FAIR HELEN OF KIRKCONNEL
A Legend of Undying Love.
Published: Thursday 13th February 2020 Author: Hannah Smith, Genealogist & Owner of Family Trees by Hannah
As the sun beamed into my little office one afternoon in 2018, I was immersed for the best part of a day researching the tragic story of 'Fair Helen'.
The subject of Legend, Helen's life was immortalized by Sir Robert Burns in 1788 when he wrote the song 'Where Helen Lies' - a haunting and beautiful tune featured in the YouTube video on this page.
There is much speculation over the events that took place in Helen's short life some 400 years ago, but the Legend of 'Fair Helen' continues to be shared among the people of Scotland to this day.
So famous is her story in fact, romantic cottages often have a bust of Fair Helen - a representation of undying love.
Beauty, Betrothal and Forbidden Lust.
Helen Irving was a beautiful young woman from a family of high stature who lived during the 1600s in a small Parish called Kirkconnel in southwest Scotland. Much sought after, Helen had been betrothed by her parents to well-to-do suitor Robert Bell of Blacket House.
Despite Helen's wish to make her parents happy, her heart belonged to a another!
To her parent's great dismay the man Helen loved was a mere commoner. His name was Adam Fleming.
In the churchyard of Kirkconnel and the nearby river bank, Helen and Adam would regularly meet under the cover of darkness, where they could exchange their promises of devotion to one another away from prying eyes, and indulge in their lust!
Helen was torn. She wanted to do right by her parents but she knew her heart belonged to Adam.
Kirkconnel Old Parish churchyard - where Helen and Adam met in secret! The memorial to Helen in white.
Fair Helen of Kirkconnel by J Archer appeared in a Royal Academy Exhibition in 1869
Jealousy & Tragedy
One evening, Helen and Adam were embracing on the banks of nearby Kirtle Water.
Unbeknownst to them, not far away was a scorned and jealous Robert Bell, the man who had been promised Helen's hand in marriage - and he was armed with a gun!
Robert intended to confront the commoner who had stolen his future wife, in the hope of winning her affections.
As he watched the young lovers from across the river, Robert's jealousy grew and the desire to be rid of Adam overtook him.
He raised his gun to get a clear shot of Adam, and pulled the trigger.
Startled by the noise, Adam felt Helen become heavy in his embrace.
The bullet meant for Adam had been fired through Helen's chest. Adam was helpless to save her and Helen died in his arms.
Revenge & Brutal Murder!
Riled beyond reason, Adam launched himself down the bank of the river and across to his sweet Helen's murderer - who was now frantically trying to load another bullet.
It was too late. Adam was upon him with his sword drawn and in an act of insane revenge, Adam slashed, stabbed and hacked Robert to death.
Returning to the body of his sweet, beloved Helen and sick with grief stayed by her until morning. Knowing the death's of Helen and Robert would soon lead back to him, Adam fled the country.
Although absent, Adam was accused of double murder. Many of Helen and Robert's friends came forward to vouch for their genuine love for one another, giving details of their twilight meetings and the jealousy of Robert Bell.
Many years later Adam finally returned from overseas to Kirkconnel. An elderly servant who had lived in the nearby Bell Tower and known Adam all those years ago found Adams lifeless body laid atop Helen’s simple grave. The servant recognised his ‘still handsome face’.
It is said that upon visiting the final resting place of his beloved,
Adam had succumb to his grief and perished.
Adam was buried next to Helen, a sign that her parents had forgiven their girl for loving a man who had never forgotten her, and proved that even after many years far away from home in Europe, Helen had remained his one and only love.
The monument which marks the place of Helen's murder, and it's plaque.
Helen Irving and Adam Fleming's graves in Kirkconnel churchyard. Side by side forever.
'Fair Helen' bust - symbolic of undying love.
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