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The danger of Spunkie's spell.


Two centuries ago, latenight travellers on the country road between Paisley and Johnstone were terrorised by a fairy fiend called the Spunkie.

The malevolent monster glowed ghoulishly in the dark often disguising its hideous features behind the mask of a beautiful woman or seductive pot of gold.

Succumbing to the Spunkie's spell brought agonising death.

The fiery fenland phantom known also as Jack o' Lantern and Will o' the Wisp lured unwary travellers into deep pools in muddy marshes and brackish bogs, where they were drawn, screaming and struggling, to their doom.

Sometimes, when the putrid pools dried up, the victims' bleached bones surfaced years later, grinning ghastily and pointing flesh-bare fingers at reed-cutters and eel-fishers who stumbled across their silvered skeletons.

One notorious haunt of the demonic denizen of the wetlands was the Gum Hill, between the Thorn and Linwood Road Toll.

Many unsuspecting travellers are said to have perished in the neighbourhood's moss-mantled marshes lured to a dreadful demise by the sneering Spunkie.

The Spunkie Howe or Haunted Hollow features in Paisley bard Robert Tannahill's poem 'Och, Hey! Johnnie, Lad'.

The poem describes how John Howie a weaver in Paisley's West End and an acquaintance of Tannahill promised to meet his sweetheart, Agnes Smith, from the Old Brig o' Johnstone.

The betrothed couple they married in 1796 mistook the venue, with the beau turning up at the Thorn while the belle waited at Gum Hill.

"I lookit ower the Spunkie Howe an' aye I thocht ye wid hae been," lamented Agnes in despair.

Perhaps the spectral Spunkie was self-igniting marsh gas hovering hauntingly over mistmantled wetlands. Or female glowworms shining brightly in the darkness to attract mates.

Whatever the explanation, the Spunkie Howe was buried beneath the concrete and bricks of Burnbrae Industrial Estate and the Rootes car factory.

Since then, the Gum Hill area has witnessed murders, fatal accidents and drownings in the nearby River Black Cart.

It's as if the sepulchral spectre of the Spunkie reaches out from the grave to bring sadness and sorrow to the suffering souls of humanity just as it did in Robert Tannahill's time.

Mine of information Derek Parker knew many of Paisley's secrets the grimy and the good.

He wandered every corner in search of the clues that would unlock Renfrewshire's rich history.

These tales were shared with readers in his hugely popular Parker'sWaycolumn.

We've opened our vault to handpick our favourites for you.

Since then, the Gum Hill area has witnessed murders, fatal accidents and drownings in the nearby River Black Cart


Bard Robert Tannahill wrote about the Spunkie Howe in his poem'Och, Hey! Johnnie, Lad'

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Paisley Daily Express (Paisley, Scotland)
Date:May 16, 2019
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