kimurho (kimuro) wrote in sluagh_aotrom,

The Story of Kitty Rankin

"Beannachd nan siubhal 's nan imeachd. 'S e an-diugh Dihaoine, cha chluinn iad sinn.'

This is the story told by Ruairidh MacIlleathain in this weeks' Litir do Luchd-Ionnsachaidh - Letter for Gaelic Learners. I did a Google search to try to find more information and could find nothing. I thought perhaps this story would be as unknown to others as it is to me.

Close by Balmoral, where the Queen's Castle is, there is an outcrop called Creag nam Ban which means "the rocky hill of the women". It is close to the River Dee and overlooks Abergeldie Castle.

It is said that name recalls the women accused of witchcraft who were burned to death in that place. One of these so-called witches is remembered by name to this day - Kitty Rankin.

According to the story, Kitty wasn't a witch at all. She grew up in a small village near the River Dee, on the other side from the castle. Her father died when she was very young and her mother eventually went insane. Before she lost her reason, however, she taught her daughter a great deal; about nature and healing - the wise arts. Kitty's mother had the second-sight, and Kitty had it too. When her mother died, Kitty was left all alone.

Kitty found work in Abergeldie Castle. The laird of the castle was often away overseas. One day while he was away, the lady of the castle came to Kitty.

"I have heard," she said, "That you have the second sight, Kitty. Tell me news about my husband and what matters he is about."

Kitty should have refused the request but she was pleased to have the good opinion of her lady. She took a basin, filled it with water and looked into the water.

Kitty saw the laird overseas, sporting with other women. She told her ladyship what she saw and her mistress professed herself not at all surprised to hear it, but even so, she was not at all pleased. In fact, she was very angry. She wanted Kitty to raise a storm at sea while her husband was aboard his ship, but that Kitty could not do. She didn't have powers like that. She only had the second-sight.

As it happened, however, that when the laird was at sea, a storm did arise by chance and it sank his ship and all aboard drowned. When her ladyship heard, do you suppose she was pleased? No. Not at all. Once again she was angry. She accused Kitty of witchcraft. She claimed that Kitty had raised the storm in order to kill the laird, her husband. Nothing Kitty said could convince the people otherwise. They took her to the top of Crag nam Ban and there they burned her to death.

Crag nam Ban isn't a very tall mountain, barely 500 metres, but the wind off the top is very rough and strong - and loud. The natives say that it isn't the wind at all that they hear, that what they hear is the screaming of the ghost of Kitty Rankin.

Something that strikes me on the reading of this is to wonder about her ladyship. That Kitty's side of the story is known sort of indicates to me that perhaps Kitty wasn't quite as discreet as she should have been. If it was known that her ladyship had asked Kitty to raise the storm and then the storm was raised, well, the question might be asked if perhaps the lady might have sought a witch more willing to do the dirty job. So, perhaps, she wasn't so much angry as afraid.

On the other hand, I think the so-called lady was a complete and utter contemptible piece of trash without honour or sense or any scrap of good-breeding. My sympathies are completely for Kitty!
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Not really about the story at all, but I wonder if Kitty is an ancestor of the Rankin from the Rankin-Bass "claymation" productions like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer...