The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 7/John Glaick, the Brave Tailor

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THE following tale has been given me by Mr. W. Copland, schoolmaster, Tortorston, near Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. He learned it forty-five years ago from his father, who was seventy years of age, and lived in Strichen, a village in the parish of the same name in the north-east of Aberdeenshire. The reader will see that it is not told in the dialect of the district.

John Glaick was a tailor by trade, but like a man of spirit he grew tired of his tailoring, and wished to follow some other path that would lead to honour and fame. This wish showed itself at first rather in dislike to work of all kinds than in any fixed line of action, and for a time he was fonder of basking idly in the sun than in plying the needle and scissors. One warm day as he was enjoying his ease, he was annoyed by the flies alighting on his bare ankles. He brought his hand down on them with force and killed a goodly number of the plague. On counting the victims of his valour, he was overjoyed at his success; his heart rose to the doing of great deeds, and he gave Vent to his feelings in the saying:—

"Weel done! John Glaick.
Killt fifty flees (flies) at ae straik."

His resolution was now taken to cut out his path to fortune and honour. So he took down from its resting-place a rusty old sword that had belonged to some of his forebears, and set out in search of adventures. After travelling a long way, he came to a country that was much troubled by two giants, whom no one was bold enough to meet, and strong enough to overcome. He was soon told of the giants, and learned that the king of the country had offered a great reward and the hand of his daughter in marriage to the man who should rid his land of this scourge. John's heart rose to the deed, and he offered himself for the service. The great haunt of the giants was a wood, and John set out with his old sword to perform his task. When he reached the wood, he laid himself down to think what course he would follow, for he knew how weak he was compared to those he had undertaken to kill. He had not waited long, when he saw them coming with a waggon to fetch wood for fuel. He hurriedly hid himself in the hollow of a tree, thinking only of his own safety. Feeling himself safe, he peeped out of his hiding-place, and watched the two at work. Thus watching he formed his plan of action. He picked up a pebble, threw it with force at one of them, and struck him a sharp blow on the head. The giant in his pain turned at once on his companion, and blamed him in strong words for hitting him. The other denied in anger that he had thrown the pebble. John now saw himself on the highway to gain his reward and the hand of the king's daughter. He kept still, and carefully watched for an opportunity of striking another blow. He soon found it, and right against the giant's head went another pebble. The injured giant fell on his companion in fury, and the two belaboured each other till they were utterly tired out. They sat down on a log to breathe, rest, and recover themselves. While sitting, one of them said, "Well, all the king's army was not able to take us, but I fear an old woman with a rope's end would be too much for us now." "If that be so," said John Glaick, as he sprang, bold as a lion, from his hiding place, "What do you say to John Glaick wi' his aul roosty soord ?" So saying, he fell upon them, cut off their heads, and returned in triumph. He received the king's daughter in marriage and for a time lived in peace and happiness. He never told the mode he followed in his dealing with the giants.

Some time after a rebellion broke out among the subjects of his father-in-law. John, on the strength of his former valiant deed, was chosen to quell the rebellion. His heart sank within him, but he could not refuse, and so lose his great name. He was mounted on the fiercest horse that "ever saw sun or wind," and set out on his desperate task. He was not accustomed to ride on horseback, and he soon lost all control of his fiery steed. It galloped off at full speed, but, fortunately, in the direction of the rebel army. In its wild career it passed under the gallows that stood by the wayside. The gallows was somewhat old and frail, and down it fell on the horse's neck. Still no stop, but always forward at furious speed towards the rebels. On seeing this strange sight approaching towards them at such a speed they were seized with terror, and cried out to one another, "There comes John Glaick that killed the two giants with the gallows on his horse's neck to hang us all." They broke their ranks, fled in dismay, and never stopped till they reached their homes. Thus was John Glaick a second time victorious. Happily he was not put to a third test. In due time he came to the throne and lived a long, happy, and good life as king.

Walter Gregor.