Before dinner we walked up to a place called the Kettles, a curious glen among the mountains at the back of Wooler, the scene of a battle in lang-lang syne. There are traces of an encampment still to be seen. I rather like Francis Francis's style. He must have needed a sense of humour with that name. From his 'By lake and river' of 1874. I haven't seen mention of the 'grindstone' before.
There is a big stone, too, called the King's Chair, and here once upon a time a certain king - but who he was, or when it was, or where he lived, the deponent sayeth not - did sit and did watch his army fight another army in the valley below, but whose army the other army was, or why they fought, or who got the best of it, your depondent won't undertake to say.
There, too, is a large stone, much worn on all sides, like a huge grindstone, for hereon the soldiers of either side came to sharpen their swords when they were blunted and notched with hacking and hewing - at least so somebody says, but deponent voucheth not for the truth of the same, further than that there are well-worn stones on the spot indicated.
On our return we stopped in an adjacent-glen, at the Fairy's Well, commonly called the Pin Well, a small rough basin rudely fashioned from some half-dozen large granite stones, which contains bright clear water. The bottom is almost covered with crooked pins, in every state of preservation, from the new bright one of yesterday to the old rusted worn one of him or her now sleeping peacefully in the auld kirk-yard not far awa, and whose sons and daughters, or even grandchildren may be, have dropped in those later ones in their turn, to propitiate the good fairy of the spot: the belief, or kindly superstition of the place, being that if you utter a wish and drop into the well a crooked pin as an offering, the wish, by the aid of the fairy, will come to pass; and many a maid forlorn, and many a stout herd pining with hopeless love, have thrown a pin to the fairy and breathed the dearest wish of their hearts over that simple basin of crystal water in the dim twilight - half doubting, half hoping, the fulfilment of their wishes, in fear and trembling as the mist of the hills wreathed itself into fantastic and shadowy forms, and every stone, turf, or twig, assumed a fairy figure or shape to their superstitious and excited imaginations.
The practice is kept up, though the superstition, however, like all others, is dying out before the march of civilisation. Alas for the country that has no superstitions! And what superstition could stand before the apparition of a pork-pie hat or the march of crinoline?
Posted by Rhiannon
31st January 2010ce
Edited 31st January 2010ce