|A local tale tells of Canobie Dick and his adventures upon the hills. He was a "jolly rattling horse-cowper, who was remarkable for a reckless and fearless temper, which made him much admired and a little dreaded amongst his neighbours."
One moonlit night he was riding home over Bowden Moor, with two horses that he'd not been able to sell. He came across a man "of venerable appearance and singularly antique dress", who took an interest in the horses and how much they might be bought for. Now Canobie Dick wasn't that bothered who he dealt with, in fact he'd have overlooked the cloven hooves of the devil himself, and still had a go at cheating him. But when the stranger paid up, Dick was surprised that the gold coins he were given were weird old things - unicorns, bonnet-pieces. But they were gold, so he wasn't that bothered. He sold quite a few horses to the same man over then next few weeks, but his customer insisted they should meet only at night, and always alone.
Eventually Dick suggested that they seal their deals with a little drink, at the house of the stranger, but he said "if you lose courage at what you see there, you will rue it all your life." Dick laughed it of though, and followed the man up a narrow footpath that led to a peculiar feature between the south and central peaks of the Eildons, called the Lucken Hare*. This is "famous for witch-meetings." His guide disappeared into the hillside "by a passage or cavern", but Dick was very surprised as he'd never seen nor heard rumour of such a thing, though he knew the spot well.
On they went. "They entered a very long range of stables; in every stall stood a coal-black horse; by every horse lay a knight in coal-black armour, with a drawn sword in his hand; but all were as silent, hoof and limb, as if they had been cut out of marble." When they got to the end of the hall, a sword and horn lay on an antique table. "He that shall sound that horn and draw that sword, shall, if his heart fail him not, be king over all broad Britain. So speaks the tongue that cannot lie."
The reckless hasty Canobie Dick seized the bugle and blew a feeble note. "Thunder rolled in stunning peals through the immense hall; horses and men started to life; the steeds snorted, stamped, ground their bits and tossed their heads" - the warriors sprang up brandishing their weapons. In his sheer terror, Dick dropped the horn and scrabbled for the enchanted sword, but he heard a loud voice intone:
"Woe to the coward, that ever he was born,
Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn!"
and he was propelled out of the cave by an invisible whirlwind, and "precipitated over a steep bank of loose stones, where the shepherds found him the next morning, with just breath sufficient to tell his fearful tale, after concluding which he expired."
*I suppose the Lucken Hare could be 'Little Hill'.
The story is summarised from the version in 'Folk-lore and legends; Scotland' (1889).
Posted by Rhiannon
5th November 2009ce