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  • Writer's pictureGreg Stewart

The Fairy Minister of Aberfoyle

The Reverend Kirk could be viewed as one who overcame the odds in several challenges through his life. The 7th son of the minister James Kirk, he was raised in poverty yet still went on to study at both St. Andrews and Edinburgh Universities. He translated religious works into Gaelic and in the 1680's he was called to London to oversee the final stages of a 10 year project to create the Gaelic Bible. Yet there was one challenge that some feel led to his ultimate demise.

The belief in what are now seen as mythical creatures remained strong at that time, and having had his own encounter with what he believed to have been a fairy, the Reverend Kirk was keen to explore these beings in more detail. Against the will of the church, he believed that by understanding what they truly were, he could incorporate these elemental type beings into the Christian belief system.

Kirk spent a considerable amount of time collecting eye witness reports from those who claimed to have had encounters, and through his research formulated a theory that fairies, or Siths, were of middle nature, somewhere between man and angel. He surmised that they were intelligent spirits of a fluid nature, which allowed them to change their appearance and to appear and disappear at will. He would go on to liken them to what others referred to as astral beings.

It is important to add at this point, that in Scottish Tradition, Fairies, or Faeries, are not the loveable little winged creatures making wishes come true popularised by various movies. Instead, they are quite the opposite. Some believe that the faeries were born from spirits too bad to go to Heaven yet too good to go to Hell, and so were stuck on the earth plane. They created secret kingdoms below the ground, mostly in hills, where they live at peace, rarely interacting with humans, other than to cause mischief or when their kingdoms and under threat. This is said to have been Reverend Kirk's downfall.

He completed his studies in 1691, however, as he prepared them for publication, tragedy struck. Reverend Kirk would often go for a walk on Doon Hill in the evening, a place where he believed there was an entrance to a fairy Kingdom. One evening in May, 1692, he went for his evening walk but did not return. He was found unconscious on Doon Hill and brought back to the manse where he passed away soon after, having never regained consciousness. While his death could have been caused by a sudden illness such as a heart attack, the locals suspected there was foul play and that the fairies had been angry that he was about to reveal some of their secrets, and so took his soul prisoner.

To add to this suspicion, it is said that the spirit of Robert Kirk appeared shortly after to his brother and said he was being held captive by the Fairies. His wife was pregnant at the time, and he told his brother that he would again visit him during the christening and that if he threw an iron dagger over the kirk at that time, it would release his spirit. Unfortunately it seems his brother was too scared to carry out this request, and the Reverend's soul remained trapped.

His writings were later discovered and, with the help of Sir Walter Scott, they were published in 1815 under the title 'The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies'. With the book still available today, many people still visit the Fairy Knowe of Doon Hill, and leave ribbons and gifts as offerings to the fairies, particularly around a pine tree known locally as the Minister's Pine, which is said to still contain the Reverend Kirk's soul.

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