ACCORDING to an old Victorian lady who lived in the parish of Muckhart, many hundreds of years ago there was terrible drought which turned the lush green fields and vibrant Ochil Hills to being as brown as dead leaves and drier than they had been for years.

In those days, she said, there was a gentle farmer, and he had an association with the fairy folk.

Everything was withering, and the drought appeared to many like a judgement, so much so that some people fasted, and others prayed, while many were at a loss what to do. The streams and wells were nearly all dried up.

This drouth lasted for two months in which time a large number of cows died, and likewise sheep, pigs and hens, and due to this loss, the small farmers were reduced to a state of abject poverty.

The fairies did all in their power to assist those in need, but it was strange that their rings and hillocks never suffered in the slightest from the heat. On the contrary, they remained as fresh and green as ever.

During these desperate times there was a man called Alexander Crawfurd, known as Sandy, who had helped the fairies on several occasions in the past, and 'well can those folk repay a benefit, and well can they revenge an injury,' he told his friends and neighbours.

He was highly regarded and had the reputation of being the best man in the district at that time, as he could never bear to see his fellow creatures want for anything.

As long as he had a bawbee, an old Scottish halfpenny, to spare, he never held in his hand for long but gave it to those worse off than himself.

His three cows had perished in the drought and being what he depended on to support his wife and family, it was no wonder he became so dejected.

As he was sitting one night by the side of his fire, after all the family had gone to bed, planning a thousand schemes how he might be able to keep his family going, a strange thing happened.

A 'hugger' or purse, fell down the chimney and landed at his feet. He lifted it up, and finding it very heavy, opened it.

He was astonished to see it was full of gold and silver pieces. At the bottom was a small piece of paper with the inscription:

"Tak the goud and buy a koo. You've minded us, we've minded you."

THE next morning Crawfurd trudged away, without telling his wife anything about the money, to a rich farmer in Kinross, where he used some of the silver coins to buy two fine cows, which he brought home.

However, in buying them, he had to think about how he would keep them, and found himself back where he had started. The fairies soon settled the matter.

They told him to drive the cows to the Gowan Dell in the parish of Muckhart where a couple of pretty cottages once stood in their little well-kept gardens.

Running through the middle of the Dell was the Holeburn, a small stream that rose in the Ochils.

At the time of the drought though, it was covered in rushes, whin and briers. Crawfurd knew the area well and was going to laugh at the proposal, but afraid he would offend the fairies who had been so good to him, he drove the two cows to the Dell.

If he had been surprised at the present of the gold and silver, he was dumbfounded at the changed appearance of the place.

Every bush and weed had disappeared and instead sprang up a good crop of the richest and finest grass.

The two cows went there week in, week out, month after month, and still there was no sign of the grass withering or going bare.

Each of the cows yielded between 16 and 18 pints of milk a day and the butter made from it far exceeded expectation.

The fame of the milk spread far and wide and folk came from all parts to get it.

His neighbours began to grow jealous of Sandy and in a short time he had many enemies who thought they would take their cows to the Dell, hoping for good grazing.

Not one of these cows but Sandy’s gave a drop of milk. The drought finally ended, and the rain returned, so the land began to recover.

Sandy remained prosperous and managed to save some money from his business venture.

When he died, he left his wife and family a good sum of money. He was mourned by all who knew him and had bought his milk and butter, which continued to be the best in the area long after his death.

His wife died shortly after him, but their children were left well provided for.

As for the Gowan Dell it still has the same appearance as when Sandy had first led his cows to it.

Or at least the legend says so.