Postcards courtesy of Dumfries Museum
Now here is a story - take heed my good friend -
Of a farmer whose life seemed most certain to end
At the hands of a witch in a white *cutty sark
And a warning to those lingering late after dark!
Tam O’Shanter, a farmer, of Scottish renown,
Was travelling home from a neighbouring town,
When he entered an inn for a tankard of ale
And here was the start of a bloodcurdling tale.
Much later than usual he bid them adieu
And what then befell him is thought to be true.
He left in the dark on his trusty old mare
And travelled along without caution or care.
The dark road was lonely as onward they wound,
But, through the chill air, came a curious sound.
In Kirk Alloway graveyard, lights blazed in the night
On some witches and warlocks – a hideous sight!
A bonfire was blazing - flames flickered and curled.
In their feverish frenzy they swirled and they twirled
Tam then saw the devil take on human form,
As wilder and wilder their dance they performed.
Tam noticed a young witch outlined in the dark
Who was dancing and dressed in a white *cutty sark.
This spellbinding beauty quite tugged at his heart
As voluptuous movements quite set her apart.
As those mystical strains lacerated the dark,
Without thinking, Tam called out: "Well done Cutty Sark!”
As his words ripped the heavens the bonfire went out
And the witches and warlocks gave a frightening shout.
In fear for his life, Tam leapt onto his mare
And, with danger around, Meg galloped from there.
With the witches behind her, she moved with great speed
And the sight of the river was their greatest need.
Now young Nannie, the temptress, was close on their trail,
And on reaching the bridge, she caught hold of Meg’s tail
Which, with one mighty wrench, came away in her hand,
But the strength of the water no witch can withstand.
They leapt onto the bridge leaving Nannie behind
Fleeing far from black magic, designed for mankind.
The river had saved them – a narrow escape -
But behind on the banks stood some sinister shapes.
The wind carried ear-piercing, deafening screams,
And, to Tam, his escape seemed the subject of dreams.
This story of witchcraft, of warlocks and flame,
Now lies with the sailing ship bearing the name
Of the petticoat worn by the witch on that night
Who danced with the coven; whose feet then took flight,
And who, by the bridge, where her witchcraft did fail,
Was left, with pursuers, clung fast to Meg’s tail.
Think well, as you raise up that last glass of ale,
Then head for your home, of this cautionary tale.
If you see things abnormal, please keep to your track,
And, with thoughts of your bed, don’t you ever look back.
* A cutty sark is an old Scottish name for a woman’s short petticoat.