15th Century


The Legend of Tam’s Loup

Tam was a bad ‘un who had been warned by the local preist for drinking and swearing. One night after a good deal of both he lost his way while riding home over the moors between Shotts and Harthill. After much drunken wandering, he rode straight off the precipice and was killed outright, so it was said, going straight to hell, as having died for his sins.




Tam Baird was a rake and a lecherous chiel

Weel faured and guid looking’ – a drunkard as weel.

The lassies a’ lo’ed him in spite o’ his fame,

And mony had cause tae repent in their shame.


Each nicht he wad straddle his faithfu’ grey mare

And ride tae the inn tae droon sorrow and care.

He’d drink wi’ his cronies til in the sma hoors

He mounted again tae ride hame o’er the moors.


He cared na for bogle or hoolet or wraith,

Tho’ kenning hoo travellers they lured tae their daith.

He boasted the deil aye looked after his ain,

And sae wasna feart tae ride hame a’ alane.


Ae cauld winters nicht Tam was headin for hame,

His heed reelin licht and a pain in his wame.

The mare kent the way so he gave her her heid

But she shied on the brae gaun up tae Muirheid.


She seemed to be fey for she nickered as weel,

And backed doon the hillside in spite o’ Tams heel.

Whits wrang wi ye Bess-stop your prancin’ about,

The deils gotten in ye, O’ that I’ve nae doot.


So he turned her richt roon on the road past Kates Well,

Where the ghost o’ the giant is reputed to dwell.

He reeled in the saddle, his senses they swam,

And e’er reachin’ the Quarry was deep in a dwam.


He dreamt o’ his youth, o’ the lang bygone days,

Which he spent mang the howes and the flooery green braes.

By the week wimplin’ burn whauer he paiddled wi’ glee,

And the steep  roarin’linn near the auld rowan tree.


He saw the auld school with its girls and its boys,

The games that they played and their harmless ploys.

The lang simer days and the deep winter snaws,

And the wee hoose was hame in the bield o’ the shaws.


The Kirk on the Sabbath – the Hymns that he sang,

The catechism teachin’ whits right and whits wrang.

[But Satan the tempter o’ God’s human race,

Caused Tam tae first stumble then fa’ in disgrace.]


He saw himself wastrel, a right near do well.

A freckless, carnapcious, cantankerous chiel,

And Tam in his anguish and shame groaned aloud

As he saw his auld Mither sae withered and bowed.


And heard her last words as he hurried away,

“O Tam dinnae leave me for whit will I dae”.

He strood oot the gateway unmoved by her tears,

And the last thing he heard was her scream in her ears.


Tam woke wi’ a start – he had sobered up fast, -

He wis tremblin’ wi shame, and regrettin’ his past.

His grey mare had stopped, and she nickered wi’ fright,

As they baith saw a figure surrounded wi’ light.


It beckoned tae Tam, and the voice sounded sweet,

Come nearer Tam Baird, it’s by chance that we meet’ –

And see your bit bairnie, that never drew braith,

And stroke its cauld pow, - noo Tam dinna be laith!


The devil for lang had thocht  Tam was his man

But lately had doots so he harboured a plan

In case Tam repented before his last braith,

He’d pay him a visit and hasten his daith.


And so he conjured on the steep Quarry’s side,

To image the lass Tam refused for his bride.

Held close tae her briest the wee unchristened wean

That Tam had disowned and denied was his ain.


Tam wanted to rin so he turned his mare fast

But the biest shied awa’ and puir Tam stared aghast

At the horned apparition there blockin’ his way

And Bess reared in fricht with an earpiercing neigh.



Puir Tam was unsaddled and tossed in the air

Out over the cliff and he cried in despair,

“I repent o’ ma sins, a’ the ill I hae done,

Forgie me” – was a ‘eer his heid struck the grun.


Tis true, it is said, when man faces death,

In the moment before he expires his last breath

His sins ever mounting thro’ a the years bye

Are mirrored distinctly in each victims eye.


And pictured as clear as the sunniest day

As his memory’s film all his misdeeds portray.

The wild wilfull wrongs, on the steep downward path,

That merits damnation and heavenly wrath.


Yet always there’s time, ev’n at this latest hour,

To demonstrate Heavens omnipotent power,

To liberate souls who do honestly rue,

And cheat the puir deil o’ his evident due.


The devil was watchin’ and waitin’ below,

When he heard Tam cry out to his immortal Foe.

He cursed that his plan had been thwarted that day,

But he’d ithers tae tempt, so he hurried away.


This tale it is true for where Tam’s corpse was found,

In letters of gold printed deep in the ground.

These words had been written by Angles from Heaven,

“E’er Tam reached the ground, all his sins were forgiven”.


T R Jardine.

  Site Map