Thomas the Rhymer


Thomas meeting the Queen of the Fairies

Thomas Learmonth from Ercildoune (now Earlston), better known as Thomas the Rhymer was a 13th century Laird, poet and a supposed prophet.

Legend tells us how Thomas the Rhymer went out walking one day and fell asleep beneath a tree on the side of the Eildon Hills. He awoke to find a shining woman sitting on a grey horse at his side. This woman turned out to be the Queen of the Fairies. It was of no coincidence that they met, as it was Thomas that the queen seeked to meet. Thomas was struck by the Queen’s beauty and immediately fell in love with her and she asked him to kiss her, right under his favourite Eildon tree. The Queen asked Thomas if he would go back with her to the Land of the Fairies to be her lover and he agreed.

Thomas stayed with the fairies for what felt like three days, but was in fact seven years.

When he left the Queen, as a sign of her love for him, she gave Thomas the gift of poetry, of always speaking the truth (which apparently Thomas protested against), and the gift of prophecy.

Thomas made a lot of predictions, which he put into rhyme, about significant events that were to happen to Scotland.

Some of the prophecies attributed to Thomas the Rhymer:

On the morrow, afore noon, shall blow the greatest wind that ever was heard in Scotland.”

This apparently predicts the death of Alexander III in 1286 who died the day after Thomas said it. The Scottish king was killed on a stormy night when travelling from Edinburgh Castle to see his queen in Kinghorn, Fife, and it is believed that his horse lost it’s footing in the dark and the king was found the following morning on the shore with a broken neck. Alexander died without an heir.

“At Eildon tree, if yon shall be, a brig ower Tweed yon there may see.”

From the Eildon tree that Thomas is talking about you can now, in fact, see a bridge which crosses the river Tweed.


A monument to Thomas the Rhymer

Other supposed predictions that were made by Thomas which have since come true are the succession of Robert the Bruce to the Scottish throne; Scotland’s decisive loss to the English at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, at which Scotland’s James IV was killed; and he foresaw the union of the Scottish and English crowns which occured in 1603. Thomas allegedly said that when the Tweed flooded into Merlin’s grave, Scotland and England would have one king. Initally it seemed that this prophecy had turned out incorrect, but  on the day of James VI‘s coronation the supposed grave of Merlin in Drumelzier flooded with water from the Tweed.

Thomas went on and lived the rest of his life in the real world, until one day when it is said that Thomas finally went back to see his lover in the Land of the Fairies after he went out for a walk and was never seen again.

In the 17th century, a Scottish Learmonth settled in Russia, and the famous 19th century Russian romantic writer and poet, Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) claimed to be a descendent of this Learmonth. Lermontov was thought of as the most important poet in Russia after the death of Alexander Pushkin in 1837 and it has been claimed, however never proven, that Lermontov is related to Thomas the Rhymer.


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4 thoughts on “Thomas the Rhymer

  1. Arlene deWinter


    Thank you for posting this.

    In honor of All Soul’s Eve, i am writing a blog post honoring our ancestors in Faery Witchcraft and am including Thomas. I may steal your stone as an

    illustration. I hope you don’t mind.

    This is fab!


  2. amandamoffet

    Hi Arlene

    Thank you for your kind words.

    You are very welcome to use my photo of the stone. It was a great find, was on one of my epic resource finding trips down to the Scottish borders, just happened to see a sign pointing to the Thomas the Rymer monument. Was a spontaneous turn off from my route. Had to speak to a dog-walker, who showed me where the stone was. She also showed me the field she thought the stone used to be in before 1970.

    Would love to read your blog – get back with a link to your post when you’ve done it. Would appreciate a link from it – if you use our pic 🙂

    best wishes


  3. Anna Learmonth

    Is there anything written on the stone? I’d love to have a transcription of it. We live in Australia & on our trip to England & Scotland almost 30 years ago, we visited the castle at Earlston & saw the rock where the Eildon tree used to be. My husband’s surname is Learmonth and we can trace his ancestry back to Alexander & Mary Learmonth who migrated to Australia in 1852 from Berwickshire. would love to be able to find out more about the family in Scotland.

  4. Margaret Renton

    Anne Learmonth.
    My name is Margaret Renton, my mum`s surname was Learmonth before she married my dad the Learmonth family come from the Borders of Scotland.


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