13th June

The Last of the Pechts

after Robert Chambers, Popular Rhymes of Scotland, and Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Heather Ale’

The Pechts were a red-haired folk, short but very strong. They had long arms and such wide feet that, when it rained, they could turn them up over their heads as umbrellas.

You can still see the ruins of great castles that the Pechts put up. They would form a long line between the quarry and wherever they wanted to build, and pass the stones along the line until the castle was finished.

The Pechts made an extremely potent ale from heather. Others wanted the recipe for this brew, but it was handed down from father to son as a closely kept secret.

Time passed, and the power of the Pechts declined, until they were finally defeated in a mighty battle by the Scots. Only two Pechts, a father and son, survived. They were brought before the King of Scots, who threatened them with torture if they refused to relinquish the secret of the heather ale. The father, in a quiet word, told the King that he feared torture more than anything, but could not bear to be dishonoured in his son’s eyes. If his son were first put to death, he would hand over the recipe.

The King immediately ordered the son to be killed. As soon as it was done, the father cried out defiantly, ‘Now do your worst to me. It was my son who I feared might relent under torture, but I will never give you the secret.’

The King saw that he had been outwitted, but decided that the greatest punishment he could impose on the father would be to let him live. And so he was held a prisoner, till he was blind and bedridden, and most people had forgotten his existence; but one night, hearing his guards boasting about their feats of strength, he asked from his bed if he could feel one of their wrists, so as to compare it with the wrists of men of his young days. The guards, for a joke, held out an iron bar for him to grasp, and he snapped it in two as if it were the stem of a clay pipe. And that was the last of the Pechts.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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