British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Dundreggan

Dundreggan

Dundreggan is said to mean the dun of the great beast or dragon. It may have been called this because the skeleton of some huge prehistoric creature was found here. One legend tells that this was the site of a great battle between a dragon and Fingal, who finally slew the reptile and buried it here where it fell, with the help of his dog Bran.

A 'dun' is an archaeological term for a small stone-walled defensive homestead of the Iron Age, found mostly in western and central Scotland. Many such sites have become grown over and are now grassy hillocks, but in some cases stones are visible and in others it has been discovered through excavation that there are structures beneath the surface: it is therefore a common tradition that these are dwellings of the fairies.

Dundreggan is one such fairy mound. The elves who lives here were always anxious to carry off the mothers of newborn babies, to act as wet nurses to their own children. It is told that Ewan MacDonald of Dundreggan was out seeing to his livestock on the same night as his wife had their first born son. A sudden gust of wind passed by and as it shook him he thought he heard in it the sigh of his wife, just as she had sighed before their child was born. Recognizing the sound, he flung his knife into the wind in the name of the Holy Trinity, and his wife dropped safely to the ground beside him.

Sometimes women were taken as wet nurses along with their own newborn babies. One night, a man out late on the hillside heard a plaintive singing coming from the knoll of Dundreggan. Stopping to listen, he heard a woman's voice singing over and over:

'I am the wife of the laird of Balmain,
The Folk have stolen me over again.'

He hurried to the laird's house, where he learned that the laird himself was away and his wife and baby son were indeed missing.

Worried by what he heard at Dundreggan, he went to find a priest, who duly came back with him to the knoll, blessed it, and sprinkled it with holy water. Suddenly there was a noise like thunder, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and they saw the laird's wife lying on the grass with her own baby in her arms. She had no idea of how she had got there, but was as weary as if she had come a long distance.