Posted by: Jim Bell | March 17, 2011

How the Devil Made Criffel

Criffel is a considerable hill in Kirkcudbrightshire, immediately on the shore of the Solway Frith. The origin of its name, which was told us some five or six years ago, by a gentleman now dead, is rather curious and amusing. The devil, it is said, for some reason or other, “once upon a time” conceived the Herculean project of forming an isthmus between Scotland and England, near the spot where Criffel now stands; and, with this diabolical intent, procured (himself knows how or where), an immense creel-full of earth. As his satanic majesty winged his way through the air with the mighty load upon his back, the creel became “leaky,” and let out, at intervals, part of its contents, which formed, along the west side of the Nith, that ridge or rabble of hills of which Criffel is the principal. At length, just when the aerial prince had almost reached his destination, the creel fell, and the soil which remained in it produced the hill in question. According to this legendary story (which we charge all our readers to disbelieve) its proper name is Creelfell. Time, however, which purifies or corrupts every thing, has naturally enough changed it to Criffel, or — as certain Vandals choose to spell it— Criffield, and even Scriffield.

Evan Bane; and other poems By D M. Ferguson, 1832.

Another Version is as follows

Scotland is rife with the labours of wizard and witch. The beautiful green mountain of Criffel, and its lesser and immediate companions, were created by a singular disaster which befell Dame Ailie Gunson. This noted and malignant witch had sustained an insult from the sea of Solway, as she crossed it in her wizzard shallop, formed from a cast-off slipper; she, therefore, gathered a huge creelful of earth and rock, and., stride after stride, was advancing to close up for ever the entrance of that beautiful bay! An old and devout mariner who witnessed her approach, thrice blessed himself, and at each time a small mountain fell out of the witch’s creel; the last was the largest, and formed the mountain Criffel, which certain rustic antiquarians say is softened from “creel fell,” for the witch dropt earth and creel in despair.

London Magazine, 1821


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