Remembering when people listened to tales around the fire

The longest night has past and we are now into 2014 with the days growing longer.

Longer daylight hours always makes life much more cheerful, but there is still time to tell a few tales around a warm evening fire and for the listeners to huddle closer in anticipation.

The wild weather we have experienced must have happened in the past and from these winds some tales must have been born.

The castles in the area were very stoutly built, but what of the cottages in which the majority of the country folk dwelt. Mind you a good thatched roof was built to withstand the weather, with often the thatch being kept on by having stout twine across the roof with a weighted stone at each end.

In these cottages, or black houses as they were sometimes known, the fire was in the middle with a carefully constructed hole in the roof to let the smoke out but also designed to keep the wind and rain out.

These ancestors of ours had experience and expertise to keep themselves warm and dry plus a good story teller to keep them amused during the long winter months.

It was around the fire in those days of long ago, long before TV or radio were available, that folk gathered to amuse themselves listening to the tales of the unknown. Usually when everyone was seated around the fire with a drink of some kind in their hands, and those so inclined with their pipes drawing well the tales would come, some as far fetched as the teller could make them.

It all usually began when a well known local character would likely spit into the fire, draw his hand across his mouth before starting on the first tale. This would bring forth tales from others, each one embellished in the hopes that it would outdo the previous one. Some of these tales have passed down through the centuries into folklore in one form or another with the most famous story teller of them all Robert Burns putting them to verse.

Robert was known to have been an avid listener and he picked up a lot of tales in Kirkoswald where he went to school and became a firm friend of Souter Johnnie and his cronies.

I do my best to research these tales and have found inspiration in many books, some of a great age, there are of course those tales that have been passed down to me by word of mouth, to all of whom I must give some credit. But remember it is in the telling that makes it worth listening to. See you next week.