A midwife of Flodigarry was attending a confinement, when, one day, a message came for her to go some distance away. She [agreed to] the summons and found herself inside a fairy mound. She begged to be allowed to go, but the fairies refused to let her till she had performed two tasks. She was provided with a spindle, some wool, and some meal in a girnal. When the wool was all spun, and the meal made into bread, she might go. She toiled very assiduously to get all finished up, but it was of no avail. The wool and the meal remained undiminished. Despairing of ever seeing her home again, she begged of a fairy who was alone with her to tell her what to do. The fairy was moved by her prayers and told her to spin the wool as the sheep eats grass.
[Here the writer says This instruction has no meaning, so I suspect there has been some mistranslation from the Gaelic, which is of course, the language in which all these stories were originally told. Thus she misses the point entirely, because it's
surely a riddle the midwife has to solve? She continues..]
At all events the midwife understood, and soon finished that task. As to the meal, the fairy told her that she must take some of the dough and form a cake with it. This cake she must bake in front of (before?) the others, and eat it entirely herself. [Again some critical point has been missed, as she says:] In this way the task was done.
The fairies saw she must have had help from one of their own number, but she stoutly refused to tell. They were therefore forced to allow her to go. Joyfully she sped back to her "case," and on arriving at her patient's house she found it full of music and merrymaking. Astonished, she asked a bystander what it all meant. "A wedding," was the surprised answer.
"Whose wedding will it be?" she queried impatiently. What was her surprise to find it was the wedding of the very child she had helped to bring into the world, for she had been absent more than twenty years.
Folk-Lore of the Isle of Skye
Mary Julia MacCulloch
Folklore, Vol. 33, No. 2. (Jun. 30, 1922), pp. 201-214.
"Not far from the house is a small mound and so green is its grass that none can doubt the fairies dance there. Indeed, their music has often been heard: once, a man joined them in the dance and disappeared, but was rescued when, exactly one year later, his brother flung a knife so that it stuck in his clothing. He believed he had only danced for an hour."
- Otta F. Swire, Skye: The Island and its Legends, 1961, p. 48.
The "house" to which Swire refers is Flodigarry House, "now a hotel", and the only ancient site marked nearby on the map is "Dunflodigarry", which I suspect to be a broch. Perhaps this is the "mound" which Swire mentions (it is certainly close enough to the hotel: its national grid reference is the one I've used for this site). However, there are hints of a wider prehistoric significance to this landscape, since Swire also describes two suspiciously "holy" sounding wells: "Near Flodigarry House, and not far from the shore, are two wells. Once there was only one spring here and from it the people of the township drew their water" (Ibid). These people, however, were half of them Christian and half pagan, and a bitter quarrel sprang up over the well, "each faction trying to prevent the other from using it". They appealed to St. Turog, a hermit resident on nearby Flodigarry Island, to resolve the dispute, and the saint agreed, meeting with them at the well. The people, however, became so furious in recounting their grievances to the saint that they "fell upon one another with sticks and stones", causing the hermit to hit the well with his staff, so that it dried up, and return to his island. Several days later a sheepish-looking deputation of people implored St. Turog to return their well, which they promised to share between them peacefully in future. The saint separated the people into two groups, pagan and Christian, and used his staff to create a well for each of them:
"The people were delighted and surrounded the old man with shouts of joy. Then he bade them, lest they forget their folly, to go sunwise round each well on the first day of each month before filling their vessels and drop into the well an offering of gratitude for the water. This they promised to do ever after. The two springs sometimes overflow into the rock-pools below. Where one overflows can still be found holy relics, sacred medals and little carved crosses; below the other the finds are quite different, being beads, carved shells, and curios; but below both are small coins."