In Print

Fairies, Trows, & Vikings


There was a green grassy knowe by the pond at South Tuan, Skelwick, Westray, that was the home of the fairies. A field called Savvoquoy was their field, and children were warned not to roll down the banks there, or tread on paddostools (toadstools) as the fairies used them as tables, and danced on them in the moonlight. They were said to dress all in green and were no bigger than a thimble. If you stood by the pond at South Tuan you could hear the fairies humming.

The Skelwick fairies came from Rousay on a simmans rope. They settled in the old picts houses at the shore below Garth. An old woman said that the fairies took over after the picts had left.


There was once a peedie boy called Johnny who lived in the island of Rousay. His home was a type of house called a “twa built hoose,” that is two long houses with byres and barns at the ends. The boy used to go from one house to the other every night. One night he did not come in as usual. Time passed, but he never arrived. At last he was sent for, but there was no sign of him. A search followed, and his family called to him “Johnny boy, what has become of you?” After a while they heard him cry, “I’m on the back of the trow.” The old trow woman who was carrying him away dropped him when she heard the word “trow” mentioned, for she had lost her powers. She turned and gave him such a clout on the crown of his head that it took all the hair off him, and he was bald for the rest of his days.


A long time ago the Vikings left their homes in Norway and crossed the wide sea to the broken isles of Orkney. They sailed around the islands until they came to Rousay. There they saw a host of fairies standing on the hillside above Trumland. The sun glinted on their glittering spears so that it made a great impression on the Vikings. They turned their ship away from the shore and left. They did not stay away for long though, but returned to fight the fairies. The battle raged until the fairies were defeated and driven from their homes. They moved to the west side of the island and made new homes for themselves underground – and who knows, they may still be there.

From: The Mermaid Bride. The original source was from unpublished papers
of Ernest Marwick in the Orkney Library & Archive.]