The Scottish Connection Part 1

j and mom burns cottageIrving’s story is so grounded in American soil that the nature of the characters may change, but not the location.  That is not to say that most TV and movie adaptions are filmed here.  We allow for filming of various movies, including one starring Sarah Jessica Parker these days, but the current Sleepy Hollow TV show uses South Carolina for most of its shots.

Irving, like all writers, had precedents.  One of them was Robert Burn’s Tam O’ Shanter.  Tam does not take wife Kate sees as”a blethering, drunken bleeum, that frae November to October, ae market day thou wae never sober . . . that at the Lord’s house even on Sunday . . . thou drank wi’ kirkton Jean till Monday.”  She predicts he will wind up “drowned in Doon.”  Now there’s a location for you.  The River Doon runs near a haunted kirk.  Yes, there is a bridge, one you have probably heard of, Brig O’ Doon?  It’s still standing.  What a magnificent site to see.  It’s not a lighthearted place as the musical would lead us to believe.  Here snow falls, winds howl, rain blows in rattling showers as the Scottish weather does it thing by changing every fifteen minutes. Thunder bellows, children understand that at that midnight hour when Tam finally shoves off on not Gundpowder, but Meg, an old gray mare, that “the Deil has business at hand.”

Like Ichabod Crane, Tam sings to calm himself down.  Burns doesn’t mention hymns for it would be hard to imagine Tam listening up in kirk.  Tam faces a scene right out of our Sleepy Hollow hayride: bloody tomahawks, ;murderer’s irons, a patricide’s knife, the garter that strangled a baby, priests’ hearts and lawyers’ tongues.  Holding on to his blue bonnet, spurs Meg on to win the safety of the keystone of the brig to Kirk Alloway but one of the witches takes hold of the mare’s tale which she loses at they cross the stream.

Thus tale which ends with dramatic chase has a moral: That drinking John Barleycorn may cost you dear.

Photos: With my Scottish mom at Burns’ cottage, Brig O’Doon and visitors at graves of Robert and father William Burns and

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