Maggy, standing at barely two feet tall, and sporting a great head of hair – or hairy hands – is most often associated with Tullochgorm Castle, owned by the Grant family.
By Liana Paraschaki
Maggy Moulach, otherwise known as Hairy Meg, is, perhaps, one of the most well-known Brownies of Scottish folklore. Like most Brownies, Maggy was a benevolent house goblin, appearing only at night, when the owners of the house were already asleep, and taking care of household chores. Maggy’s lore, however, eventually takes a darker, more sinister turn than most of the other Brownie tales. But Maggy was not always considered evil.
Maggy, standing at barely two feet tall, and sporting a great head of hair – or hairy hands – is most often associated with Tullochgorm Castle, owned by the Grant family. Maggy was not simply a brownie for them; she taught the clan chief chess, so he could beat the other clan leaders. She was also the family’s banshee, announcing the deaths of family members.
Legend has it that, once upon a time, Maggy worked in a farm alongside a myriad other servants. When the owner of the farm, however, realised precisely what Maggy was capable of, and how skilled she was when it came to chores around the house and farm, he fired the rest of his servants, instead relying solely on poor Maggy. Maggy was left to look after the farm all by herself. When she realised she was being taken advantage of – for Maggy was no fool – legend says she was so enraged she turned into a boggart. Mischievous as the brownies were helpful, boggarts were generally considered a threat to the family and the house alike. As a boggart, Maggy could harm animals and cause food to rot, or go sour. At a time when most households relied solely – or mostly – on animals for their food and income, the boggart’s power over animals and animal products was not simply a nuisance; it was a matter of life and death. The farmer was, thus, forced to re-hire the servants he had previously let go of, in order to ease Maggy’s household burdens and mediate her wrath.
Most of the legends and stories around Maggy see her accompanied by her son Brownie Clod. Unlike Maggy, who is typically depicted as rather smart, her son is considered a dobie, a rather dull-witted brownie.
As the legend goes, Maggy Moulach and her son, Brownie Clod, once lived at Fincastle Mill. The two brownies quickly grew notorious for their strictness and ability to keep trespassers away from the mill. One night, however, a desperate girl managed to break into the mill, as she did not have enough flour for her wedding cake. Grind, and grind, and grind she did, until she got caught by Brownie Clod. Brownie Clod asked the girl for her name.
“O is mise, mi fhin,” which roughly translates to “It’s me, myself.”
Brownie Clod may have been dull-witted, but he understood that this was probably not the girl’s name. So, he asked again. And then asked again. The girl’s answer, however, never changed. “O is mise, mi fhin.”
Brownie Clod stepped closer to the girl. Thinking he was going to hurt her, she threw a pot of boiling water at him. His burns were excruciating and his screams agonising. He fled to his mother, Maggy Moulach, thinking she could make the pain away. Alas, she couldn’t. With tears streaming down her face, she asked her son who hurt him. “O is mise mi fhin,” he replied, before dying in her arms.
Maggy was devastated, but attributed her son’s wounds to his own clumsiness. That is, until she found out the truth. You see, the girl, proud at herself for outsmarting two brownies, could not stop bragging and re-telling the story, over and over again, a story where she was almost attacked by an evil brownie, but she managed to kill him and get away with it. One day, tiny Hairy Meg, happened to be walking underneath the girl’s windowsill, when she heard the girl telling her friends about the brownie she killed at the mill. Maggy’s fury made her blood boil, instantly turning her into a boggart. Blinded by rage she grabbed a stool and threw it through the window, killing the girl instantly.
Maggy doesn’t seem to be able to escape her fate; most legends see the benevolent brownie suffering, in one way or another, at the hands of humans, eventually turning into a boggart. She does, however, always enact her revenge – maybe the moral of her legend is never, ever mess with a brownie.