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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

Of faeries and candles . . .

It is said in Scotland that misfortune will follow those who give away gifts from the fairies. But, when a man is forced to choose loyalty to his friends over the fairies’ gifts, what is he to do?

John Macqueen, known as “Black John of Pollochaig,” was faced with just such a dilemma. The Macqueens of Pollochaig, which means “Pool of the Little Black One,” had always been favorites of the fairy folk, and in times before Black John, the fairies of Strathdearn had given the Macqueens three magic candles. The candles were talismans of great virtue. Supposedly, it was the parting of the candles, the generation previous to Dugal McQueen, that brought destruction upon the McQueens of Pollachaig.

Two versions of the story exist. One involves the beautiful wife of Mackintosh of Daviot who was supposedly stolen by the fairies and was hidden in their banqueting chamber. The wise men of the country declared that the only way of entering the chamber was by the use of the Macqueen “magic” candles. The other story involves the wife of a humble McGillivray clansmen. In both versions, "Black John” Macqueen was reluctantly convinced to use the candles to light the way into the hillock. In the second version, he loses first one candle, and then the other, and finally the last before the lady is rescued and given back to her husband.

In both stories, Macqueen paid dearly as he had expected. Having parted with a gift from the fairies, the house at Pollochaig was beset with one bad fortune after another. Dugal, possibly Black John's son (but for sure his grandson or great-grandson) was taken prisoner after the Battle of Preston and banished to the colonies. Even the house at Pollochaig later fell to ruins.

But one man’s misfortune is another man’s gain. Dugal McQueen, as stated before, did well for himself in the colonies, and he never chose to go back to Scotland.

The fairies, it seemed, didn’t get the last laugh after all.

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