exploring stories, traditions, and folklore from Scotland

The Tale of Whuppity Stoorie

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the toon o’ Kittlerumpit in the debatable lands, a goodman lived in a wee hoose wae his wife and bairn. One mornin’ the goodman telt his wife that he wis goin’ tae the fair. He kissed her goodbye and set aff, and he wis never seen again. His poor wife wis left wae very little, and wae the bairn tae look after she wis fair in a fash. Her neighbours were aw sorry fer her, but naebody helped her. Her only consolation wis her sow, fer it wis soon tae farrow and she hoped fer a good litter.

One mornin’ the goodwife took her bairn oot tae the sty tae fill the sow’s trough, and whit should she find but the poor sow lyin’ oan her back, gruntin’ and groanin’ and ready tae gie up the ghost. This wis a new pang tae the goodwife’s heart, and she sat doon on the knockin’ stane wae her bairn oan her knee, and she gret sorer than she ever had fer the loss o’ her goodman.

Noo the hoose at Kittlerumpit wis built oan a brae, wae a large fir wood ahind it, and the goodwife, when she wis wipin’ her eyes, looked doon the brae, and whit should she see there but an auld wummin comin’ up the road. She wis dressed aw in green and hud a walkin’ staff as long as hersel’ in her haun. The goodwife stood up and made a curtsy, wipin’ away her tears.

“Ah think ah must be the maist unfortunate lassie alive,” the goodwife said.

“Dinnae gie me aw yer pipers news and fiddlers tales, goodwife” the auld wummin telt her. “I ken yev lost yer goodman and that yer sow is sick, but we hud worse losses at Sherrifmuir. Whit wid ye gie me if I cure the sow?”

 “Ah’d gie ye anythin’! Anythin’ at aw!” the goodwife exclaimed.

The auld wummin wis fair pleased wae that, and she looked at the sow wae a long stare and began tae mutter tae hersel’ whit the goodwife couldnae understand, but it sounded like ‘pitter patter, holy watter,’ and the auld wummin took a wee bottle ootae her pocket. She tipped the bottle upside doon ontae her finger and rubbed the sow wae it above the snout, ahind the ears, and oan the tip o’ its tail.

“Get up, beast,” she said tae the sow, and nae sooner said than done, the sow jumped up wae a grunt and went aff tae her trough fer her breakfast.

The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit wis fair chuffed, and she wid hae kissed the very hem o’ the auld wummin’s gown, but the auld wummin wouldnae let her.

“Ah’m naw fond o’ ceremony,” the auld wummin said, “but noo that ah’ve righted yer sick beast let us end oor settled bargain. Ah’m no an unreasonable bodie, and ah’m naw greedy. Ah like ever tae dae a good turn fer a wee reward. Aw that ah ask, and aw ah will huv, is that bairn at yer bosom.”

The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit gret like a stuck swine, and prayed and cried and begged and scolded, but it wouldnae do.

“Ye kin spare yer din, screamin’ as if ah wis deef as a doornail,” the auld wummin said. “But this ah’ll let ye know: ah cannae, by the law we live under, take yer bairn until the third day frae noo, and not then if ye can tell me ma right name.”

And wae that, the auld wummin set aff.

The goodwife couldnae sleep that night fer greetin’, and aw the same the next day, cuddlin’ her bairn till she nearly squeezed its breath oot. The day efter that, she took her bairn in her arms and set oot fer a walk in the fir wood. She wandered far intae the trees where there wis an auld quarry hole, grown o’er wae grass.

Afore she came near, she heard the whirrin’ o’ a flax wheel, and a voice singin’ a song. The goodwife crept quietly through the bushes, haudin’ tight tae her bairn, and peeped o’er the brow o’ the quarry. There sat the auld wummin, tearin’ away at her wheel and singin’ tae hersel:

“Little kens oor guid dame at hame,
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.”

The goodwife wis well pleased wae hersel when she heard that, and she crept away fae the quarry and set aff hame.

The next day wis the third day, and the goodwife took up her seat oan the knockin’ stone and waited fer the auld wummin tae come fer her bairn.  She wisnae waitin’ long afore the auld wummin came up o’er the brae, aw in her green.

“Goodwife of Kittlerumpit, you know well whit ah come fer,” she called.

The goodwife put on her greetin’ and fell tae her knees, sayin’ “Och sweet madam mistress, spare ma only bairn! Take ma sow instead!”

The auld wummin laughed. “Ah didnae come here fer a slice o’ pork! The deil can take yer pig, gie me the bairn!”

The goodwife wrung her hauns and said, “Spare ma only bairn! Take me instead!”

The auld wummin laughed. “Ye’ve a face like the far end ae a fiddle! Who in aw the earthly world wae half an eye in his heid wid ever meddle wi’ ye?”

Well, the goodwife stood up aff her knees and made a curtsy right doon tae the ground and said, “I should huv ken that the likes o’ me widnae be guid enough tae even tie the shoelaces o’ the high and mighty Whuppity Stoorie!”

At the sound o’ her name, the auld wummin shrieked and shot up intae the air in a great puff o’ smoke, then came doon wae a thump. She spun on her heel and birled aroon’ and ran aff doon the brae, screechin’ wae rage. The goodwife o’ Kittlerumpit laughed till she wis like tae split, and she took up her bairn and went back tae her wee hoose where they lived a long and happy life, and if they’re no deid, they’re livin’ yet.

First collected by Robert Chambers in Popular Rhymes of Scotland, 1826.