Last updated

A Thrummy-cap is a character in Scottish folklore, that appears in many tales. It may have been invented by John Burness in his 1796 Thrummy Cap, A Legend of the Castle of Fiddes.


The poetic tale, Thrummy Cap, A Legend of the Castle of Fiddes (1796), written by John Burness (cousin of Robert Burns), was popular during the 19th century in the northeast of Scotland - it may be that Burness invented the legend. The name of the tale "Thrummy Cap" holds the name of one of its protagonists. Thrummy Cap encounters a ghost identical to himself (see also Doppelganger). This ghost shows Thrummy where the castle deeds are, which he had stolen from the Laird. This tale employs the restless ghost motif. [1]

"Thrummy cap" was the name of a ghost in another legend in Methil. [2] In the Methil tale, Thrummy Cap haunts a building at the harbor head - this was said to be the ghost of a wood merchant or carpenter, who was not paid for his work, and consequently drowned himself in Methil harbor, and took to haunting the building. [3]

Additionally "thrummy cap" was a nickname for the devil. [4]

In his 1848 Dictionary of Archaic & Provincial Words, James Halliwell-Philipps claimed the term was from Northumbrian fairy tales, and referred to a "queer-looking little auld man" with exploits taking place in vaults or cellars of old castles. [5] "Thrummy Caps" also appear in Michael Aislabie Denham's 1850s list of spirits and fairies - in which Denham makes an unclear reference to the "Thrummy Hills" near Catterick, and also repeats the claim of it appearing in Northumbrian folktales. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Andrew Lang Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic (1844–1912)

Andrew Lang was a Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology. He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. The Andrew Lang lectures at the University of St Andrews are named after him.

Will-o-the-wisp Atmospheric ghost lights

In folklore, a will-o'-the-wisp, will-o'-wisp or ignis fatuus, is an atmospheric ghost light seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. The phenomenon is known in English folk belief, English folklore and much of European folklore by a variety of names, including jack-o'-lantern, friar's lantern, hinkypunk and hobby lantern and is said to mislead travellers by resembling a flickering lamp or lantern. In literature, will-o'-the-wisp metaphorically refers to a hope or goal that leads one on but is impossible to reach or something one finds sinister and weird.

Kelpie Shape-shifting water spirit in Scottish folklore

A kelpie, or water kelpie, is a shape-shifting spirit inhabiting lochs in Scottish folklore. It is a Celtic legend; however, analogues exist in other cultures. It is usually described as a black horse-like creature, able to adopt human form. Some accounts state that the kelpie retains its hooves when appearing as a human, leading to its association with the Christian idea of Satan as alluded to by Robert Burns in his 1786 poem "Address to the Devil".

The redcap is a type of malevolent, murderous goblin found in Border folklore. He is said to inhabit ruined castles along the Anglo-Scottish border, especially those that were the scenes of tyranny or wicked deeds and is known for soaking his cap in the blood of his victims. He is also known as Redcomb and Bloody Cap.


Merrow is a mermaid or merman in Irish folklore. The term is of Hiberno-English origin.

The word hobbit was used by J. R. R. Tolkien as the name of a race of small humanoids in his fantasy fiction, the first published being The Hobbit in 1937. The Oxford English Dictionary, which added an entry for the word in the 1970s, credits Tolkien with coining it. Since then, however, it has been noted that there is prior evidence of the word, in a 19th-century list of legendary creatures. In 1971, Tolkien stated that he remembered making up the word himself, admitting that there was nothing but his "nude parole" to support the claim that he was uninfluenced by such similar words as hobgoblin.

Nuckelavee Horse-like demon from Orcadian mythology

The nuckelavee or nuckalavee is a horse-like demon from Orcadian mythology that combines equine and human elements. It has its origins in Norse mythology, and British folklorist Katharine Briggs called it "the nastiest" of all the demons of Scotland's Northern Isles. The nuckelavee's breath was thought to wilt crops and sicken livestock, and the creature was held responsible for droughts and epidemics on land despite being predominantly a sea-dweller.

The Denham Tracts constitute a publication of a series of pamphlets and jottings on folklore, fifty-four in all, collected between 1846 and 1859 by Michael Aislabie Denham, a Yorkshire tradesman. Most of the original tracts were published with fifty copies. The tracts were later re-edited by James Hardy for the Folklore Society and imprinted in two volumes in 1892 and 1895. It is possible that J.R.R. Tolkien took the word hobbit from the list of fairies in the Denham Tracts.

Katharine Mary Briggs was a British folklorist and writer, who wrote The Anatomy of Puck, the four-volume A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, and various other books on fairies and folklore. From 1969 to 1972, she was president of the Folklore Society, which established an award in her name to commemorate her life and work.

The glaistig is a ghost from Scottish mythology, a type of fuath. It is also known as maighdean uaine, and may appear as a woman of beauty or monstrous mien, as a half-woman and half-goat similar to a faun or satyr, or in the shape of a goat. The lower goat half of her hybrid form is usually disguised by a long, flowing green robe or dress, and the woman often appears grey with long yellow hair. A sighting of the glaistig is rare, but the loud cries and wails would often be heard.

Black dog (folklore) Mythical creature of British folklore

The black dog is a supernatural, spectral or demonic entity from English folklore. It is usually unnaturally large with glowing red or yellow eyes, is often connected with the Devil, and is sometimes an omen of death. It is sometimes associated with electrical storms, and also with crossroads, barrows, places of execution and ancient pathways.

The Castle of Fiddes is a 16th-century tower house in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, located around 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south-west of Stonehaven. It is dated 1592 on a window lintel, with a later date of 1673 on the east wall suggesting a renovation at this time. It was the property of the Arbuthnott family, who sold it in the later 17th century to the Thomson family of Arduthie. It was modernised around 1930 and remains occupied. It is a category A listed building.

Goblin Mythical creature

A goblin is a monstrous creature that appears in the folklore of multiple European cultures, first attested in stories from the Middle Ages. They are ascribed conflicting abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. They are almost always small and grotesque, mischievous or outright malicious, and greedy, especially for gold and jewelry. They often have magical abilities similar to a fairy or demon. Similar creatures include brownies, dwarfs, duendes, gnomes, imps, and kobolds.

The water bull, also known as tarbh uisge in Scottish Gaelic, is a mythological Scottish creature similar to the Manx tarroo ushtey. Generally regarded as a nocturnal resident of moorland lochs, it is usually more amiable than its equine counterpart the water horse, but has similar amphibious and shapeshifting abilities.

John Gregorson Campbell Scottish minister and folklorist

John Gregorson Campbell was a Scottish folklorist and Free Church minister at the Tiree and Coll parishes in Argyll, Scotland. An avid collector of traditional stories, he became Secretary to the Ossianic Society of Glasgow University in the mid-1850s. Ill health had prevented him taking up employment as a Minister when he was initially approved to preach by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1858 and later after he was appointed to Tiree by the Duke of Argyll in 1861, parishioners objected to his manner of preaching.

Blue men of the Minch Scottish mythological creatures

The blue men of the Minch, also known as storm kelpies, are mythological creatures inhabiting the stretch of water between the northern Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland, looking for sailors to drown and stricken boats to sink. They appear to be localised to the Minch and surrounding areas to the north and as far east as Wick, unknown in other parts of Scotland and without counterparts in the rest of the world.

Stoor worm Sea serpent of Orcadian folklore

The stoor worm, or Mester Stoor Worm, was a gigantic evil sea serpent of Orcadian folklore, capable of contaminating plants and destroying animals and humans with its putrid breath. It is probably an Orkney variant of the Norse Jörmungandr, also known as the Midgard Serpent, or world serpent, and has been described as a sea dragon.

Assipattle and the Stoor Worm

Assipattle and the Stoor Worm is an Orcadian folktale relating the battle between the eponymous hero and a gigantic sea serpent known as the stoor worm. The tale was preserved by 19th-century antiquarian Walter Traill Dennison, and retold by another Orcadian folklorist, Ernest Marwick, in a 20th-century version that integrates Dennison's texts with tidbits from other oral storytellers.

Jennifer Westwood was a British author, broadcaster and folklorist. She was a Doctor of Philosophy with special interests in English Language, Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse. Her first book, Mediaeval Tales, was published in 1968. An active committee member of The Folklore Society from 1987 until 2003, she undertook a variety of duties including editing its publications and helping other authors. As a broadcaster, she worked on programmes produced for BBC Radio 4 and the corporation's Radio Norfolk. Commonly known as "Jen", after her second marriage she also authored books in the name of Jennifer Chandler.

Fairy cup legends are folk and other tales usually relating to the theft of a 'fairy cup', sometimes in the form of a drinking horn, usually from a 'fairy mound'. They are found in parts of northwestern Europe.


  1. Westwood & Kingshill 2009, pp. 317–320.
  2. Westwood & Kingshill 2009, pp. 96–97.
  3. Farnie, Henry Brougham (1860), The Fife coast from Queensferry to Fifeness, pp. 112–3
  4. Westwood & Kingshill 2009, p. 317.
  5. Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard (1848), A Dictionary of Archaic & Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs & Ancient Customs, Form the Fourteenth Century, 2 (J-Z), p. 871, hdl:2027/hvd.32044100003607
  6. Hardy, James, ed. (1895), The Denham tracts : A Collection of Folklore by Michael Aislabie Denham, and reprinted from the original tracts and pamphlets printed by Mr. Denham between 1846 and 1859, 2, Folklore Society, p. 79