All ye good people, afar and near,
To my request pray lend an ear;
I advise you all without delay to go
And see the Fair Maid’s House – it is a rare show.
Some of the chairs there are very grand,
They have been cut and carved by a skilful hand;
And kings, perchance, if the truth were told,
Have sat on them in days of old.
King James the First of Scotland was murdered there,
And his cries for mercy rent the air.
But the Highland robbers only laughed at him,
And murdered him in the dungeon and thought if no sin.
Then there’s an ancient shrine upstairs,
Where the Monks and Saints said their prayers,
To the Holy Virgin, be it told;
And the house, it is said, is six hundred years old.
The old cruisie lamps are there to be seen,
Which let the monks see to write from their sheen,
And if the walls could speak, they could tell a fearful tale,
Which would make the people’s cheeks turn pale.
Then there’s an old claymore dug up from Culloden Moor,
Which in its time shed innocent blood, I am sure,
If not at Culloden Moor, some other place,
Which no doubt the truth of it history might trace.
The interior of the house is magnificent to be seen,
And the wood panelling, I’m sure, would please the Queen;
And the old fire-place, with its big fire,
Is all that visitors could desire.
Then there’s a ring in a big stone near by the door,
Where gentlemen tethered their horses in days of yore;
And on the staircase door there’s a firling pin
For making a rattling noise when anyone wanted in.
The mistress of the house is very kind,
A more affable woman would be herd to find;
And to visitors she is very good,
And well versed in history, be it understood.
Although the Fair Maid’s House is one of the oldest in Perth, it was not the site of James I’s assassination, or any of the other medieval goings on that McGonagall describes. The place was only built in the early 17th century, so the poet was probably misled by the “kind” lady who made her living telling tall tales about the house.
More spurious history (and the house’s romantic name) derives from Sir Walter Scott’s choice of this building as the fictional home of Catherine Glover, the Fair Maid of Perth in the novel of the same name published in 1828. The story mixes real and imagined events and characters in the reign of Robert III (1390-1406).
Until recently the Fair Maid’s House was a craft shop. It is no longer open to the public, but still features as a local landmark. Perth’s other attractions are described by McGonagall (who lived there for eight months) in two other “gems”: The City of Perth and The Beautiful City of Perth.