I thought I'd begin this series with a Scottish tale, from a collection of Celtic stories published by Joseph Jacobs in 1892.
The story concerns a tailor who is commissioned by the Chief of the MacDonald Clan to make a pair of trews, whilst spending the night in a haunted church. Trews ("Triubhas" in Scottish Gaelic) are tartan trousers trimmed with buckskin, traditionally worn as part of Highland Dress during the winter months or for horseback riding, for which a kilt would be...em...impractical. Often, trews consisted of trousers and a vest, sewn into one piece.
Portrait of Sir John Sinclair (sporting a pair of trews) by Henry Raeburn.
Note the buckskin cuffs and inseam.
Note the buckskin cuffs and inseam.
Saddell Castle was built between 1508 and 1512 from the ruins of Saddell Abbey. It was the seat of the Clan MacDonald for a hundred years, and still stands near the shore of Kilbrannan Sound, near Saddell, Kyntire, in Argyle and Bute.
Saddell Castle 2012 by Hchc2009, Courtesey Wikimedia Commons
I'm not certain about the hand print that appears at the end of the tale, but perhaps Debi and I will visit the Castle and see for ourselves. For now, without further ado, I give you Tuesday Tales:
The Sprightly Tailor Illustration by John D. Batten
He worked nimbly well past nightfall, when at the stroke of midnight, the air around him grew exceedingly chill, and the candle flickered wildly. The ground began to tremble beneath him and he looked up in fright to see a great spectral head rising up from the stone floor of the church. The eyes of the spirit bore through the tailor and his blood ran cold with fright. A great, booming voice addressed him: "Do you see this great head of mine?" The tailor was frightened but the promise of the reward stilled his nerves and he returned to his stitches. "I see that," he replied "but I'll sew this!"
The spectre continued to rise from the floor and soon the head and neck were visible. The voice erupted once again "do you see this great neck of mine?" And again the sprightly tailor answered, "I see that, but I'll sew this!" His fingers were shaking but he deftly stitched the seam of the trews, working as quickly as he could. The head and shoulders were now looming above him. The giant apparition spoke again: "do you see my great shoulders?" The sprightly tailor continued stitching at a faster clip and again answered, "yes, I see them but I'll sew this!"
In little time the spectre's chest, then waist, and thigh emerged, and each time the ghost questioned the tailor and each time he answered. He was nearly petrified with fright but continued to sew faster and faster, thinking only of the reward that awaited him. The giant began to raise a leg from beneath the stone floor just as the tailor finished the final stitches. The sprightly tailor lept up, blew out his candle and fled from the haunted church as fast as his long legs would carry him.
The giant ghost emerged from the floor and with a blood-curdling howl, pursued the tailor, who clutched his finished tartan trews for dear life as he fled down the glen to the castle, thinking only of the great reward that awaited him if he lived to present the finished trews to the Chieftain. Soon he saw the gate of the castle and doubled his speed. The monster roared for him to stop but the sprightly tailor fled fast as a jack rabbit into the safety of the gate, which was hastily lowered before the ghoul could gain passage. The monster roared with rage at the escape of its quarry and slammed its mighty fist into the castle wall just above the gate. You may still see the giant's hand print, if you'll only look hard enough.
The sprightly tailor presented the trews to the Laird and gained his well-earned reward, for The Great Macdonald paid the tailor well, never noticing that many of the stitches were exceptionally long.