THE WEE MANNIE


"brew wifie, brew1"

A GRATEFUL FAIRY

The old Mannoch road in Moray is an ancient route that winds for 12 bleak miles from Knockando northwards to Birnie and Elgin. Over the centuries the road has been used by drovers, travellers, bands of highland caterans and whisky smugglers. Just to the north of Mannoch cottage the road passes by the Shean o Mannoch, the largest of the many Fairy Knowes to be found in the area between Knockando and Dallas.

Sheans were often home to the mysterious wee folk, or fairys, who lived in many parts of Scotland. They had little contact with the local population and were in the main deemed to be benevolent, gentle and fun loving craturs.

On Whitsunday in the year 1811, a local man, John Cummings of Wester Elchies entered into a 19 – year lease of Cardhu Farm, on the slopes of Mannoch Hill where the peaty ground softened the water that John, and his wife, Helen, used in the production of a rather nice whisky which they made every year after the harvest was gathered in. 

So popular was their produce that Helen would often walk, barefooted, up the Mannoch road to Elgin where there was a drouthy and eager market for the whisky that she carried with her. Helen would also sell bottles through the farmhouse window to the good folk of upper and lower Knockando as well as travellers on the Mannoch road.

The Authorities however had a very dim view of the illicit whisky trade in Speyside and John was convicted three times for illegal distilling. Helen kept an ever watchful eye open for any signs of the excise men who scoured Speyside in an attempt to put an end to the trade.

One bitterly cold winter’s night a blizzard was howling about  Carn na Cailliche and the Mannoch road as Helen was making the whisky. To her surprise she heard a faint knocking at the door of the farmhouse. Warily, she opened the door slightly, then fully, to allow the wee mannie standing outside to enter.

The man cut a miserable little figure as he crouched by the fireside, his coarse woollen clothing was soaked and was soon steaming in the welcoming heat of the peat fire. Snow melting from his woollen bonnet and the tiny shoulders of his coat gathered in little pools around his feet that were clad in what looked like rabbit fur boots.

Concerned for her unexpected guest, Helen filled a wooden quaich with her Cardhu whisky and offered it to the man who grasped it eagerly in his still frozen little hands.

“ whaur are ye frae?  whaur dae ye bide? “ asked Helen as her curious  wee guest eagerly accepted the wooden quaich full of whisky.

“The Shean o Mannoch !”   exclaimed  the wee mannie before  draining his whisky in one gulp and then throwing the empty quaich into the fire. The fairy, for fairy he was, stood and looked at Helen with a cheery smile and a twinkle in his eyes before blessing her with the words:

“ brew wifie, brew ! – for you and yours will never want !”

The unexpected guest then left the farmhouse and a bemused Helen watched as the wee, bedraggled figure faded into the dense blizzard, headed in the direction of the Shean.

As the years passed the fairy blessing  was seen to come  true as the distillery became licensed and their  business  expanded until the family sold it on to a major distilling company many years later.