A ‘Bree’ is a substance which has been boiled e.g. broth or soup.
Once upon a time, a woman lived in Camp-de-more of Strathavon. It is now a small town eighteen miles from Glasgow, on the A71 to Edinburgh. Back then it was just a village where the woman tended her herd.
The cattle suddenly became afflicted with a terrible illness. It was so severe she was losing many cows every day. She had tried every potion she could think of and finally in despair went to seek the advice of the local medicine man. There was only one thing that might cure the malady. She was to make a bree out of a human skull, and the skull must be exhumed on the stroke of twelve.
Knowing she had only a wee time left, with grim determination and the loath help of a friend, she set off for the cemetery. On reaching the graveyard her friend’s resolve declined altogether, and she opted to stand watch at the gates.
Armed with tools and a formidable belief, it would work, the woman began to unearth the burial-mound. Just as she was removing a skull, a loud noise came from the pit, “That is my head, let it alone”. Unwavering, yet not wanting to displease, she chose another skull. “That is my father’s skull,” yelled the voice, indignantly. Full of remorse and desperate to gratify the stranger, she picked up a third skull. “That is my grandfather’s head,” screeched the voice in anguish now.
By this time the woman had lost her patience. “I don’t care if it’s your grandmother’s head, I need it to save my cattle from destruction”. She went on to explain, how she just wanted to borrow it. “Please, I will return it”.
An agreement was reached. The skull must be back by dawn, otherwise the woman would suffer serious punishments.
Quickly retreating the woman found her friend lying prostrate on the ground. On hearing the dreadful exchange, she had feinted. First light would soon be approaching. The woman carried her friend to a nearby house and left her there to recuperate then scurried home to make her bree, from the insides of the skull.
A cock crowing, welcoming the break of day, could just be heard as the woman traced her steps back to the grave and buried the skull again.
Her commendable show of bravery in such extreme circumstances definitely had a beneficial conclusion.
Her cattle improved with such haste – and she kept enough of the ‘bree’ to fortify her herd for any other unforeseen occurrances.