The Fiddlers of Strathspey by Anne Errington

The Fiddlers of Strathspey


Once upon a time there were two fiddlers. They were very poor, and they decided to go and see if they could earn some money elsewhere. They travelled the length and breadth of Scotland playing their fiddles. Sometimes they earned a few pennies, sometimes a meal and sometimes a bed.

 Winter was setting in, so they decided it was time to make their way home.

 That night it began to snow. They began playing in the street hoping to get enough money to pay for lodgings, but everyone was warm at home. They were wondering what to do when a wee old man came up to them.

“You are the fiddlers?”

“We are. Hungry and cold fiddlers, without a penny to our names.”

“Well, if you come and play for us I will fill your stomachs and your purses.”

They did not need asking twice. They picked up their fiddles and followed the old man to beyond the edge of the town. He turned into a road that lead up to a big old house. Lights were shining in all the windows and the music of pipes and fiddles was on the air.

“You are having a fine party in there!”

The old man just smiled. They climbed the steps up to the big door which just seemed to open, and in they walked. The room was large, full of fine folk dancing, candles blazing, and food and drink spread out on the tables.

“Help yourselves!”

The two fiddlers ate and drank their fill and then the old man said, “Play for us!”

So they started to play and everyone began to dance.

 The colours of the clothes were dazzling in the candlelight as everyone spun around. Faster and faster the fiddlers played. Faster and faster the dancers danced. The fiddlers felt that they had only played for half an hour and were surprised when the old man came up to them and told them it was time to go. He handed them each a bag of gold. The men protested that they had not played long enough to earn it but the man just told them to go.

 They walked out of the big door and down the steps.  As soon as their feet touched the ground silence fell. No music or sounds of laughter reached their ears. They turned around. The light had gone from the house; in fact, the house looked like a ruin. They walked quickly up the road which was now a track and out on to a big road, bigger than they could remember.

“Houses! There were no houses here last night!”

“It was dark. We just did not see them. Come, let’s go home.”

 They went to the river to catch the boat across but there was a bridge.

“We must have missed it last time,” said one.

“I don’t think so,” said the other.

 They got back to Strathspey. There were more buildings than they remembered. The school was different. There were more people and they were all wearing strange clothes. In fact, there was more of everything; people, shops, roads and noise.

“Come, we will talk to John, the blacksmith. He will tell us what has happened.”

 They went to the blacksmith, but they did not recognise him and he knew none of their friends. They decided to go up to the kirk (church) and have a chat with the minister. Even the church looked different, bigger and newer. As they walked towards it one of the fiddlers looked at the gravestones.

 “No wonder John was not at home. He is in his grave!”

“He was only twenty-three when we left, a few months ago.”

“The stone says he was ninety-three when he died, and the stone has been here a while. We have been away years and years!”

“We only played for an hour or two.”

“It was the fairies we played for, and too long we played, too long. We have been away for over a hundred years.”

 They walked towards the church and as soon as they stepped inside, the sun came through the windows and shone on them.

 The two fiddlers turned to dust.


Laura Hudson Mackay