4th January

Cannibal Lassie

The Glack of Newtyle is a long, narrow, twisting defile between the hills of Hatton and Newtyle in Angus. It runs south to north from the high ground of the Sidlaws down to the rich, fertile land of Strathmore. The Glack has always been a place of uncertainty, and sometimes of danger for the unwary. Today, especially on early winter mornings when the sun has not penetrated its gloomy bends to melt black ice, or at night when deer haunt the trees that line its many bends, it catches out drivers who have their minds on something other than the road – the over-confident, the careless or weary. Broken fences and the debris of smashed vehicles in the ditches are testimony to these not infrequent mishaps. But centuries ago, according to legend and chronicle, the Glack harboured perils of a more horrific kind.

A cannibal and his family had their lair nearby, and would lie in wait for travellers making the journey from Dundee northwards. Men, women and children alike were taken and devoured – the younger the victim, it was said, the more tender and sweet did they judge the flesh. At last these depredations could be tolerated no longer, a force was assembled and the ‘brigant’ and his wife and offspring were captured and burned, with the exception of a daughter who was only one year old at the time. She was brought to Dundee and raised and fostered there till she came to womanhood. Then she too was condemned to be burned, though whether for having participated in her family’s crimes as an infant or because she had reoffended is not clear.

A huge crowd, mostly of women, cursed her and spat on her as she was led to the place of execution in the Seagate. The lassie turned on them angrily. ‘Why do you chide me so, as if I had committed some unworthy act?’ she cried. ‘Believe me, if you had experience of eating the flesh of men and women, you would think it so delicious that you would never forbear it again.’

So, says the chronicler, without any sign of repentance this unhappy traitor died in the sight of the people.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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