Christie Cleek ~ Cannibal

Christie Cleek (or -Cleek or of-the-Cleek), is a legendary Scottish cannibal, somewhat in the vein of the better-known Sawney Bean. According to folklore, his real name was Andrew Christie, a Perth butcher. During a severe famine in the mid-fourteenth century (Hector Boece records floods, morrain and plagues of ‘myce and ratonis’ throughout Scotland in 1340), Christie joined a group of scavengers in the foothills of the Grampians. When one of the party died of starvation, Christie put his skills to work on the corpse, and provided his companions with a ready meal. The group obviously developed a taste for human flesh as, under Christie’s leadership, they began to ambush travellers on the passes of the Grampians, feeding on their bodies and those of their horses. It is alleged that before attacking, Christie would haul his victims from their mounts with a hook on a rod: this implement was the ‘cleke’ (i.e., ‘crook’) from which he took his soubriquet. Thirty riders apparently died at Christie’s hands. Eventually the company were defeated by an armed force from Perth, except for Christie himself, who supposedly escaped and re-entered society under a new name. The earliest versions of this narrative are much less detailed, recording only Christie’s cannibalism and his methods of trapping prey. No mention is made of his accomplices or eventual fate.

Cheviot’s Proverbs (1896) mentions some folklore about the character:

“They resorted to cannibalism at the instigation of their leader, Andrew Christie, a Perth butcher. This monster lay in wait for passing horsemen, and dragged them from the saddle with a large iron hook fixed to a long pole, hence his nickname. It is said Christiecleek died many years after, a married man and prosperous merchant in Dumfries. For centuries the mere mention of the word Christiecleek was sufficient to silence the noisiest child.”