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February 6th 1904

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Alec Stewart, the travelling storyteller

Alec Stewart, like Belle Stewart whom he later married, was a traveller. He was born in Toutie Street in Alyth in 1904. He died in Rattray in 1980. Like many travellers, Alec was a born storyteller. His tale of ‘The Miller and his Daughter’ is one example of many.

Once upon a time there was a miller and his dochter and they stayed on the banks o’ the Ayr. They had a mill and they took corn in and they made it into meal. One day the miller was walkin’ up the banks o’ the river Ayr and just aboot a field-length fae his hoose was the hoose that the laird used tae bide in. Well on this day the laird came walkin’ doon the river and he met the auld miller. “Ah, miller,”  he says. “I see you’re takin’ your walk.” 

“Oh yes,”  the miller says, “I’m takin my walk.” 

“And where is your dochter the day?” 

“Oh she’s warkin I’ the mill.” 

And the laird says, “Is she no thinkin’ aboot getting married yet?” 

“Oh no, not yet,”  he says. “She’s all I’ve got, and I’ve naebody tae look aifter the mill but her.” 

“She’s a very bonnie lassie,”  the laird says. “I wadna mind tae marry her mysel’.” 

“Oh, I dinnae ken her mind,”  the miller says. Well he knew that the lassie was carrying on wi’ a shepherd that bade awa’ in a hoose on the side o’ the hill.

So time rolled on and he met the laird again, and the laird says, “I think I’ll tak’ that dochter o’ yours for a wife.” 

“Na, na,”  says the miller, “ye cannae do that because she’s carryin’ on wi’ the shepherd.” 

“Well,”  says the laird, “I dinnae ken but if you willnae gie me your dochter, I’ll hae tae put ye oot o’ your hoose.” 

“Oh,”  says the miller, “is that so?” 

“I’ll tell ye whit I’ll do,”  the laird says, “I’ll gie ye three guesses and if ye cannae answer the three guesses ye’ll get oot and I’ll tak’ your dochter. But if ye can answer the three guesses ye can stay on in the mill withoot rent, and ye can keep your dochter.” 

“What is the three guesses?”  says the miller.

“Well,”  the laird says, “the first thing ye’ve to tell me is the weight o’ the moon. And the second thing is ye must tell me, hoo many stars is in the heavens. And the next one ye must tell me is what I’m thinkin’ on.” 

“My, my, my,”  the miller says, “they’s terrible three hard ones you’ve given me.” 

“Well,”  the laird says, “ye maun find the answers. If ye cannae guess them I’ll tak the mill fae ye and your dochter as well.” 

So the auld miller he’s awa hame noo, thinkin’ aboot these three guesses. A’ his wark is fa’in behind- the corn was lyin’ there and he could’na hardly do onything. His dochter asked him three-four times whit was wrong wi him, but the auld miller said, “Och, I cannae tell ye. Ye couldnae help me onyway,”  he says.

Well, one day she’s awa up tae the shepherd- that’s the laddie she was carryin’ on wi’ -and she says tae him, “There’s something wrang wi’ my faither. He’s fa’in back wi his wark.” 

“What can be wrang wi him?”  he said.

“I don’t know,”  she says, “I don’t know what’s wrang wi him.” 

So he says, “I’ll come doon when I get my tea and I’ll hae a talk wi him.” 

So the dochter gaed awa back and she’s sitting waitin’ on the shepherd. When he come in, he lookit a’ roond aboot the mill and he seen a’ the corn lyin’ and he says “Whit’s wrang wi ye, miller? Look at a’ this corn lyin’ here.” 

“I dinnae ken whit’s wrang wi me,”  the miller says. “I met the laird up the river and he gied me three things tae dae and I dinnae ken hoo tae get owre it.” 

“Whit things?” 

“Well,”  says the miller, ” the laird wants Annie for to be his wife.” 

“Oh,”  the shepherd says, “he cannae dae that.” 

“He’s gien me three guesses,”  says the miller, “and if I cannae answer them he says he’s gaun tae put me oot o’ the mill and tak’ Annie awa.” 

The shepherd thocht for a while and says, “Tell me the three guesses.” 

“Och,”  he says, “there’s nae use me tellin’ ye, for ye wad never ken them.” 

“Let me hear them onyway,”  the shepherd says. So the miller told him aboot the weight o’ the moon, hoo many stars was in the heavens and what he was thinkin’ of.

“Och,”  the shepherd laddie says, “never mind. Never mind him at a’. Just get on wi the wark. When hae ye tae meet the lairdie?” 

“On Sunday night,”  the miller says, “when its gettin’ gloamin’ dark.” 

“Well, come on and I’ll help ye tae get this corn done.” 

So the shepherd gied him a help and he got the corn grinded and he made his meal. Time rolled by till it came tae Sunday. The shepherd came doon tae the miller’s hoose aboot an hour before he had to meet the laird.

“Miller,”  says the shepherd, “gie me a suit o’ your auld claes and I’ll gang as you.” 

The miller says, “Whit d’ye mean?” 

“Well,”  says the shepherd, “I’ll go in your place if ye give me your claes.” 

So he got the miller’s auld claes on and he’s marchin’ up this riverside wi’ his hands behind his back. And he met the laird, wha was just comin’ doon.

“Ah,”  says the laird. “Ye didnae forget, miller.” 

“Forget what?”  he says.

“Ye didnae forget tae meet me the nicht and tae answer the three guesses.” 

“No,”  he says, “I didnae forget, but I’ve no thocht much aboot them,”  he says. “What was the three guesses again?” 

“Well,”  the laird says, “the first one ye must tell me the weight o’ the moon.” 

“Oh that’s easy told,”  he says. “The weight o’ the moon’s a ton weight. There’s four quarters in the moon and there’s four quarters in a ton.” 

“That’s so,”  the laird says, “but the next one’ll catch ye. Ye cannae tell me hoo many stars is in the heavens.” 

“Och,”  he says “that’s easier done. There are twenty four million, five hundred and fifty thousand. Ye can coont them yersel’ if ye dinnae believe me.” 

“My goodness!”  says the laird, “ye catched me there. But ye’ll no ken the next one.” 

“And what is that,”  he says.

The laird says, “Ye’ll nae ken what I’m thinkin’ o’.” 

“Oh aye,”  he says. “Ye think ye’re speakin’ tae the auld miller, but ye’re speakin’ tae the shepherd.” 

So the miller got the mill, the dochter married the shepherd, and they’re living there still. The last time I was past the hoose I got a cup o’ tea and some breid, and that’s the end o’ my story.

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