In 1688, the year that William of Orange took the throne of Great Britain, my 6X great-grandmother was was kidnapped by fairies. A Mrs Margaret Irvine, she lived in Highland Perthshire where her husband Alexander was a tenant farmer in Strathtay.

Margaret had just born a child, a girl, when she was stolen. The fairies took her from her bed and replaced her with a log of wood. They carried her to a bog just east of the summit of Farragon where they put her to work cutting peats and barrowing them up to the peak to dry. They treated her kindly, fed her well and took her back home a fortnight later where she lived happily ever after. The 16-inch spade that she brought back was long preserved as evidence of her harrowing experience.

An antiquarian James Kennedy wrote up her story a century ago. Hindsight might suggest that she was suffering from post-natal depression and took herself off, returning with a story – and a wee spade – that her husband might accept. Bears sometimes borrowed women in parts of central Europe, often those suspected of having a secret lover, for a few weeks or months. But these beasts had been extinct in the Highlands for centuries and fairies provided a more convincing as well as a more seemly explanation for such an absence.

There are no fairies round here in France. I’ve checked

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