About Orkney
 About the Site
 Search Site 
  The Trows

The Trows' passion for music

Fiddle Graphic

It was a well-known fact that the trows of the Northern Isles were passionately addicted to music, in particular fiddle music.

As such, they took great delight in luring mortal fiddlers into their knowes, howes and halls beneath the hills.

There are many tales describing such incidents, some of which state that the fiddler remained with the trows for a year, others insisting it was a year and a day or longer.

However, there is one element that all the tales agree on - to the unsuspecting fiddler only one night had passed and he always returned home not knowing the true length of time he had been away.

A fiddler whose playing particularly pleased these underground music lovers might be well rewarded. Indeed, one episode tells of a fiddler who pleased the trows so much that when he finally left their howe after a long musical session he was informed that he would never again lack money.

Thereafter, whenever he needed cash, he simply put his hand into his pocket and because of trow magic there was always money there.

But, as always, his good fortune did not last.

One Yule, when well well and trult drunk on some fine home-brew, the fiddler told a number of his companions the secret of his magic money. But his confession broke the trows' magical spell and never again did the foolish fiddler have a "trowie-shilling" to spend.

Trowie tunes

Certain tunes played around the islands were said to have been taught to the fiddlers by the trows. One such reel was supposedly learned by a man while walking over a hill one night.

During his journey, the wanderer heard the trows playing from deep within the hill, so sat and listened intently until he had memorised their otherworldly tune.

Another account explains that an old man, sitting outside his house on summer's night, watched a party of trows traverse a nearby area of marshy ground.

As they crossed the terrain they sang: "Hupp horse handocks and we'll ride on Bulmints."

The old man called out - "I'll ride with you" - and in an instant was whisked away by the trows. Twelve long months passed with no sign of the old man, until one day he appeared back back on his own rooftop.

The folk in the area were astounded to see the old chap back and in good health. But no matter how much they asked, he would say nothing as to where he had been, and what he had seen.

But the tune the trows had been singing when he first spied them was remembered and taught to others, soon becoming one of the known "Fairy Reels".