Robert Kirk
in the
Fairy Hill

(From Andrew Lang's Introduction to Kirk's The Secret Common-wealth)
T he Rev. Robert Kirk, the author of The Secret Commonwealth, was a student of theology at St Andrews: his Master's degree, however, he took at Edinburgh. He was (and this is notable) the youngest and seventh son of Mr James Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, the place familiar to all readers of Rob Roy. As a seventh son, he was, no doubt, specially gifted, and in The Secret Commonwealth he lays some stress on the mystic privileges of such birth...

He died (if he did die, which is disputed) in 1692, aged about fifty-one; his tomb was inscribed:

Linguae Hiberniae Lumen

The tomb, in Scott's time, was to be seen in the east end of the churchyard of Aberfoyle, but the ashes of Mr Kirk are not there. His successor, the Rev. Dr Grahame, in his Sketches of Picturesque Scenery, informs us that, he sank down in a swoon, which was taken for death. "After the ceremony of a seeming funeral, writes Scott (Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830, p. 105), "The form of the Rev. Robert Kirk appeared to a relation, and commanded him to go to Grahame of Duchray. 'Say to Duchray, who is my cousin, as well as your own, that I am not dead, but a captive in Fairyland; and only one chance remains for my liberation. When the posthumous child, of which my wife has been delivered since my disappearance, shall be brought to baptism, I will appear in the room, when, if Duchray shall throw my head the knife or dirk, which he holds in his hand, I may be restored to society; but if this is neglected, I am lost for ever.'"

True to his tryst, Mr Kirk did appear at the christening, and "was visibly seen"; but Duchray was so astonished that he did not throw his dirk over the head of the appearance, and to society Mr Kirk has not been restored. This is extremely to be regretted, as he could now add matter of much importance to his treatise. Neither history nor tradition has more to tell about Mr Robert Kirk, who seems to have been a man of good family, a student, and, as his book shows, an innocent and learned person.

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MOTIF: f320, f375, f384.2, f379.1.1