Reverend Kirk and the Fairy Knowe
Reverend Robert Kirk was born in 1644 and is known for his book "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies" in 1691. In his book Kirk tells stories about folk who had contact to fairies including himself. Kirk also believed that the local Doon Hill was the gateway to the world of the fairies, also described as "The Secret Commonwealth“. The book can has been published and can still be purchased in some bookstores or online (ISBN-10: 0486466116).
As seventh son of reverend James Kirk he served as Episcopal minister in Balquhidder and later as minister of Aberfoyle parish. Even though his parents were very poor, Kirk was able to finish high school and then finish his Master of Arts degree in Edinburgh. Because of a bursary from the Presbytery of Dunblane he could study theology at St Andrews University. Together with his wife Isobel, he had 2 children. After his wife died he married a daughter of Campbell of Fordy.
Reverend Kirk was former resident of the Old Manse which is situated nearby the Fairy Knowe. The same bulding is known for the place where Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous poem “The Lady of the Lake“. The old church in Aberfoyle is situated in an area called Kirkton and therefore also known as Kirkton Church. The church has 2 mort safes (cast iron coffin) which were used to prevent grave robbing. Body snatchers stole corpses and sold them to doctors and medical students.
Reverend Kirk died in 1691 because of unknown circumstances when he went to Doon Hill during the night and collapsed. Some people found him there and brought him home where he died. It is most likely that he suffered a heart attack. It is said that Reverend Kirk actually didn’t die on the hill but was carried away by the fairies. So Reverend Kirk appeared in front of his cousin Graham. He told him that he was not dead and that he would appear at the chrisitianing of Graham’s child. For Reverend Kirk it would be the only way to come back to life. When he appeared, Graham had to throw an iron dagger over Kirk. This would release him from captivity. Graham was too scared though and couldn’t do it. Now it is believed that Reverend Kirk’s soul is still inside a pine tree on Doon Hill.
Besides writing the book about fairies Kirk is also known as the first person who translated the bible into Gaelic. Next to the Kirkton Church near Aberfoyle where Kirk was minister one can find a memorial to Robert Kirk. His walks to Doon hill started usually from the church. Doon hill is also known as “Fairy Knowe” or “Dun Sithean”. Locally the fairies have the name “Sithe”. The fairy walk leads to the conical hill which is situated in a relatively flat landscape by Aberfoyle.
To walk up the Doon Hill you start from the car park a the Manse Road in Aberfoyle and cross the bridge over the River Forth. Follow the path to the cemetery where Reverend Kirk's Graveyard and many other graveyards can be visited just next to the old parish church. A sign-posted path leads from the Kirkton Church to Doon Hill. Some people hang clouts and rags around the trees to be protected from illness and misfortune. The complete sign-posted roundtrip takes about 2 hours. For information about walking in Aberfoyle please have a look at the Aberfoyle Walking Brochure.
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