The Boghall Brownie

To leave my old haunts, oh my heart it is sair,

But the wife gae me blankets – she’ll see me nae mair;

By Liana Paraschaki

It was the year 1850, and Boghall Farm was not doing particularly well. The farm had fallen into disarray, no trace could be found of its once neat and tidy condition that its workers had been so proud of in the years gone past.

One winter day, a good many years before, the Brownie of Boghall had left without warning– and no human soul had seen him ever since.

There was once a Brownie who lived at Boghall farm. Long, brown hair covered his strong body. He would arise as the sun set when he would get to work sweeping, cleaning, and tending to the house, whilst its human residents were fast asleep. In the mornings, he took his turn sleeping quietly on a bed made of straw in a corner of the barn.

The Boghall Brownie, like all Brownies that frequent the ancient homes and farmsteads of Scotland, was a good-natured “house hobgoblin”. Brownies are known for performing household chores whilst humans are asleep, preferring to remain invisible and quiet, bringing luck and prosperity to the household. In return, the Brownies were rewarded with simple meals for their work, as they set to work for the joy of it, and not in pursuit of a reward or payment.

The Boghall Brownie was a tireless worker, quick and efficient; all he asked for in return was a meal of warm porridge and fresh milk set aside for him. He worked on the farm for quite some time, day in and day out, his workings following the passage of the days, weeks, and seasons. Until one year a very harsh winter took hold of the land. A thick white blanket of snow covered everything as far as the eye could see, turning the surrounding landscape into an endless white canvas. The winter frost clung to windows, turning every hastily drawn breath into a cloud of mist. It was as if the great Cailleach herself had cast some wintry enchantment on the farm.

The mistress of the farm, worried about their precious Brownie – whom she considered a friend – was anxious about whether he would survive the cold winter out in the barn. Carefully, albeit recklessly, she laid warm blankets on his straw bed, not yet knowing that such an act was an insult, not only to the Boghall Brownie, but to all Brownies in all of Scotland.

Upon seeing the blankets lovingly laid on his bed, the Boghall Brownie laid down his tools and cried out – whether it was in agony or anger was hard to tell:

To leave my old haunts, oh my heart it is sair,

But the wife gae me blankets – she’ll see me nae mair;

I’ve worked in her barn, frae evening till day.

My curse on the blankets that drove me away.

All the boon that I asked were my sowans and strae,

But success to Bogha’ although Brownie’s away.

The Brownie’s departure was instantaneous and devastating; Boghall was never again as happy and prosperous as it had been before the Brownie left. As for the Brownie himself, he was never to be seen again in Boghall.


For more stories on the Brownies, see George Douglas’ work “Scottish Fairy and Folk tales”, (orig.
published 1892), pp. 177-181