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An excerpt from
A Chapter on the Superstitious Stories of the Highlanders
by Mary Cameron MacKellar
Celtic Magazine
February 1877

There is no subject that has given so much play to the fancy of the Highlanders as the sort of hide-and-seek game the spirits of the dead seem to play among the living; in fact, the more illiterate part of the peasantry seem to dwell on the very borders of the unseen land, and the severing veil appears to be a most shadowy one.  And though there is something more poetic in the imagination that peoples the mountains and glens with spirits visitant than in the more material Sadduceeisn of the southron, yet, we know the eye that sees double is diseased as well as the one whose vision is dim.  If a "reverend grannie" - in the last degree superstitious - heard in the south a "rustling" or "groaning" among the "boortrees" whilst at her prayers in the darkness, she would at once conclude it was the devil; but a Highland woman would be much more apt to think it was the ghost of some one departed, who had wrongs unrevealed or unavenged, or died with some secret locked in his or her soul.  And there live at this day in the Highlands hundreds of brave stalwart men who would fight fearlessly upon a battlefield, but who would shiver and quake like an aspen on a lonely road at night if they heard the scream of a seabird, or if a dog crossed their path, if a meteor was seen to flash over the heavens, or a light was seen glimmering in the distance.  Nor are the visits of the departed expected always to be confined to lonely places, for I have seen faces pale if an unexpected rap came to the door after dusk, and to pass a burying-ground at night alone is not considered brave but daring and foolish.  These nocturnal rangers of moor and fell are not always expected to appear "sheeted" as those who were gibbered in the streets of Rome.  They are generally seen in the clothing and appearance they were wont to have when still in the body, and, as far as I ever learned, their power of inflicting corporeal punishment is increased rather than diminished.  I shall give you some instances of stories firmly believed.

The pretty burying-ground of Cillechoireal, or St. Cyril, is in the braes of Lochaber, and can be seen from the coach that daily runs from Fort William to Kingussie.  It is a lovely spot, the very ideal of a peaceful resting-place to sleep well in "after life's fitful fever"; but there was a time when peace was a stranger there, and the whole countryside was night after night disturbed with the shoutings of unearthly combatants - those who had been enemies rising again under the curtain of night to renew their feuds and fight their battles over again - the clashing of battle-axes and claymores - not to speak of the slashing of the Dochinassie sticks - were heard far and wide.  The breaking of bones, the screams of the vanquished, and the wild fiendish laughter of the victors, made the strongest heart quake, whilst the timed and the fearful were almost dead with terror.  This state of matters went on for a considerable length of time until at last one dark stormy night matters came to a crisis.  Women shrieked with terror in their homes, and strong men could only pray and cross themselves.  It seemed as if all who had ever been buried there were up and at it.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last,
The rattlin' showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleam the darkness swallowed -
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellowed.

But above the bellowing of the thunder, the rattling of the showers, and blowing of the raging wind, came the shrieks of that "hellish legion" and the noise of their demoniac warfare.

At length one man stronger in faith than his neighbors volunteered to go for the priest, for he could no longer bear to see the state of terror in which his wife and daughters were, and he feared they might even die before these awful hosts would "scent the morning air."
Sic a night be took the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

And his brave heart was duly rewarded, for he got safe to the priest's house, and told his tale in eager haste.  The priest, who was a very holy man, set out for the scene of the dreadful melee.  In crossing the River Spean, the man carried the clergyman on his back, and when they got to the further shore, he took one of his shoes and made holy water in it, and after many prayers, he went alone to the burying-ground, leaving the messenger in a state of terror at the river-side.  In "that hour o' nicht's black arch of the keystone," the priest bravely entered the scene of unholy warfare, and he reconsecrated the place amidst the yells of the vanishing spectres, and from that day to this, silence reigns in Cillechoireal: "and there at peace the ashes mix of those who once were foes."  And the respectable and sensitive man who told me this tale, and who believed in it himself most devoutly, lies now there asleep quietly with his ancestors.