The Chronicle of Ken Muir
Brewed according to an ancient Pictish recipe
Heather Ale, or Heather Yill, as it is pronounced in Galloway, is a legendary brew, the secret recipe for which was only known to the Picts. Alan Temperley, in Tales of Galloway, relates how the secret of its making died with the last of the Picts on the Mull of Galloway. What follows is an summary of the first of the four versions given in the book.
According to the tale, the Irish high king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was famous for having attacked the legions of Rome, also attacked the Picts of Galloway. This military campaign was a downright massacre; after six days of slaughter the Picts were virtually annihilated. Only one clan remained on the southern tip of the Mull of Galloway]]. Niall vowed that no Pict should remain in the whole of the land, and made plans to advance on those few who remained. When he attacked, the heather was stained red with Pictish blood. At length only four Picts remained, a father and his three sons.
Niall sent a messenger to the four Picts, offering them their lives in return for the secret recipe. The father agreed to negotiate for the life of his eldest son (who was called Trost of the Long Knife) but he himself should not live to witness the disgrace of his clan. He and his two younger sons were to be honourably slain, and Trost would then convey the secret only to another Pict named Sionach, who was traitorously in the employ of Niall. Let the betrayal of the clan be on the shoulders of Sionach – Trost would not reveal the secret directly to the Irish.
Niall agreed and the old man and his two sons crossed over to the Irish lines, where they were slain in cold blood. Sionach, meanwhile, approached Trost on the high cliffs of the Mull. When the two were together, Trost handed over his sword, then leaned in to speak the secret into Sionach’s ear. But rather than whisper the secret, Trost threw his arms around the traitor and sprang from the edge, yelling ‘The Secret is Saved’ as the two Picts plummeted to their deaths.