Local prankster raised merry hell at expense of villagers

Most of the tales I recount have been those that have passed through time and probably been embellished with each telling around the fireside. However with autumn approaching and fires being lit I will start with a tale which may amuse you.

Back towards the end of the seventeenth century there was a lot of superstition about and people were prepared to believe the unbelievable. There was a young lad causing a lot of problems for the inhabitants of Prestwick including destroying the crops of a local magistrate. That brought things to a head and the lad was apprehended and locked in the tollbooth to await trial. However a local prankster named David Rankine came to his aid by obtaining the key to the lad’s cell from the sleeping warder, he not only freed the young lad but they caught a stirk, or young cow, in a nearby field and put it into the vacant cell carefully replacing the key on the warder’s key ring. Naturally next morning all hell was let loose when they came to take the lad to court to find locked in his cell a cow which was now bellowing with hunger. The superstitious magistrates immediately thought that the devil had manifested himself in the form of a cow and eaten the young prisoner. David Rankine volunteered to fetch the minister to ‘lay the dei’l’ to which they hastily agreed and David hastened off. However in asking the minister to perform the ceremony he told him of the prank and the minister seeing the funny side of the situation plus the chance of a reward for dealing with the devil which he knew was not present, agreed to return with David to the tollbooth. After performing the ceremony the minister led the young hungry cow back to its field where the miscreant appeared totally unharmed. The magistrates were so relieved to have the devil dispensed with and the young lad returned unharmed that they decided he had suffered enough and let him go.

However this did not signify the end of the pranks of David Rankine as his next ploy was to upset the parishioners of St. Quivox by one night leading a cow into the churchyard, tying its tail to the rope that rung the church bell.

Every time the cow moved the bell rung and the more the bell rung the more the cow moved bellowing in fright. This woke the villagers who in the dark thought it was ‘beelzebub’ ringing the bell and not until the following morning were they aware of the truth.