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Vivid imaginations revealed through writing competition

Majority of Scots believe heritage buildings such as Craigievar Castle should be protected.
Majority of Scots believe heritage buildings such as Craigievar Castle should be protected.

Young writers have once again set
their imaginations free for Craigievar
Castle’s Fairy-tale Weekend, writes
Andrew Youngson


As Craigievar Castle’s Fairytale Weekend approaches, the Alford landmark’s enchanting history has been further enriched by two new whimsical tales.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural fairytale weekend, two new winners have been selected by local author Deborah Leslie from the many Aberdeenshire school pupils who entered over the summer into the primary school and secondary school categories.
The guidelines were straightforward – all submitted short stories were to be 500 words maximum, and to contain two facts about the 17th-century Scottish Baronial castle. And as the staff at Craigievar have come to expect, the fertile imaginations of the region’s youth have once again provided a wonderful array of stories fit for the 21st century.
The judging was tough, but the winners of the Press and Journal-sponsored competition are well deserved of their accolades.
Eleven-year-old Harry Armishaw was on holiday visiting the Culloden battlefields when he discovered he had won the primary school category of the competition.
“I was over the moon when I found out,” said the Crombie Primary P7 pupil.
He initially heard about the competition from his mother, Olga, after she spotted it in the newspaper. A keen reader of mystery and history books, the competition fitted in well with many of Harry’s interests – as did the fact that he has “a very good imagination”, as Olga noted.
“I decided to enter because I like writing and I like giving things a go,” Harry added.
From initial story idea to finished article, it took him four weeks to write. Before putting pen to paper, Harry visited Craigievar castle for inspiration. There, the guides were able to offer up some colourful anecdotes from the castle’s history.
“I knew that I had to put two or three facts about the castle into the story, so I based it on that. I found out about people who lived there, about the Owl and the Pussycat and also about a workman who fell off the roof,” Harry said.
Winner of the secondary school-level competition, James Knight, found out about the competition from his grandfather, Dick Mutch. However, the 12-year-old was surprised to have won as he modestly believes his story “wasn’t that good”.
James, who is in S2 at Ellon Academy, has been a keen writer since primary school, and is particularly fond of writing science-fiction short stories. His winning entry to the Craigievar competition was a cross between Disney fairytales and real life.
“I tried to take a basic version of the information about the National Trust and make it more fairytale-like. To exaggerate it but still keep it in line with what could have possibly happened to some degree,” James said.
As for the writing process itself, he said the story just poured out of him.
He added: “I knew that it would be based around a castle, but the rest kind of just happened. It wasn’t as much a process as just my brain telling my hand what to write. So by the end it was just like, ‘what did I just write?’”
Bill Brown, senior property assistant at the National Trust for Scotland castle, offered up his congratulations to Harry and James.
He said: “The winners of our Fairytale Writing competition will have their stories read out and also be given their prizes. Well done to them.”
Now in its second year, the fairytale weekend will be held within the castle and its handsome grounds this weekend. As in its inaugural year in 2013, the fairytale weekend will be packed with magic moments to discover at every turn as wonderful characters fill Craigievar’s corners with storytelling and performance.
In addition to delicious refreshments and home bakes, there will also be some fun extras, such as a bouncy castle and face painting. And there’s also an invitation to dress up as your favourite character and bring along your favourite soft toy for the best soft toy competition.
“The Fairytale Weekend was an absolutely terrific weekend last year. On the basis of how much fun the children and parents had, we decided to run the event again this year,” Bill said.
“The National Trust for Scotland staff were thrilled with the event’s success and are looking forward to the event again. We also team up with the Friends of Craigievar who are an invaluable help and are very good actors and bakers.”


Craigievar Castle’s Fairytale Weekend runs at the NTS property at Kintocher, Aberdeenshire, on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-4pm each day. Castle entry fees apply. For further information visit craigievar-castle


Harry Armishaw


Winner: primary school category

The Troll of Craigievar

By Harry Armishaw, 11 P7, Crombie Primary School
Once upon a time, there was a horrible troll that lived in a castle called Craigievar. The tower was black as night and no light shone from its windows. Gargoyles protruded from the castle walls. The troll was a small hunched creature with warts all over its body.
One day, a girl called Erin was visiting her grandmother. She always gave a shudder when she passed the evil-feeling castle. When she got to her grandmother’s house, her grandmother welcomed her in. She gave Erin a cup of tea and cake. Erin loved to hear her grandmother’s stories.
Today, she told her a story of the troll who lived in the castle. Her grandmother had been given a beautiful ornament of an owl and pussycat when she had stopped biting her nails as a child. She had loved the ornament and had always taken care of it, but one day the troll had stolen it from her.
On the way home from grandma’s, Erin though it would be lovely to get her grandmother’s ornament back. She sat on a tree trunk and pondered. Just then, she heard a cry for help. Erin followed the cry and found a poor badger caught in a trap.
“You poor thing. Let me get you out,” said Erin. She pushed and pulled with all her might and finally released the badger.
“What is your name?” asked Erin.
“My name is Mr Harry,” said the badger. “How can I ever repay you?”
Erin told Mr Harry about her grandmother’s story and her plan. It is a little-known fact that badgers possess magical abilities. He gave Erin a ring to wear on her finger which turned her into a mouse. Erin was able to scamper up to the castle unseen and sneak through the gaps in the iron gate that protected the castle.
She scuttled up the stairs peeking in to all the rooms. She finally found the owl and pussycat. It was in a room at the top of the castle.
It had never occurred to Erin how she would get her grandmother’s ornament back out of the castle. It was far too big for a mouse to lift. There was only one thing for it. She would have to take the ring off and turn back into a girl. Just at the very moment that Erin took off the ring, the troll crept into the room. It was too late. Erin was already changing.
Well, I don’t know who got the bigger scare. The troll jumped so high that he fell out the window.
“Help!” he cried.
Erin flew over to the window expecting to see the grisly end of the troll, but there hanging from his braces which had snagged on a gargoyle, was the troll. As he hung there, the troll repented his evil ways. Erin helped him back in and the castle and troll turned to a beautiful pink. All evil left the castle never to return.


James Knight

Winner: secondary school category


The Castle

By James Knight, 12, S2, Ellon Academy
Once, in a place lost from time, in a hidden kingdom, there lay a castle, owned by the land and the trees, the sun and the sky, and the people were happy, the people were really happy.
The King, Gardin Vontropin, died at the youngest, most youthful age of 408, leaving his daughter, Elda, as the sole ruler. Elda sat one day to discuss what to do with the kingdom.
“My father would have wanted the kingdom to belong to me, his daughter,” said Elda.
“Yes,” said her adviser, “but the castle takes up too much space. It’s falling down and we can’t afford to keep it anymore.”
Running out of options, Elda travelled to the dark woods to find Virho, the ancient witch of the kingdom. During the ancient witch hunts, she had been exiled to the woods to live a life of loneliness, but now she would receive new company from Elda as she told her problems to the witch and asked for help.
“Let me tell you a tale of my life before exile here, and you will find the answer,” the old witch croaked.
Many years ago, the witch had asked a very similar question. She consulted a king about her home in the Gildoth Grasses. Like the castle, her home was being destroyed by the same men. The king took this issue very seriously and fought these men every step of the way. However, it was all for nothing and the home was destroyed.
The witch and the king decided to form a group, a trust, to protect these places and people. They had a beautiful daughter and gave her a lifetime membership of their group and the authority to protect the castle and everything else in the kingdom.
Days after, the foul witch hunts began and the witch was forced to leave the king and her daughter and escape to the forest, never to return.
“This girl, how can I find her,” asked Elda.
“So you don’t know, then?” replied the witch.
“What could you ever mean?”
“I am your mother.”
The princess, now knowing the truth, returned to the castle, full of pride and energy. She confronted the men and told them the truth. But they had already begun the demolition of the castle. Angry, the princess screamed. As she did, a wand appeared in her hand. Her mind filled with new thoughts and knowledge.
Without knowing why, she screamed out “Castrum, Castellum, aedeficabo vos in aeternum.” Suddenly, the castle was rebuilt, the men ran in fear and the castle and land went back to its rightful owners – the land, trees, sunset, sky and the princess and her mother who have ruled the kingdom ever since.
And this simple tale tells the story, whether true or not, of Craigievar Castle. Thanks to the princess and her mother, any and all can see this remarkable castle … and you might see them one day … the bats in the castle, or foxes in the woodland …