lit, an she ordered aa this peas an barley tae be scattered roond aboot. Now, there's a supersition in Scotland, ye see, that peas an barley is lucky an can keep awa witchcrafts an things like this. So they're aa haein a fine fun roon aboot this bonfire. An this ring, he changed himsel intae one o the seeds o barley, cause he could see an feel the presence o the laird gettin closer tae him, ye see. Now this laird, he turned himsel intae a bantam cock, an he's pick-pick-pick-pick-pickin at the barley, pickin at the barley, pickin at the barley. An he would get this laddie. An this laddie, he as quick as lightnin changed himsel intae a fox and grabbed the cockrel bi the back o the neck, an gave it three shakes an heaved it in the fire. And that wis the end o the black laird.

An the laddie, he went back tae his mither, and he became the laird o enchantment efter that. But he'd learned that he wis better no tae go aboot showin aff too much, but tae keep it quiet - or sombody better than him... He says: Whaar there's a good man, there's ay a better yin! An the laird had said tae him: It's nae uise when Jack's better than his learnin maister. That's hoo the laird wanted tae kill him, ye see - but he was better than his learnin maister that he got tae learn. But he learned the lesson that he hidnae tae go aboot boastin aboot it too much.

[Comments from fieldworkers]

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