"Duncan the Red" & "The Red Sheriff"
First edition cover




Short story




BBC Radio Scotland ?


Margaret Lyford-Pike

Historical era



We Lived in Drumfyvie


Midsummer Fair

"Duncan the Red" and "The Red Sheriff" are the first two chapters of the 1975 short story collection We Lived in Drumfyvie, originally co-written with producer Margaret Lyford-Pike as episodes of an unidentified children's radioplay series. They are described together on this page because they form a two-part story.

"Duncan the Red"Edit

Robert Armstrong, steward to Red Duncan, Thane of Strathardle, narrates how his native village of Drumfyvie was incorporated as one of King David I's royal burghs under his master's sheriffship. Duncan, a Scottish lord, discusses David's new rearrangement of Scottish law under the English model with Sir Robert Maitland, a young Anglo-Norman knight, and challenges David to make him sheriff of one of the new burghs in repayment for saving his life in a hunt.

Red Duncan becomes sheriff of Drumfyvie, a village on the river Forth, and sends Robert Armstrong back to investigate the town, though Armstrong resolves not to tell him anything that could hurt the village. Duncan arrives and orders the construction of a castle on a reputed fairy mound, which the herb woman Old Effie predicts will cause trouble. The works slows, and on one inspection visit Duncan orders the workmen to finish the roof by the end of the day, and orders Ian the swineherd, whom he sees lying ill and asleep, to be flogged. Ian dies, and Old Effie portends to Red Duncan's face that he will die violently, killed by his own companion. Duncan pays no heed.

"The Red Sheriff"Edit

Drumfyvie begins to prosper as a trading town and to attract immigrants. At the end of the second summer, Forest Laws are imposed that make game the private property of the lord. Old Effie's son Daft Fergie, who is incapable of learning the new laws, is arrested for poaching and condemned to hang. Master Gilliechrist the parish priest and two other burgesses appeal to Red Duncan, unsuccessfully, then inform him that they will protest to the king, which enrages Duncan. His alarmed goshawk flies off, and Duncan imprisons the other two, Peter the Fleming and Andrew Brec, threatening to hang them if the burghers cause trouble.

Fergus is hanged the next morning. That evening the villagers elect Master Gilliechrist to ride to the King's court in Dunfermline, and the King sends Sir Robert Maitland back with Master Gilliechrist, but they are delayed by a storm. Meanwhile the villagers assemble uneasily outside the castle, harangued by Old Effie, who throws a stone at a man-at-arms. Duncan has her shot, then gives the order to hang Peter Fleming and Andrew Brec. As Gilliechrist and Sir Robert ride in, the storm breaks over Drumfyvie, and Duncan's goshawk suddenly returns, flying into his face and causing him to fall off the gate-house stair.

Sir Robert defends the burgesses to the King and acknowledges his willingness to become their sheriff. A few weeks later he swears fealty to David at Drumfyvie. Robert Armstrong retires to keep his cousin Jock's accounts.


  • 1137 CE, 12 years after David comes to the throne
    • A little before Michaelmas: Duncan asks David for the sheriffship of a burgh
    • 2 days later: Duncan sends Armstring to Drumfyvie
    • The day before Michaelmas: the King rides through Drumfyvie
    • Beginning of winter: Drumfyvie finds out it's a burgh. Ian catches cold.
    • Winter: tree-felling in Drumfyvie Forest
  • 1138 CE
    • March: Armstong sent back to supervise construction
    • Spring: Duncan has Ian flogged
    • 2 months later, harvest time: Duncan swears fealty to David
  • 1139 CE
    • End of summer: Forest Laws imposed.
      • Saturday: Daft Fergie condemned
      • Sunday: Master Gilliechrist's appeal
      • Monday: Fergus hanged. Master Gilliechrist rides to Dunfermline
      • Tuesday: Master Gilliechrist speaks to the King.
      • Wednesday: Master Gilliechrist and Sir Robert return. Duncan falls from the battlement stair.
      • A few days later: Sir Robert reports to Dunfermline and asks for Drumfyvie
      • A few weeks later: Sir Robert sworn in as sheriff. Armstrong retires.


  • Robert Armstrong, steward to Strathardle and Drumfyvie, a native of Drumfyvie
  • Red Duncan, Thane of Strathardle and Sheriff of Drumfyvie
    • A goshawk
  • David I, King of Scotland, son of King Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret, brother-in-law of Henry I of England, and raised in England
  • Sir Robert Maitland, a young Norman friend of David, "a friendly and peaceable soul"
  • Jock the saddler, Robert Armstrong's cousin, "given to looking on the dark side"
  • Donal, a travellers' foundling and swineherd, master of Whitefoot
    • Whitefoot, a swineherding dog
  • Ian the Swineherd, has a chest complaint
  • Old Effie the herb-woman, has the second sight, mother of Daft Fergie
  • Isa the Webster's lassie, an optimist
  • Dougal, old, a pessimist
  • Tam the Blacksmith
  • Daft Fergie, a hunter, Effie's son
  • Master Gilliechrist, the parish priest, "a very gentle man"
  • Master Overseer, between a rock and a hard place
  • Peter the Fleming
  • Tam the Webster
  • James the swineherd
  • Andrew Brec, "him that had the largest grazing rights in all the Burgh"
  • Jehan, an attendant of Duncan's
  • de Vitre, an attendant of Duncan's


  • Edinburgh
  • River Forth
  • Drumfyvie, "Set midway between the Highlands and the Lowlands it is, at the place where an ancient trading route comes down across a branch of the Forth."
    • Drumfyvie Forest
  • Dunfermline