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    The “Fairy Boy Of Leith” on Calton Hill, Edinburgh

    On Top Of Salisbury Crags

    On Top Of Salisbury Crags

    Hi Mairiuna :-)  Come and look at the view! Over there, it’s Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat.

    Can you see the path climbing up the hill?  … look… there are people at the top !

    Can’t wait to walk up there, be sure to include it in our next itinerary.

    I’ve read a few things about the place while waiting for you. Quite interesting indeed. Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags are part of Holyrood Park and we can see the Palace and the Abbey from here.

    See how steep the Crags look. These abrupt cliffs were formed more than 340 million years ago.

    View of Salisbury Crags from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

    View of Salisbury Crags from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

    You know, they are a favourite place for rock climbers. Better for us to take the so-called Radical road to climb up there. It is said that it was paved by unemployed radical weavers of West Scotland, at Walter Scott’s suggestion.

    You know how Scotland is fond of mysterious stories, folk tales and legends. And I have one to tell you which is reputed to have happened here, on Calton Hill: the story of  “ The Fairy Boy of Leith “.

    Walter Scott mentions it in his novel,  The Heart Of The Midlothian, but we can trace it back to the 17th century in Richard Bovet’s Pandaemonium also called the Devil’s Cloister (1684).

    I first read about it on the Internet  in an article written by Andrew Tibbs for Mysterious Britain & Ireland website . Let me find the printout in my backsack and I will read it out loud for you. Listen to this Mairiuna !

    (….) Captain George Burton, whilst staying in Leith, came across a boy known locally as the ‘Fairy Boy’ who had been given the gift of second sight by the fairies. Every Thursday night, the boy would go to Calton Hill (then a remote place between Leith and Edinburgh) where he would enter the hill through huge gates, only visible to those with ‘the fairy gift’ and commune with the fairies.

    Fairies - Rackham

    Fairies - Rackham

    At these gatherings the boy would play drums for the little folk who danced and feasted. One Thursday night, the Captain, and some acquaintances, held the boy in conversation, hoping to avert his trip to the hill, but the boy gave them the slip, but was found and brought back to the house, where upon he managed to slip away for a second time. There the story ends with most accounts stating that the boy made off to Calton Hill to once again meet with the fair folk.(….) But Bovet’s original account differs considerably.

    scottish-fairy-tales

    Scottish Fairy Tales

    There is little useful information in the original account which can indicate whether the story is true or not, with the exception of one point. Burton alleges that the boy went to ‘Yonder Hill’, interpreted as Calton Hill. These days Calton Hill is in the centre of Edinburgh but back then, before Leith became part of Edinburgh, it was between the two areas. Calton Hill sat dominant, amongst the farmland and fields, and in the 18th century the boundaries between Leith and Edinburgh was shrinking and a hundred years later the two were almost joined together. Calton Hill then, as now, has remained relatively undeveloped.

    So did the boy enter into the Hill?

    In the 1790′s Herman Lion was a Jewish merchant living in Edinburgh. Sometime after 1791 he started looking for a burial plot for himself and his wife. Being Jewish he did not want to be buried in a Christian burial site and appealed to the Town Council to sell himself a piece of land on Calton Hill, and eventually they agreed. 200 years later, the site of Lion’s tomb was rediscovered. The Edinburgh Evening News told the story of two men in the Observatory complex on top of the hill. Apparently they climbed through a rabbit hole and ended up in the tomb. Their description of Lion’s tomb implies that it may have originally have been a cave or fissure. Perhaps this is the cave that the Fairy Boy use to dance in with the fair folk.  (…)

    Wow…Fairyland ! Did I ever tell you Mairiuna that I believe in Fairies ?

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