John Bain, the Laird of Skene

Sometimes when researching you come across the quirkiest of things.

Just yesterday I came across an old book printed for the author John Bain in 1863.

The title of the book being the Laird of Skene by John Bain of Haddington.

I have no idea who this John Bain is of yet, except that he was from Haddington and had links with the Aberdeenshire area to be writing about the Aberdeenshire based Laird of Skene.

The book incites the Laird of Skene is a poem altough its pages upon pages long, so really a short story written in verse. It is a great poem/story and certainly worth a read even if it has thrown me off track a little wondering who the mysterious Laird of Skene was.

Some lines from the Laird of Skene 

Which Winter's hand had scattered there, 
Was that broad lake, the "Loch of Skene"
A Swallow's Fight from Aberdeen
Twas like a sheet of crystal bright 
Or polished plate of silver white
So purely bright, - so spotless fair 
The moon seemed dazzled looking there

Another verse from the Laird of Skene

His match we will never meet I ween - 
The Ancient "Wizard Laird of Skene" 
Our hero's like was rare to see 
Sae stout, and stately built was he 
Black beard and whiskers, raven hair 
His eyes a dark and piercing pair 
His nose arched like a vessels prow 
Surmounted by a lofty brow 
Small ivory teeth, with well shaped mouth 
And cheeks bronzed by the ardent south 
Brave too and fearless, frank and free 
And fond of social company

Verses from the Laird of Skene by John Bain, Haddington, 1863

Here is a little tale about the Laird of Skene Folklore on which the poem is based.

Back in the late 16th & early 17th century, the local Laird Alexander Skene was also known as the ‘Wizard of Skene’.  He had travelled to a University in Italy to practice a dark and dangerous form of magic that involved summoning the spirit of the deceased to gain insight and knowledge of the future. When he returned to Skene, locals were fearful of the Laird it was said that he had no shadow and was always followed by ravens and magpies – the birds of ill omen.  Local people were superstitious and believed that he could reest them – gluing their feet flat to the floor or make them do evil things that they did not want to do.   Legend states that during his time in Italy, the Laird had summoned Auld Nick (the Devil) to form an evil partnership, with the Laird becoming Auld Nick’s new apprentice.

A copy of the book is available to read free of cost on Google Play, so please do have a read yourself and you’ll be provided a wonderful insight into Scottish Folkore.

The Laird of Skene & Other Poems by John Bain of Haddington, 1863. 




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