There is a tradition of this part of the country which seems not a great deal more modern than the urns or their ornaments, and which bears the character of the savage nearly as distinctly impressed on it. On the summit of Knock-Ferril, a steep hill which rises a few miles to the west of Dingwall, there are the remains of one of those vitrified forts which so puzzle and interest the antiquary; and which was originally constructed, says tradition, by a gigantic tribe of Fions, for the protection of their wives and children, when they themselves were engaged in hunting. From 'Scenes and legends of the north of Scotland, or The traditional history of Cromarty,' by Hugh Miller (1835).
It chanced in one of their excursions that a mean-spirited little fellow of the party, not much more than fifteen feet in height, was so distanced by his more active brethren, that, leaving them to follow out the chase, he returned home, and throwing himself down, much fatigued, on the side of the eminence, fell fast asleep. Garry, for so the unlucky hunter was called, was no favourite with the women of the tribe; - he was spiritless and diminutive, and ill tempered; and as they could make little else of him that they cared for, they converted him into the butt of all their severer joke, and less agreeable humours. On seeing that he had fallen asleep they stole out to where he lay, and after fastening his long hair with pegs to the grass, awakened him with their shouts and their laughter. He strove to extricate himself, but in vain; until at length infuriated by their gibes, and the pain of his own exertions, he wrenched up his head, leaving half his locks behind him, and hurrying after them, set fire to the stronghold into which they had rushed for shelter. The flames rose till they mounted over the roof, and broke out at every slit and opening; but Garry, unmoved by the shrieks and groans of the sufferers within, held fast the door until all was silent; when he fled into the remote Highlands, towards the west.
The males of the tribe, who had, meanwhile, been engaged in hunting on that part of the northern Sutor which bears the name of the hill of Nig, -- alarmed by the vast column of smoke which they saw ascending from their dwelling, came pressing to the frith of Cromarty, and leaping across on their hunting spears, they hurried home. But they arrived to find only a huge pile of embers in which the very stones of the building were sputtering and bubbling with the intense heat like the contents of a boiling caldron. Wild with rage and astonishment, and yet collected enough to conclude that none but Garry could be the author of a deed so barbarous, they tracked him into a nameless Highland glen, which has ever since been known as Glen-Garry, and there tore him to pieces. And as all the women of the tribe had perished in the flames, there was an end, when this forlorn and widowed generation had passed away, to the whole race of the Fions.
Posted by Rhiannon
11th November 2011ce
Edited 11th November 2011ce