The Fairy Rade, or procession, was a matter of great importance. It took place on the coming in of summer, awl the peasantry, by using the precaution of placing a branch of rowan over their door, might safely gaze on the cavalcade, as with music sounding, bridles ringing, and voices mingling, it pursued its way from place to place.
No account of the Fairy Rade is complete without a mention of the jingling bells ringing from the horses’ harness. We hear of it, for instance, in YOUNG TAMLANE and in the Galloway account of the Fairy Rade. It is never explained why the fairy bells rang, unless it be from their great love of music, but it is genarally supposed that these fairies, in spite of their general habit of kidnapping human beings and purloining human food, belonged to the Seelie Court, and it might be conjectured that these bells rang to scare away the evil creatures who made up the Unseelie Court. On the other hand, the fairies were also repelled by the sound of church bells.
Jabez Allies’ anecdote of the fairy who was heard lamenting:
‘Neither sleep, neither lie, For Inkbro’s ting-tang hangs so high’ is the first of quite a number that record the fairies’ dislike of church bells.
An old woman of Nithadale gave the following description of one of these processions:
“In the night afore Roodmass I had trysted with a neebor lass a Scots mile frae hame to talk anent buying braws i’ the fair. We had nae sutten lang aneath the haw-buss till we heard the loud laugh of fowk riding, wi’ the jingling o’ bridles, and the clanking o’ hoofs. We banged up, thinking they wad owre us. We kent nae but it was drunken fowk ridin’ to the fair i’ the forenight. We glowred roun’ and roun’, and sune saw it was the Fairie-fowks Rade. We cowred down till they passed by. A beam o’ light was dancing owre them mair bonnie than moonshine: they were a’ wee wee fowk wi’ green scarfs on, but ane that rade foremost, and that ane was a good deal larger than the lave wi’ bonnie lang hair, bun’ about wi’ a strap whilk glinted like stars. They rade on braw wee white naigs, wi’ unco lang swooping tails, an’ manes hung wi’ whustles that the win’ played on. This an’ their tongue when they sang was like the soun’ o’ a far awa psalm. Marion an’ me was in a brade lea fiel’, where they came by us; a high hedge o’ haw-trees keepit them frae gaun through Johnnie Corrie’s corn, but ‘they lap a’ owre it like sparrows, and gallopt into a green know beyont it. We gaed i’ the morning to look at the treddit corn; but the fient a hoof mark was there, nor a blade broken.”