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Learning about evil dunters in the Scottish borders – while enjoying a beer

dunterI’d never seen the beer before.  It was called “Dark Dunter” and was one of the ‘Christmas ales’ that many Cambridge pubs seem to have laid on for the festive season.  At 4.8 percent you could have quite a merry Christmas, but what on Earth was a dunter?  In the old days, before history began when Steve Jobs stood up on a stage, people might have speculated for hours, even days, until they found a dictionary big enough.  Now of course you simply ask Mr Google.

“A Red Cap or Redcap, also known as a powrie or dunter, is a type of malevolent murderous dwarf, goblin, elf or fairy found in Border Folklore. They are said to inhabit ruined castles found along the border between England and Scotland. Redcaps are said to murder travellers who stray into their homes and dye their hats with their victims’ blood (from which they get their name).”

Legends vary, but they are usually vicious, with red eyes, big teeth and talons.  The one in the beer tap sign does not seem to be carrying his traditional pikestaff, though he does of course wear a red cap.  I rather like the tale of the redcap familiar of Lord William de Soulis, who “wrought much harm and ruin in the lands of his master’s dwelling” before he was taken to the circle of nine stones near the castle, wrapped in lead and boiled to death.  The beer’s pretty good, so cheers to that…

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