Jaick wiz a big laddie, taller than a standing spear or, weel ower sax fit aye an weel built w't. The only problem wi Jaick wiz that he wiz the only bairn o an aal widda woman an in consequence fair spiled by his mither. Jaick worked hard though, he vrocht fae mornin till nicht day in an day oot come weety weather or snaw. But as year followed year he ayee got mair discontented jist makkin eyns meet an livin fae haan tae moo. Onywye ae year aifter the crops were plantit he decided tae braiden his horizons for eence in his life. There cam the mornin he caad tae his mither an says.
“Mither! Bake me a bannock an fry me a collop, I'm awa tae sik ma fortune!”
Noo Jaick's mither wiz neen ower pleased that her loon wiz gyan awa but she ayee kent this day wid come so she blawed up the coals an set tae work makkin his mait. She made him a doze o fine saaty bannocks so that his bleed wid be keepit clean fae fevers an the collops were made fae chappit beef tae gie him strength an power. Tae it she added a skin o the berry wine she was famed for the length an braidth o the wide green Buchan that wid keep his een clear so that he could see ony dangers that micht threaten.
She said haandin him his bundle, “Tak care o yersel an mind noo I want my laddie hame tae ma afore the first freest is come!”
Jaick gave his mither a bosie promising tae be back afore the first freest wi his fortune or athoot it for that maitter. So takkin leave o his mither Jaick set his fit tae the sooth.
* * *
There wisnae muckle o a road jist the tracks left by coontless generations o reivers herdin their black cattle tae the mairkets seekin the best price possible. He followed the trails as best he could but mony's the time they jist peetered oot aathegither so he wint on till he cam across it again. In this wye Jaick covered a lot o leagues for he wiz in gweed fettle an set upon as he wiz on sic lang legs. He waakit fae mornin till late forenicht an spent his first nicht in a corrie happit wi his plydie haein yin o his mither's bannocks an a swig o berry wine fae the skin in his belly. His belly fulled he wiz soon asleep in the sweet mountain air.
He waakened tae the sang o the laverock an aifter a drouth o clean crystal clear water fae a burn he set his fit tee eence mair. In this wye he cairrit on his journey ower hill an doon dale seein little sign o habitation bar maybe the reek fae a lum on some wee hoose on the side o a distant hill. For this wiz wild bare country he wiz waakin throwe.
Aboot fower days intae his adventure Jaick sees the ruins o an aal castle on tap o the hill he wiz climmin an it bein a gey raw caal day he decided tae mak for it an gain a bit shelter an hae a bite an a sup an a wee bit comfort. As he neared it he could see it hid been a grand castle in its day but noo the waasteens were crummlin awa as winter freests an wins wore at the aal weathered steens.
In the lee o the ruins Jaick set himsel doon in the fine lush girss that carpeted noo fit hid eence been the great hall. Ye could still see faar the big fireplace wiz that must've struggled tae heat sic a big gairishin o a place. Heather wiz growin oot fae the hairth steens an o aa things in sic a bare bit o the country honeysuckle grew roon the fireplace like a garland. Glaid tae be oot o the barefaced win Jaick teen oot his last collop an wiz aboot tae start aitin fin a voice fae high up on the castle waa shouted his name.
“JAICK!” The voice said an fin he lookit up he saw a wee fat mannie ontae the crummlin waaheed.
“Oh michty me!” Jaick exclaimed. “Ye'll faa doon fae there wee mannie. Can ye nae see the steens are lowse!”
But the wee man peyed nae heed tae Jaick's words but jumpit fae waaheed tae waaheed like a body comin doon a wide an braid staircase until wi ae big loup he landed at Jaick's side. He'd a wee smilin face that wiz aal yet young: in heicht he came up tae Jaick's middle an a wee pot belly in front o him like a woman wi bairn. Upon his heed sat a blue bonnet wi a tassle hingin fae it an a suit o claithes the same colour as heather in the summer sun, a wee neat pair o beets upon his feet reachin tae his knees an them that shiny it wiz like lookin intae a dark lochin fin the meen is heich.
“Weel Jaick foo's yer journey gyan?”
His een fell upon the collop Jaick hid been aboot tae ait.
“Michty but that looks fine! says he “Wid ye spare a bit for a wee fat mannie like masel?”
Jaick pickit it up an broke it in twa an haandit the wee mannie haaf.
“Get that doon ye sma man but I'm afeart it's nae as fresh as it micht be for it's mony a day syne ma aal mither cookit wi love an care for her big spiled loon!”
The wee mannie ate it up an lickit his fingers aifterhin sayin.
“Oh me Jaick but that wiz affa fine!”
His een lichtit upon the skin o wine layin at Jaick's feet.
“Wid ye manage tae spare a drap o fit's in yon skin tae a wee fat mannie that's in need o a drouth aifter aitin yon fine saaty collop?”
Jaick haandit him the skin sayin, “There wee man taste the berry wine ma aal mither is famed for ower the braid an wide Buchan!”
He droochit weel fae the skin weetin his wheeple an smackit his lips aifterhin an says, “Weel Jaick that's the finest berry wine that ivver has crossed ma lips.”
Giein Jaick a sly looks he speired o him if he kent the recipe but Jaick didnae ken sayin his mither ayee put him fae the hoose finivver she wiz tae mak wine.
Onywye recipe or no Jaick an the wee mannie weeted o their wheeples weel on the wine an afore lang baith o them were in a gey drunken state. Jaick nae used tae takkin sae muckle o the wine must've fell asleep for fin he waakened it wiz nearly pick-mirk. But there wiz an affa sound o fowk spikkin then slowly it started getting lichter an he could see the ootline o fowk begin tae appear an tak on substance. The wee fat mannie sat lookin at Jaick.
“Jaick!” says he, “You're seein things as they eence were here aboots in the times fin this great hall feasted kings, lairds an ladies!”
Jaick's face wiz a picter o wonder as he watched the ongyans o the fowk, The weemin were dressed in the finest cloth nivver afore seen by Jaick, the colours were like the leaves o trees at the faa o the year. Apairt fae hamespun hodden grey an mebbe a wee bit tartan he'd nivver seen sic colours ontill a person like that afore.
The men were riggit in chyne-mail an wore armour; even they hid bricht colours on them, smocks wi drawins o lions an strange beasts like a horse but wi a big horn comin fae the tap o their heeds. Maist o the men hid een or the ither emblazoned tae their breests. They were aa sittin doon tae dine aff a table that must've hid three trees worth o timmer laid upon tressles an it wiz creakin aneth the wecht o aa the fine mait laid ontae it.
The wee man says “Jaick, tak yer een fae the table for neen o'ts for the likes o thee!”
He tore his een fae the table as he wiz bid.
“Noo Jaick!” says the wee fat mannie, “Ye'd be a gey strong laddie I'm for thinkin?”
“Och aye I am that, for years at the ploo an ruggin at coorse grun his fairly made me strong richt eneuch.”
“Weel Jaick” says he, “I'll be needin ye tae prove that”
So sayin he pyntit tae a block o steen lyin on the fleer.
“D'ye think ye'd manage tae lift that fae the grun an cairry it ower here?”
Jaick shruggit an replied.
“There's only ae wye tae fin oot!”
He pit his airms aboot the block, got a gweed haanhud an haived at the block that wiz partially beeriet far it hid sunk intae the grun fin it hid fell fae high up on the castle waa. So Jaick pit aathing he hid intae the next lift, the veins fae his neck stood oot like straa raips as he strained tae free it, saat swyte near blinned his e'e as it ran like watter fae his broo.
Slowly but surely it began tae come oot fae it's restin place o centuries till, wi a groan it wiz free intae Jaick's airms. It wiz some wecht. Jaick thocht maybe a four five hunnerwecht if it wiz a pun. He staggered ower tae the wee mannie an drappit it at his feet. Pechin fae the effort Jaick says, “Is that gweed eneuch for ye wee man?”
At Jaick's words he jumpit up an danced a reel aroon the big block his wee feeties gan ninety tae the dizzen. Rubbin his haans as weel he said
“Weel deen laddie, weel deen! Jist the lad we've been wytin for! Och aye!”
He danced aroon the block again an jumpit atap o't an diddled a tune aa the while tappin wi his feet. Aifter a couple o jigs an anither reel or twa he settled himsel doon upon the block an crossed his legs. Jaick, amused an mair nor a bit teen aback at this display, hid ae burnin question tae ask o him. Jaick wintit tae ken fit he meant by 'jist the lad we've been wytin for.' Jaick wintit tae ken faa 'we' wiz.
The wee mannie jist raised a haan an tellt him nae tae fash himsel for it wiz only a figure o speech. Afore Jaick could say onymair he speired o him if he'd ivver heard o William Wallace? At this Jaicks chest stuck oot for that name dis that tae ony true Scotchmin.
“Aye I hiv that, did my ain granfaither nae wield a pike at the battle o Stirlin brig an spill his life's bleed upon it!”
The wee man nodded. “ Aye Jaick hard times that. The country wiz afire fae eyn tae eyn and the bleed ran free like watter in a burn!”
As he spoke his een hid a far awa look in them an were affa sad. He glanced at Jaick, but the sadness hid been replaced wi burnin anger fin he said.
“Then came the betrayal o The Wallace. The stain o sic a thing will marr the memory o Scottish nobles tae history for nine hunnder years and a day!”
Jaick weel understood the wee man's anger for he felt the same himsel aboot it for it wiz still spoken aboot at mony a true hairthsteen.
The wee mannie broke intae Jaick's thochts.
“Jaick.” says he, “I've something tae tell ye an fit I'm aboot tae speak o micht gar ye rin fae this place wi the hump o fear ontae yer back!”
He settled himsel mair comfortably on the block an askit for a wee drouth fae the skin afore he continued. Jaick tossed the skin tae him an wytit till he teen a sup or twa. Finishin wi a smack o his lips he lookit at Jaick an says,“I'm a warlock!”
Jaick felt the very hairs on his neck staan up for the stories he'd heard o warlocks an the black airts hid pitten the fear o death intae him. He wanted tae rin for his life but he thocht tae himsel he'd listen tae fit the wee mannie hid tae say an then decide on fit coorse o action he'd then tak. He stole a glance at the fowk fae lang ago millin aroon for he'd lang suspected he wiz in the grips o the powers o darkness tae be seein fit he wiz seein. Oh there wiz fear in his hairt aaricht but he wiz also curious aboot the hale thing. The wee mannie smiled as if he kent weel fit wiz gyan throwe Jaick's mind.
“Weel ye've nae ran awa so that's anither test ye've passed!”
The warlock wiz weel trickit wi this for fowk here-a-boots were affa superstitious. In fact Jaick hid passed three tests: the first hid been the appearance o aa the fowk, the ither hid been his strength an noo bein tellt he wiz in the presence o a warlock. He held high hopes for this big curly heeded lad in front o him, for nae ither he hid tested bade beyond this point.
“Noo Jaick I ken weel eneuch the stories tellt aroon the hairth steen aboot warlocks but maist o them are wrang an the rest complete lees. The stories are pitten oot by the monks tae stop fowk believin in us!”
He teen a wee look o aa the fowk gyan aboot their business totally oblivious tae himsel an Jaick, then he said tae Jaick,
“The next test is this!”
He waved his haan an flames began tae lick the waas.
At this Jaick jumpit tae his feet an wi his foreairm shieldin his een he made tae help the noo screamin an panickin fowk but each time he grabbit for yin his hand passed clear throwe them. Realising they didna exist in this mortal world Jaick gaed back throwe the flames tae retrieve his bundle. Pickin it up he saw a scabbered sword aneth it. He grabbit it thinkin it must be like the fowk but wiz surprised tae find it wiz real. The heat fae the flames though were rale eneuch as they scammed ony exposed bit o him.
He shouted for the wee mannie but the skirls o the fowk an the roar o the flames made it impossible for tae hear him so he staggered his wye oot fae the castle an stood watchin as the flames devoured athing that wid burn.
A strange thing began tae happen tae the flames. Slowly they got less an less but nae in the wye a fire usually gyangs oot wi odd sparks an a bit o a lowe. No they wint oot like it simply gaed tae sleep and an eerie darkness fell upon the place.
Aifter a wee while Jaick made his wye back intae the castle his hairt thumpin in his breest wi the fear o't. As he gaed throwe the doorway back inside it wiz jist as it wiz afore wi the girss growin ontae the fleer, nae a flame hid lickit this place in mony a year. Puzzled he sat himsel doon an shouted for the warlock. His ain voice came back at him as it echoed aff the crumblin ruins but nae a sicht nor a sound did he get o the warlock. Jaick's instinct wiz tae leave this place as faist as his lang legs wid cairry him but his curiosity hid been waakened. Hid he jist been haein a bad dream? Surely he'd be waakened by noo! But he knew he wisnae dreamin for in his haan he'd the sword an it wiz real.
He teen a closer look at it, a massive claymore made o the finest steel wi an edge ontae it that wid cut its wye throwe flesh, bone an even armour wi ae michty swing. It wiz heavy, nearly as heavy as the block the warlock hid askit him tae lift.
“Weel Jaick ye’re still here are ye?”
The voice come oot o the shaddas makkin Jaick loup. The wee mannie cam an sat doon at his side sayin.
“Ye got the sword I see!”
He put his haan ontae Jaick's shooder.
“Ye'll be wantin tae ken aa aboot it I'm for thinkin? For ye’re a curious kind o lad Jaick.”
Jaick said nithing an jist wytit for him tae cairry on. He made himsel mair comfortable the same as he did afore an Jaick nae wytin for the request handit him the skin o berry wine o which he teen a gweed drouth afore handin it back tae him wi a smack o his lips.
“Gran stuff that min I'll hae tae ask yer mither for mair o that!”
Clearin his thrapple he says.
“Well noo; the sword ye hae in yer haan is the very same battle blade the Wallace himsel used tae sic gran effect in the cause o Scotland!”
He leaned ower an teen it fae Jaick's haan. Heftin it as if it wiz the wecht o a feather he cairriet on his story.
“This sword here has the very essence o that gran man intill its very core, it lives Jaick. Aa that's nott is a man tae wield it, a man wi huge power in his airms an a hairt as true as the north win that will blaw forivver mair upon this crummlin waasteens!”
He stared intae the middle distance an micht be far beyond for it seemed an age afore he spoke again.
“In you I hae found baith, you are the man I've wytit for aa this years geen by!” said he handin the sword back tae Jaick.
He wiz quate for a wee but his een were on Jaick an they nivver wavered fae his face.
“As I tellt ye I'm a warlock but fit I didnae tell ye is that I'm comin tae the end o my time Jaick. I wiz entrusted wi my powers for nine hunder years and one day an time is close for me Jaick but there's ae mair thing I maun dee afore I gyang on tae the Glens o' Syne!”
He wiz quate again but his een nivver wavered fae his by a flicker.
“I'm needin ye tae clear this land o a scourge that his plagued it for mair than a generation. They are a band o cut throats wi direct bleed line tae them that betrayed The Wallace; I need ye Jaick.”
He nodded tae himsel.
“Aye I need ye Jaick tae tak Wallace's battle blade an wipe the shame fae history by sendin them tae their white livered ancestors by this blade shod wi the metal free!”
Jaick wiz fair put oot by the warlock's words.
“I've nivver in aa ma life wielded a brand, I ken nithing o battle, I'd be slaachtered an laid low afore ye could blink!”
He put the sword fae him.
“Na na wee mannie I'm nae the yin tae dee this thing ye ask!”
Jaick stood up tae tak his leave fin the warlock askit o him tae tak the brand wi him an that his ain destiny an that o Scotland baith braid an lang lie within that sword. Jaick's ain words tae his mither cam tae mind an mocked him. “Bake me a bannock an fry me a collop mither for I'm aff tae sik ma fortune!”
Resigned tae his fate or destiny he pickit up the sword an tied it tae his back takkin his leave o the wee man, set his fit tae the sooth eence mair. The warlock shouted fae heich in the castle waa.
“Mind Jaick the road ye waak leads tae yer destiny!”
As the days gaed by Jaick came upon mair populated areas. Throwe clachans an wee toons he passed but the folk here aboots werenae ower freenly an wid jist glower at him until he moved on. Noo by this time Jaick wiz in dire straichts the sheen upon his feet were fair worn throwe, the pyoke at his side wiz teem nae a crummle left within. An him wi his belly that teem he thocht it wiz beginin tae ait itsel.
Sittin himsel doon in the lee o an aal felldyke he pickit a haanfae o sooriks an chawed ontae the wee soor leaves hopin tae stave aff the hunger that wiz clawin at his intimmers. He wiz but a meenit sat doon fin a bonnie wee rabbit came fae a hole by his side. It wiz as fite as the driven snaw an hid the bonniest pink een that he ivver did see. He pit oot his haan an pickit it up takkin it intae his bosie an he said tae it, “Michty but yer a bonnie wee craitur!”
He scrattit its luggies an it seemed quite content tae let him dee that. Eence fin he wiz a loon he'd seen yin at a fair, the man faa owned it tellt him they were affa rare. Jaick though wiz gey hungry an here intae his bosie wiz the makkins o a meal that wid be fit for a king. It wid've teen but a second tae kill it but hungry though Jaick wiz he couldnae bring himsel tae dee it so he pit it back aside its wee hole sayin,
“There ye are bonnie wee craitur. Gyang ye back tae yer hoosie!”
Pickin up his sword he slung it tae his back an set sail ontae the next bit o his journey. The barefaced country that he'd so far traivelled began slowly tae change tae greener lands till eventually he came upon a massive forest. There wiz a better defined trail here so he could fare knipe on.
Aifter a couple o leagues through the forest he come on a burn. Stoppin he weeted his wheeple wi the crystal clear watter that wiz baith cweel an sweet. He lookit tae see if there wiz ony trooties under the bank that he could guddle but could see nithing bar a puckle wee eels but they were ower faist for him tae catch. But he spottit something else ontae the opposite bank growin on a grassy knoll; mushrooms , great big mushrooms ilka yin the size o his nieve.
In a second he jumpit the burn an pickit a hale pile o them. He peeled een fae the bottom tae the tap tae mak sure they were mushrooms an nae toadstools. Jaick kent that if the skin comes aff fae bottom till tap then ye can ait them athoot fear, a toadstool disnae dee that. In nae time ava he'd skewered them throwe wi a bit o broom an set fire tae a pile o dry sticks wi his flint an fleerish.
The fire wiz seen gyan weel an he toasted the mushrooms ower the yella lickin flames. Michty but they tasted gran an he feasted weel upon them, for the first time in mony a day his belly wiz foo. Aifter his feast Jaick decided tae hae a wee nap he felt that content wi himsel. Lyin doon ontae the saany bank o the burn faar the warm sun wiz shining throwe the trees. Jaick, much like the proverbial gentleman that wiz nivver nott, laid himsel tae repose.
Fin he waakened a fair fylie later he gied himsel a gweed streech an got tae his feet. The very first thing that his een lichtit upon ontae the ither side o the bank wiz the bonnie fite rabbit lookin at him. Fin he crossed the burn it nivver ran awa but allood itsel tae be pickit up intae Jaick's bosie.
“Well my wee freen.” says Jaick scrattin its wee luggies, “Yer a lang wye fae hame!”
Aifter pettin it for a wee while he laid it back ontae the grun sayin.
“Ye'd best gyang back tae yer hole wee craitur for ye've come a lang wye an it could be dangerous for ye here!”
Jaick made tae cross the burn eence mair fin the rabbit started thumpin the grun wi its hin legs. It wiz angry that Jaick hid left it on the opposite bank for he could see its body hunched an its luggies set at the side o its heed an a noise nae handy wi its feet drummin the grun. Jaick laached,
“Weel weel yer wantin across the burn are ye?”
So he picked it up an set it ontae the ither bank. Jaick fulled his breidpyoke till it wiz stappit foo o the mushrooms, mair than eneuch tae dee for a puckle days. He set his fit tee again an afore lang he wiz deep intae the forest eence mair but this time he'd company. The fite rabbit wiz follyin him an ilka time he lookit back sure enough there it wiz loupin alang.
He tried a puckle times tae chase it awa but na na it wiz ayee there fin he lookit roon. So at length wi the gloamin comin doon he decided tae stop an roast a puckle mair o them affa fine mushroom for his belly wiz makkin an affa rummlin sound o its ain accord. Soon he'd a gweed lowe o a fire gyan an in nae time the mushrooms were roastit. As he ate, his new companion come loupin inaboot so he gave the wee rabbit a twa'r three mushrooms an it ate them wi obvious enjoyment. Jaick teen oot the skin o his mither's wine for he'd ayee keepit a wee drap o the precious liquid an ilka nicht he'd tak but a wee sup. The rabbit seemed affa interested in fit Jaick wiz deein so he put a wee drappy intae the palm o his haan an let the rabbit sup o it, he could feel its wee tongue lappin up the wine till there wisnae a drap left. That nicht the rabbit slept intae Jaick's bosie wuppit in his plydie for he wiz feart that a fox or a beast o that kind micht tak it in the nicht.
Next day wiz caal an driech so he set tee athoot a bite pittin the wee rabbit intae his breidpyoke faar it wiz fine an dry. Wuppin his plydie aboot him tae keep himsel dry he set sail eence mair. That day Jaick come upon a sicht that made his very bleed rin caal.
He entered a wee clachan o aboot a dizzen hoosies far ivvery man woman an bairn hid been pitten tae the sword. Jaick kent weel that it must hae happened a gweed few days afore for aa the bodies were rotten an the sweet seekly smell o death hung ower the place near makkin his stamach turn ower. Jaick wiz angry! Oh michty but he wiz angry that sic a thing should happen in the days o peace. Aifter checkin oot the hooses tae see if by chance somebody wiz still alive he left that place as fast as feet could cairry him. The forest hereaboots wiz much thicker noo an somehow Jaick sensed he wiz headin for the hairt o't.
As he distanced himsel fae the horrific scenes he'd witnessed, Jaick's anger subsided, he slowed doon tae a slower pace. But it wisnae tae laist lang for twice mair on that day's journey he wiz tae meet in wi the sicht o mair slaachtered fowk. The difference this time wiz that they'd been hung heich an their bairnies hid been dashed tae death against a steen waa, their wee broken bodies scaittered aneth the very trees their mithers an faithers hung fae. This time Jaick's anger wiz roused tae sic a pitch that he teen Wallace's sword intae his twa haans an swore an oath tae avenge sic slaachter.
It wiz in the foreneen o the neist day that he heard loud voices comin throwe the trees. Slowly he made his wye towards the sound, his nostrils pickin up the fine smell o roastin meat. Eventually he cam ontae a clearin in the forest. Standin in the lee o a massive oak Jaick saw fit he teen tae be a band o brigands seated aboot a puckle big fires drinkin wine an aitin o the reid deer an wild boar bein brannered ower the loupin flames. Jaick hid nae doot that this wiz the men that hid deen the cruel deeds he'd jist seen.
Angry though he wiz Jaick wiz nae fool aathegither for if there wiz ae man there wiz a hunnder, an each hid armour an swords within easy reach. There wiz nae wye on God's earth that him on his leen could fecht against sic odds that an army wid be nott for. He wiz aboot tae slip quaitly awa fin the sword strappit tae his back began tae tug up an doon. He drew it tae see fit wiz wrang an he near let it faa fin he saw the warlock's face upon the boss o the sword.
“Dinna be fleggit Jaick!” It said. “I tellt ye I'm a warlock an I also tellt ye that ye'd come tae yer destiny, so there it is tae yer fore!”
Jaick lookit at the brigands an felt his intimmers tichtenin wi the fear. The face on the sword says tae him.
“Tak me in yer twa haans, let the essence o the great 'Wallace' flow throwe yer bein Jaick an let me lead ye tae battle for my destiny lies here ana!”
At the warlock's words Jaick felt the sword get waarm as if slowly bein heated at the smiddy fire. He felt intae his breidpyoke tae tak oot his wee rabbit but it wisnae there. He thocht it micht hae teen flegg at aa the voices an wiz doon a hole somewye.
The sword gid oot wi a merciful skirl an aa the brigands lookit up towards Jaick for it wiz the loudest sound ony hid ivver heard afore including Jaick. He kent he wiz a deed man did Jaick but he thocht tae himsel that if he ran awa they'd track him doon an slaachter him like a pig an the coordly knave he wiz. If he wint forrit the same fate awytit him but at least he'd be takkin a puckle wi him tae the grave!
Jaick teen a gweed grip o the haanle an charged for the group that hid got ower the shock o the skirl an hid wint tae arms. The sword felt as licht as a feather as he started tae swing tae the left an the richt. Een o the men tried tae parry a blow but Jaick's sword cut his een in twa. Jaick pulled back wi shock but the sword almost on its leen draggit him forrit tae finish aff the foe. Aifter that Jaick let the sword lead for it seemed tae him aa that wiz needit wiz his strength tae keep it heich, the sword deein the rest. He cut a swathe throwe the men as if cuttin ripe corn. They fell in raas neen tae ivver staan again.
Aifter aboot acht oors o battle Jaick began tae feel his mighty strength begin tae sap awa. The haanle o the sword wiz slippy wi bleed and gore, it wiz even drippin fae his elbow. But Jaick keepit it up feelin the sword cut throwe armour, been an sinew. The screams o the deein fulled his lugs an the smell o hot bleed fair seeckent him aathegither. But still he keepit swingin till nae one man bar himsel wiz left livin. Fochen deen he sat himsel doon ontae a girssy knoll his chest heavin as he sookit in braith, his airms shakkin like a leaf an his hairt thmpin like a war drum. Pullin a haanfae o girss he dichtit himsel clean o bleed an gore or as muckle as he could get aff athoot watter. Pittin his heed atween his knees he sat that wye for a gey lang fyle afore he felt restit eneuch.
“Well Jaick ye've deen weel! Ye were even stronger than I thocht!”
The warlock hid appeared an wiz sittin ontae the stump o a tree.
“Ye've cleared this land o a scourge wi bravery an strength I've yet tae set my een upon in nearly nine hunnder years if it's a day!”
Jaick shook his heed sayin.
“It teen neither strength nor bravery on my pairt wee mannie for the sword wiz magic as ye weel ken!”
The warlock laached lang an loud at Jaick's words then said.
“Jaick.” said he. “That sword is nae mair magic than flee intae the very air ye breathe, for I'm afeart Jaick my lad that I tellt ye a lee.It wiz the only wye I could could've gotten ye tae dee it!”
Jaick wiz mighty angry at the wee mannie but calmed doon fin the warlock explained that his kind werenae allooed tae interfere wi the workins o mortals. If they ivver did find themsels embroiled they were forbidden fae usin magic. So the only wye he could get the slaachterin stoppit an tae avenge some o the shame left for the death o the great Wallace wiz for him tae find the strongest an bravest man in aa Scotland an get him tae dee it. Jaick wiz nae for that an said he wiz nae the strongest nor yet the bravest man in the land.
“Surley there is better men than the likes o me born tae haud the ploo an swing the heuck!”
The wee mannie nodded.
“Aye Jaick there are higher born men, aye men faa hae athing, power, money, titles an even some wi great strength an bravery, but neen hiv fit you've gotten Jaick my laddie- honesty an compassion!”
The wee mannie put his haan ontae Jaick's shooder.
“Tell me something big lad. Fit wye did ye nae rin awa fin I showed ye fit hid happened so lang ago in the aal castle? Fit wye did ye nae tak tae yer heels like ivvery ither man tested?”
In reply Jaick jist shruggit his shooders.
“I dinna really ken for I wiz surely terrifeet o yon vision o aa yon peer fowk bein teen wi the flames, I wintit tae rin awa and I affa nearly did but somehow I wiz curious.”
Jaick scraattit his heed an wypit some o the coolin swyte fae aff his broo an cairriet on.
“I wiz curious aboot you ana for nivver hiv I met sic an interestin mannie in aa ma born days!”
Jaick looked closely at the wee mannie.
“Could I speir at ye aboot something?”
The warlock smiled an says
“Of course ye can Jaick. Ask awa!”
Jaick seemed a wee bit reluctant but he teen a deep braith.
“Weel it's like this, you say yer a warlock an of coorse aifter fit aa I've seen wi my ain een an deen wi my ain haans I fairly believe ye, but ye says tae me nae meenits ago that yer comin tae the eyn o yer nine hunder years and a day!”
The wee mannie nodded but said nithin. “Weel,” says Jaick wi a sad look intae his een. “Dis that mean yer gyan tae dee?”
The wee mannie smiled fair touched by Jaick's question but he laached tae hide his ain emotion.
“Feggs min I thocht for a meenit ye were gyan tae ask ma aboot wishes an crocks o gowd wi the licht o greed in yer een. Ye ken the kind o thing? But in answer tae yer question, no I'm nae gyan tae dee, weel nae in the wye you understaan bein a mortal, no I pass on tae a different realm I become something else but I dinna dee the wye you think. The wee mannie smiled.
“Dis that answer yer question?”
Jaick lookit thochtful.
“Weel… if that's yer answer then that's it an that's aa. But there's ae ither thing I'd like tae speir at ye, something that his ayewis garred me claa ma heid.!”
“Caa awa !” says the wee mannie.
“Weel it's like this- there wiz an aal woman fae oor village accused o bein a witchie wife by some o the fowk an she wiz teen awa tae Aiberdeen by the Kirk an there tried by law tae her bein haan in glove wi the black airts. The peer aal craitur wiz burnt at the stake for supposedly bein a witchie wife. Noo I dinna think she wiz sic a thing but only an aal wifie faa wiz a wee bit dottled. But if she wiz yin why did she nae use the black airts tae save hersel fae sic an affa death?”
The warlock nodded.
“Gweed question big lad but yin wi a simple answer, she wiz nae witch!”
The wee mannie shook his heed sadly.
“O aa the peer fowk pitten tae the ordeal o the flame nae one witch or warlock his yet deet for they nivver get caught!”
Jaick noddit his understandin. Gettin tae his feet tae tak his leave Jaick handed the wee mannie the last o the berry wine and said “ If ye're in the district come roon by wee mannie and we'll hae a gweed drouth o the wine an ait o the finest saaty bannocks an tasty collops in aa the bonny lands o the Buchan!”
Aifter leavin the place o death Jaick found his wee rabbit wytin for him on the trail so he pickit it up an pit it intae his breidpyowk an happit it wi his plydie. He made the lang traipse back tae the castle faar his adventure hid begun. The wee mannie hid tellt him tae return the sword tae the very place he hid found it. So three days did he traivel wi hardly a rest day or nicht.
The meen wiz full at this time o the month so he could see as far as a body could wint tae so day an nicht he waakit. Neither a bite nor a sup passed his lips in aa that time for he wiz still seeck aboot the slaachter he hid deen. He bade awa fae the wee clachins faar the brigands hid put aa the peer fowk tae the sword for nae one mair sicht o a deed body could Jaick manage tae face.
At length he cam across the hill faar the castle stood grey an driech comin oot o the early mornin mist. Sowpin o weet fae the thick hingin mist Jaick made his wye up the hill towards the sombre waa steens. As he approached the gatewye he shuddered an felt the very hairs on the back o his neck birrse up like the back o a cat that's been fleggit. The aal waasteens were rinnin o watter fae the mist probably jist as they'd deen for a thoosan years passed an probably will dee for anither thoosan years.
He passed throwe the door intae the great hall an athoot lookin aboot him, gaed ower tae the place faar he'd found the sword an laid it doon on the grun. The warlock hid tellt him that Wallace's sword hid a destiny o its ain tae meet.
The wee fite rabbit jumpit oot fae his breidpyoke an jumpit aroon the place afore gan intae a hole aneth the massive hairth steen o the gran fireplace.Jaick wiz disappintit at this for he socht tae tak the wee white rabbit hame wi him. Sadly he made tae leave fin he heard the rabbit thumpin the grun ablow the hairthsteen. He thocht maybe that it wiz stuck an pit his haan doon the hole but nae maitter foo he tried he jist couldnae reach it.
Eventually Jaick teen the edge o the massive slab o sclate an usin aa his strength liftit the hale hairthsteen. Under it stood his wee fite rabbit sittin on tap o the biggest kist he ivver did see. The kist wiz made o a timmer that he'd nivver seen afore an roon it wiz bands o bronze wi huge hasps an locks. It teen Jaick oors tae open but fin he at last pulled up the lid his een lichtit ontae thoosans o gold coins.
Jaick made a lot o journeys back an fore tae hame each time loaded doon wi bags o gold till nae one coin wiz left. He bocht the estate fae the laird an biggit his aal mither the bonniest lodge that money could buy. But money meant little tae Jaick he wiz mair pleased tae see his aal mither nae haein tae want in her aal age.
Jaick wiz a gweed laird tae his cottars biggin them aa new hooses wi sclated reefs instead o the sprots an sod that wiz normally used in the Buchan. His constant companion though wiz his wee fite rabbit an aa the gowd in Scotland widnae hae been eneuch tae buy him fae Jaick.
A fyowe years hid wint by or this time an ae nicht as Jaick lay asleepin he heard a rummle in his bedchamber an here wiz his rabbit glowin in the dark an it spoke in the voice o the wee mannie.
“Weel Jaick!” says he “My time is up I've deen my nine hunnder years an noo this is the day, it's your turn now Jaick for I've chosen you tae dee the next nine hunder years and one day!”
Wi that his wee fite rabbit jumpit oot o the windae an ran awa intae the wids. Aifter that nicht Jaick tellt aa the cottars on his estate nivver tae kill ony fite rabbits. It wiz the only rule he ivver imposed on them: in fact for the times it wiz a law because Jaick wiz aifter aa the laird. Noo as the years an centuries gid by the only rabbits aboot the estate are fite for nae till this day will ony o Jaick's cottars kill a fite rabbit.
Jaick's place is caad the White Rabbit Lodge but ye'll nae find it ontae ony map in existence for that's nae the name that it's kent as tae mortal fowk. The only pointer that I can gie ye is that the place is at the far west o the braid lans o the Buchan an that fae Jaicks place ye can smell the saat sea o the Moray Firth but yer ee winna behold the watter. If ye are lucky eneuch tae find the place well ye'd see Jaick for he's near twa hunder years tae go afore its his day!
Michael wiz a gye illtricket laddie and liked tae mak fowk laach. That wiz aaricht as far as that goes but fyles he overstepped the mark and did silly things. One case in point wiz durin the war. Michael wiz ayee on the raik aboot the hairbour lookin for reels wi the fishermen faa liked a gweed laach themsels. Of course Michael played up tae this and in nae time hid them rollin aboot at his antics.
There wiz big aal sheds aside the hairbour and Michael loved tae raik up in the rafters searchin for doo’s eggs. He eased tae collect poochfaes o them then tak them tae the back o the slip faar he’d licht a wee fire and fry the eggs ontae a lump o sheet iron. Bonny and clatty I’m tellin ye! But Michael wolfed them doon packin his mooth wi the eggs and nae one bit o hairm come tae him. Oh god-ova-jezuz but he wiz a clatty chavie!
His aal mither bade in a vennel doon at the fit o Brae street yonder. The hoosie hid at ae time been a bakehoose so there wiz only the one room wi a wee lobby that let oot intae the backie faar there wiz a steen biggit shed and a dry lavie. The sheddie wiz packit full o driftwid he’d collected and a dose o coal that he’d stolen fae the drifters. That wiz een o Michael’s specialties he stole massive lumps o coal in the middle o the nicht fae the boats and trailed them hame throwe aa the lanes. The driftwid wiz nae problem though because durin the day he could use his ould barra for that athoot bein speired at fit he wiz deein. He daurna use his barra for the coal though because fowk wid’ve heard the squeak o the barra gyan up the lanes at nicht drawin unwanted attention tae his ongyans. Na the massive lumps o coal hid tae be cairriet on his hump in a saik. Onywye Michael hid it doon tae a fine art. The big lumps o coal were broken up wi an ould mell intae the sheddie and secreted ahin the piles o driftwid for his aal mither.
His aal mither jist sat at the moo o the hole faar the baker’s oven hid eence been. Michael hid teen a puckle bars o iron fae the slip for tae mak a grate an jist haived a barrafae o coal an sticks ontae the fire fin nott.
The one room wiz fair smeekit wi the reek fae the fire an jist hingin wi seet an wobbs. The room must’ve at ae time been pinted but ye widna think that noo for aa a body kent they micht’ve been sittin inside a lum? It wid’ve teen a squad o navies a week tae clean the clatty room. Funnily even though the place wiz bowfin o clatt an seet the aal uman keepit her braiss paraffin lamps fair shining an they steed oot like gown against the backdrop o seet.
The truth o’t though Michael and his mither were squatters so they couldna veryweel complain tae the landlord aboot the state o the placie. But sayin that they wid nivver complain onywye for the aal bakehoose wiz pure luxury tae them aifter bidin in the back o ayont up the Cabrach wye in a bow camp wi the sparks fleein fae their yaks wi the hunger.
The fishermen were affa gweed tae Michael an he nivver yet left the hairbour athoot getting a fry o fish fae them. As like as nae he’d get a puckle tatties ana. He’d fyles get wee jobbies helpin oot the lads wi their gear an sic like. For this he’d get a fyowe coppers an maybe a bittie tabacca for his mither’s pipe. The fishermen kent fine he chored coal but decided tae dee a Nelson on it by turin a blin ee. The funny thing aboot Michael even though he couldna help himself fin he seen coal ye could leave siller or the best o mait lyin aboot and he widna touch ony o’t. But a lump o coal wiz a completely different maitter aathegither.
The man that echt the hoose they bade in kent fine they were there but jist left them till’t an even wint as far as turn the water back on for them.
Michael widve been aboot twal years aal at the time I’m spikkin aboot. He wint tae skweel but nae for affa lang because he jist couldna manage the lessons for he’d nae the wit for that ava. So for that reason he wiz awa fae skweel at the age o twal. He wis nae scholar but by God he could mak ye laach wi some o his ongyans. Onywye I digress a bittie.
Ae day Michael wiz haein a raik aboot the beach pickin up driftwid an haivin it intae a pile fin he saw something stickin oot o the saan. He saw the glint o braiss so wi a ‘shannish shannish’ tae himself he pulled it oot fae the saan. It wiz a shell o some kind so geein it a dicht he saw it wiz a RN twa pounder wi the date 1942 ontae it. It must’ve been lost aff een o the RN ships in the bey? He dug doon wi his fammils tae see if there wiz ony mair o them but na there wiz only the een. There wiz signs up sayin nae tae ficher wi onything on the beach in case o unexploded munitions, but Michael peyed nae heeds tae that for aa that wiz in his mind wiz tae get the lump o braiss for tae sell. Noo this shell wiz mair nor twa fit lang an aboot as thick as a rollin pin taperin tae a pint wi a big rounded lump o lead at the business eyne. Wi a quick glance aboot him he put it allo his jaicket an leavin the pile o driftwid for later he made his wye hame tae the sheddie wi his treasure. He fichered aboot chappin the shell wi the mell he used tae braak up the coal an a caalcut chisel tae see if he could get it apairt. But aifter millin his fammils a puckle times he gave up an threw the shell wi a clatter intae the corner o the sheddie ‘god-ova-jezuz’! The shell wi be worth a couple o hogg tae him if he could get it separated.
Fair cursin an rubbin his sair fammils he teen his wee barra an made his wye back tae the beach tae fetch the driftwid he’d left. Aye but this time he wisna tae get ontae the beach for the squad o sojers turnin fowk back fae gyan near. Michael tellt een o them he wanted tae pick up his pile o driftwid but the sojer tellt him tae rin tae hell for they were lookin for an unexploded twa pounder pom pom shell that hid been reported by a man earlier that day. Michael thocht tae himself ‘Oh shannish shannish that must’ve been the shell he’d teen hame wi him?’ He didna say that tae the sojer though for they’d pit him intae the jile for stealin it an as like nae gee him a dose o the birch rod ana. Oh shannish! So he ran back hame an said nithing aboot the shell ava. Onywye he wanted the siller for the braiss and lead for himsel if only he could figure oot how tae get the shell apart?
In nae time he wiz back at it an liftin lumps oot o’t wi the haimmer but nae matter fit he did it jist widna separate ava. Fair pechin an sweerin like a trooper he gave it up eence mair in disgust. A good while later he mind on fowk spikkin aboot heatin aal stuff tae get the braiss tae expand so it wid come aff easy.
Noo an idea formed so he teen the shell intae the hoose. His aal mither wiz sittin in her usual place aside the fire haein a forty winks and she wiz even snoring a wee bit. Michael quietly sneaked past her an put the shell intae the hert o the bleazin fire. By gweed luck he stood it up on its eyne an shoved some lowin coals aroon it wi the poker. This kindo woke his mither up and her wee yakies did a blink blink as she sleepily askit Michael “Fit are ye dee-----?” as the shell exploded. The fire grate itsell come oot intae the middle o the room an the hot burnin coals gid stottin aawye, the heed o the shell wint up the lum screamin like a bainshee takin the lum an haaf the reef wi it and scattered the lot intae the middle o the street. Bricks,steens, aish, cinders soot, clatt an paraffin lampies aawye. Michael’s aal mither come staggerin oot fae the wreckage blinkin its eenies an covered in soot sayin
“Oh God a God fit’s that laddie done now?”
Cloods o aish, soot an pure clattyness hung ower the building like a volcano. It gid roon the toon in nae time that a Jerry bomber hid deen a hit an run raid an that dizens o dismembered bodies lay scattered aboot Brae street sic an exaggeration fowk come awa wi fyles! Michael----he wisna there tae hear ony o this for he’d ran awa afore the last bricks hut the grun tae the Cabrach wi the hump o terror on his back in case the authorities put him in the stardy an gave him the birch rod. Oh shannish shannish!
There wiz twa ould beggars that eesed tae ging aboot the toon o Banff lang syne. They were kent as The Baitached Parry and Impa-impa Tigo. The cooncil allowed them tae beg in the toon and baith wore an aal George the third penny roon their necks wi numbers and the streets they were allowed tae beg on. If they strayed they could get the jail fae the constable. Maistly though they keepit tae the same bit o the toon because that’s faar maist o the local’s fowk wint aboot. The Baitached Parry likit one end and Impa-impa Tigo preferred the ither end.
Now as tae their strange names? The Baitached Parry got his because he likit nithing better than sittin takin the lice fae his person an squashin them atween his thoom nails or else pittin them on the pavement faar he sat his begging an baitached the lice wi the side o his closed fammil. An God bless ma soul the smell fae the crushed lice wid mak a body cowk. Impa-impa Tigo got his name because he wiz covered fae heed tae fit in impetigo scurrles. It wiz a bit saft though an the locals said o it that there wiz mair sense in its heed as a hen could grab in its left fist.
Impa thocht he’d the King’s Evil and he’d tell fowk stories aboot his master plan tae ging tae London tae get the ‘King’s Touch’ and be cured. Naebody hid the hert tae tell him there wisnae a king on the throne now but a queen caa’d Victoria and onywye he didna hae scrofulous but impetigo Impa widnae hiv understood that onywye if he’d been tellt because he wiz happy in his delusions and fae atween scrubbin sessions he’d mak his plans. Oh but michty the plans he made tae gyang tae London! If he’d been able tae write his stories doon he could’ve filled volumes. He planned tae save up ivvery penny he got fae the beggin for his epic journey but there wiz precious little pennies tae be gotten at this time. He wisna heedin though. But aa the same he didna starve because the fowk wid gie him morsels an bitties o tabacca for his pipe so he’d tell his lees tae them for entertainment.
Because baith o them got so clatty and thus a public health concern they were periodically teen intae an ould paddin ken at the fit o the Galla Hill and cleaned. There wisna ony choice in the matter. It wiz part o the constable’s job tae check oot the beggars ivvery noo-an-then. First they’d ask tae see their beggars coins. Fae the distance ye’ll understand because only a eedjit wid go within louse jump or impetigo flake distance. Then the constable wid look at their state again fae the distance and note it doon in their wee constable books. Next came the smell test fae ten yards. This wiz a scientific test laid doon in the local cooncil haanbook on beggars. If the constable could smell the rancid hum o pure clattieness fae that distance a note wiz teen tae tak them tae the paddin ken tae be de-clattified. They’d be trailed fae aff the street tae the paddin ken roarin an screamin in chains. Aa done fae a distance ye’ll understand.
There wiz a back room at the paddin ken specially set aside for cleanin ould beggars. There they’d be teen in haan by a woman by the name o Miria O’Keeff. She wiz an Irish woman fae Connemara an it hid a reed heed on it. She’d been a nurse in the Crimea or so it wiz said and if ye saw her that wiz mair than likely true. She wiz a big woman wi shooders on it like a man an a face like a slappit pig’s erse on a freesty mornin.
The beggars were yowted intae the room at the tender mercies o Miria O’Keeff or better kent locally by the beggars as the ‘Reed Bastard’. Their clatty clyse wiz torn fae their humps an thrown intae a bucket and they stood there makin a noise an shakin wi the fear. She always did the Baitached Parry first because he wiz younger an much mair lively. She usually stunned him wi a wullt on the back o the neep wi an ould widden tattie chapper keepit for the job. That quatined him doon richt weel for aa he then did wiz roll aboot groanin in a daze on the big deal table as she gave him his tatties. Pardon the pun.
First ivvery hair wiz removed fae his body apart fae the eyelashes by being dry shaved wi a blunt razor. Need I add by the time she reached his bawbags she’d tae apply the tattie chapper again tae stun the eedjit. Then nostrils, lugs an jinker got plucked wi roosty tweezers but by this time the Baitached Parry hid wint intae shock an its eenies were at the back o its heedy. But that didna last as the ‘Reed Bastard’ applied the boilin water an the saft soap an saan tae his body wi a roch scrubbin brush for cleanin flagsteen fleers. He got so animated at this it teen aa the strength in her massive man’s shooders tae hud the fecker doon till she lashed him on the back o the lug wi the tattie chapper again tae bring on full unconsciousness this time. Poor Baitached Parry jist lay on the big table an whimpered through his dream like state as Miria gave him tammy-come-aroochtum. Aifterhins she sprinkled the parry bites wi sulfur then finished aff wi paintin on gentian violet on tap plus anither lash fae the tattie chapper tae stifle the screams fae Baitached Parry as consciousness returned. He wiz then given a disinfected urset blanket an tellt tae sit on the widden bench at the back o the room an be feckin quate. He sat greetin like a bairn but the Reed Bastard only hid tae show him the tattie chapper for instant silence. The room wisna really silent though because o the low keenin sound that came fae the opposite corner faar poor Impa lay nyackit rolled up in a baa in the foetal position sookin yin o his scabby thooms. Ivvery noo an then he’d roar “Oh waarrrra warrra warrrra!” through his slaivery moiy because he kent fit wiz comin. Oh shannish shannish! The ‘Reed Bastard’ jist grabbit him up fae the fleer like a terrifeart rat an slammed him ontae the big deal table wi a scud and got tae work on him. In nae time ava the near boilin water and the saft soap an saan an scubbin brush scraped it clean wi nithing but impetigo scabs, skin flakes mixed wi bleed rinnin fae aff the table. The noise fae poor Impa wid’ve awakened ould Nick fae his postprandial repose if he hidna been sleepin soundly. Impa begged, screamed, howled, yowled an yodeled but Miria widna stop. Impa even resorted tae makin the sign o the cross roarin “Back! Back! ye evil Reed Bastard!” But she wisna bothered ava aboot this an jist applied the scrubbin brush wi even mair vigour. She wiz weel used tae sic abuse. She’d plenty experience oot in the Crimea o that wi the wounded sojers. It wiz said she kent ivvery sweer word in Irish, Scotch, Gaelic, English an Russian wi even some Turkish yins ana for good measure in case ye didna understand the first yins. Wi twa bottles o gin ower her lip it wiz said she could sweer in Cantonese ana. A pure baigle Ah’m tellin ye!
Next they were teen tae the local jail wuppit in disinfected blankets an keepit there for three days till their new clyse wiz made up. The day they got oot each wiz given a linen seemit, an urset sark, lang urset drawers, a suit o hodden grey dyed yella so they couldna sell it for drink, a cloot bunnet an a pair o beets each. They were given back their beggar’s badges an handed a florin apiece. God-ova-jezuz the Baitached Parry gave a hop skip an jump an twa buck leaps in the air as it made a dive for the toon’s pup. Normally he wid’ve been chased fae the door like a rabid dog but the landlord kent he wiz spotless clean by the yella suit and the sores on his napper painted wi gentian violet so he let it tae the bar tae spend its coin.
Impa wisna like the Baitached Parry in that wye. Leastwyes nae fin he wiz first released. It hid big ideas o traivlin doon tae London tae get the ‘King’s Touch’ tae cure his scrofulous that wiz actually impetigo. He’d hud ontae his florin keepin it secreted in his bolt hole aneth the brigg o Banff. He’d be needin the money for his journey tae London.
At his beggin spot he’d tell the githered fowk o his plans and like the eedjit he wiz he’d even act oot on the street fit he’d dee fin he met the king bowin and aathing. The fowk were in knots at Impa and aa its machinations and oh me it even spoke the panloaf as it did it. Aa the time this wiz gan on the Baitached Parry lookit on fae its beggin spot wi its mooth waterin because he kent Impa must still hae its money. The Parry’s siller wiz lang gone and God bless me it wiz in the horrors o drink and could be deein wi a moothfae o the reed biddy.
Eventually Impa wid faa fae the wagon and tak its money tae get a bottle o drink and of course ye must ken by noo faa wid happen by jist as Impa left the pub wi the bottle o reed biddy in its fist? O michty whit gweed freens the Parry wiz tae poor Impa and acted as if they’d nae spoken for mony a year. Ivvery time Impa fell for it because it wiz a kindly man even though saft. Aifter the bottle o drink wiz emptied the Parry got lippy and wid then pagger poor Impa an tell him tae pit his nose in the twa reed lips o his ersehole afore walkin awa takkin a last sleekit kick at Impa’s heed. That last kick nearly killed Impa but somehow he managed tae get his wye back tae his bolt hole aneath the brigg faar he lay for days in delirium the poor craiter.
The Baitached Parry wisna heedin aboot Impa because wi it awa he got aa the money fae the beggin and aa the mair drink for its lip. By this time the Parry wiz in a livin hive o lice again on the acoont o the clatty place he bade in. He said it wiz his ‘abode’ and wiz at the ‘Stinkin Lochy’ the toon’s rubbish dump. He’d built himself a hut oot o aal rotten sarkin boords and a roof oot o aal sails. Inside wiz fulled o ould cloots and a pish stained mattress tae lie on for its kip. There wiz mair lice in the place as wid’ve supplied enough lice tae keep ivvery flea circus on the planet in staff for a century tae come at least. Clatty bugger min!
Aboot this time the Gordons hid came tae the toon lookin for eedjits tae recruit tae the colours. Of course the sojers liked a good dose o drink themsels and used this tae catch lads for the ranks. The Baitached Parry wiz caught oot in this wye and teen the Queen’s shillin like the drunken panny he wiz. The next day the sojers left the toon tae the skirl o the pipes wi aa the men they’d manage tae recruit in tow. The Baitached Parry marched awa wi its heedy fair rockin because it wiz gan tae be a ‘sojer’ god-ova-jezuz. Marchin through the toon boorachs o fowk hid lined the streets tae wave them tata. An faa should be walkin alang the street at this time but Miria O’Keeff and spotted the Baitached Parry marchin alang wi the sojers. She wint intae her basket and teen oot a massive cake o carbolic soap she’d jist gotten fae the druggists and heaved it at the Baitached Parry shoutin at him “Hud that ye clatty fecker ye’d better pick that up ‘cause ye’ll be needin it soon ye clatty parrified feckwit!” It struck the Parry fair in the lug wi a funny yowt makkin him yowl oot a him like scoudered rat. It roared back at her “Feck off ye evil reed Irish bastard!” deein a bammy wee Irish jig tae emphasise his words. The soap wiz crushed under fifty pairs o army boots and little were they tae ken but that lump o soap wid be worth its wecht in gowd afore affa lang.
By the time the sojers reached the next toon on their list they were aa in a livin movement o lice. The officer in charge wint mental at this because tae him cleanliness wiz next tae Godliness. They didna hae far tae look for the culprit. And onywye some o the new recruits kent the Baitached Parry an clypit on him tae the officer. He ordered the sojers tae strip the clatty bastard and tie him tae yin o the wagon wheels. The Parry wiz set upon and in nae time wiz standin stark mither nyakit wi it’s hannies tryin tae cover its modesty. Once tied tae the wheel ivvery sojer got tae lash him wi a swagger stick. Them that hid the maist lice got tae gie him some extra wullts. The Parry nivver known for his reluctance or the want o makkin a noise let rip an near ruptured his thrapple wi the livin screams that bellowed forth. Aifterhins the sojers burned his clyse tae a dander in front o him an mair than yin o them boakit wi the smell o roastin lice fae the clatty cloots. Then wi yet anither good thrashin they threw it intae a ditch wi it’s hannies yet again tryin tae hide its modesty. It wiz found later by the local constables and ended up in Banff jail for thirty days on really feckin hard labour on dry breed an water for gan nyakit in public and anither thirty days really really feckin hard labour for paggerin poor Impa faa’d been found near tae death. Ivvery nicht there aifter the constables wid go in an gie it yet anither latherin wi their big size thirteen constables boots the dirty sleekit bastard he wiz.
Impa though made a good recovery fae his injuries due tae the careful nursing he got fae Miria O’Keeff. Eence roadin again he thankit Miria for her kindness and tellt her that fin he wiz close tae death under the brigg the King hid visited him and touched him tae cure the ‘King’s Evil’ on him and even knighted him sayin “Arise sir Impa-Impa Tigo laird o these lands all over!” And bestowed a fitting pension upon his hump for as lang as green girrs growes an clear water rins. Funny thing though Impa wiz nivver bothered wi the scabs again and even wint on tae mairry Miria O’Keeff faa’d fell in love wi him as she’d tended his injuries.
The Baitached Parry? Well aifter it got oot o the jail it cleared oot o Banff nivver tae be seen again. Some fowk said he’d been smoored by the doctors because o the lice. Yet ithers said that the radge hid made its wye tae London lookin tae get knighted like Impa and ended up in the Tower squashin lice till its herts content. Leatwyes aa the lice it could reach due tae the short length o chains that held the fecker tae the waa.
Well I dinna ken aboot you but I canna believe ony o the lees this bamstick writes? Its as bad as the fowk it writes aboot and a good lash on the crump fae Miria’s tattie chapper wi dee it the world o good. Feckin fool!
t wiz a fine saft forenicht as Cathy lay fochendeen in the bow camp on tap o a puckle straa for a bed. For wiks noo she'd nae been feelin weel an this day hid been by far the worst. The lump in her side seemed tae beat oot its pain wi the rhythm o her hairt an o me but she wiz weak. For the past month an mair she'd been hardly able tae keep doon a dish o tay let alane a bite o mait. She kent richt weel her time wiz near an yet there wiz so muckle left tae dee. She heard her granbairns playin aroon the camp, peer wee thingies, as if they'd nae suffered eneuch wi lossin their mither an faither tae the winter fever. Her dochter Teeny hid teen the fever an deet in three days. Her man Alec hid laisted a wik.
Aa that Cathy winted wiz tae get them tae Eden a wee bittie fae Macduff. At Eden there wiz a Tinker's camp caad the ‘Lichtin Green’ aside the ruined castle. Some o their ain wid be there an they'd tak care o the fower wee bairns. The minister at Eden wint by the name o the Reverend Gordon S. Gow an wiz the kindest man that ivver waakit the face o the earth an nae wye wid he let the authorities pit the bairns intae a home as they did dee in ither parishes. He kent the Tinker wyes an nivver made a feel o their ancient beliefs an mony's the time he'd stood up for them against the officials so he wiz lookit on by the Tinkers as a hero.
Throwe the bit gap o the canvas that acted as a door she could see her aalest granbairn Mary scutterin aboot at the fire makin a moothfae o tay for her grunny. The peer wee craiter it wiz only nine years aal but aaready wiz showin the determination that she'd need tae get throwe the coorse times aheed. If it hidna been for Mary they'd nivver hae gotten this far on the road. She'd stuck tae her grunny like a limpach (limpet).
Rinnin spraachin (beggin) fine things fae the fairms an cottar hooses they passed on the road but first gettin Cathy sutten doon an tellin the younger yins tae look aifter their grunny.
“Aye God bless her but she wiz a wonder!” mummled Cathy. She wiz that tired though that the words were hardly able tae pass her lips.
That very day she'd seen the fabled 'Prechum Steen' that portended her ain death. It wiz said amongst the Tinkers that here in the Cabrach is the very place their race began and that they were originally steen workers. At that time the Cabrach wiz covered in the lushest forests fulled o giant deer an the burns were said tae be stappit foo o fish.
The Tinkers as they're kent noo were at that time the finest steen shapers in the hale land: they could fashion steen aixes, flint arras an workin tools o aa description. Fin ither steen workers made roch tools the Tinkers made them polished an smooth and even then they were famed among the tribes far an near. It wiz said they'd a magic pillar steen given tae them by the gods an they prayed tae it so that their haans could fashion the steens like nae ither.
The ‘Prechim Steen’ so named aifter the ancient godess o dreams an truth stood at the side o a wee lochin and wiz protected fae the een o them that werena o the same tribe by a palisade o waan, rowan an hazel trees wiven thegither an still livin.
Noo that's as far as that history gyangs but tae this day Tinkers ken their time on earth is near up if they dream on seein the ‘Prechum Steen’ but occasionally like in Cathy's case she actually pit ee on it. She marked it weel in her mind that very mornin as she saw it glintin in the early mornin frost. It wiz a gift fae the ancient gods o her fathers and she kent fine fit she hid tae dee tae get their help for aa Tinkers o the bleed were brocht up bein tellt how tae invoke their help.
It is tellt among the Tinkers how in ancient times their forefathers looked aifter this magic steen for the gods an in return their tribe wiz given the gift o workin steens intae the best tools in the land.
A king fae a distant land heard o these fowk and the Prechum Steen wi it's magic powers so he teen his army tae steal it. Onywye, he laid siege tae the place but the Tinkers werena willin tae let their gift fae the gods be teen awa fae them athoot a fecht so fecht they did.
Months passed an nae side could ootdee the ither till eventually the king got his men tae mak rafts o logs and closed aff the lochan fae the Tinkers an teen awa their source o mait an water. Aifter that it wiz only a maitter o time afore the enemy wid get ower the tap o them an slaachter ivvery man, woman an bairn.
So on a nicht fin darkness wiz complete aa the Tinkers left that place forivver . Nae a sound wiz made, nae a hoast or a fitfaa wiz heard by the enemy an they got clean awa. Neist mornin the army teen the place and in nae time they set aboot diggin up the magic ‘Prechum Steen’ but nae maitter foo muckle they dug next day aathing teen oot the day afore wiz back in the hole and eventually aifter sivven lang years they hid tae gie it up an return hame. The only thing they gaed awa wi wiz a chunk they'd managed tae brak aff o the tap an little gweed it did them for nae one man o that army reached their hameland. Their king wiz said tae be the last man tae dee an lies somewye atween the Cabrach an Bennachie.
The gods were angry wi the Tinkers and in punishment they teen awa their ‘Prechum Steen’ fae the sicht o fowk an the lochan far the steen stood is in the same place weel oot o the sicht o men.
The name o the lochan is the real name that Tinkers caa themsels and as the centuries passed an times changed they became workers o tin though they still caa themsels aifter that hidden lochan but tae abody else they are Tinkers.
The ‘Prechum Steen’ an the nameless lochan became as a fable amongst the Tinkers but the ancient gods werena aathegither cruel an hid left them gifts; een o them wiz the gift o divination.If a Tinker dreams o the ‘Prechum Steen’ that means the gods want the dreamer at the ‘Tap Camp’ but if ye see it in space then that means the gods can be askit for help. Cathy smiled tae hersel sadly- could this only be the vision o a deein aal woman faa's desperate?
She teen oot her spyuchin (purse) an fae it a twa'r three coins that she'd gie tae wee Mary in case the gods didna help her. But ae coin she pit intae the pooch o her cwite for that yin she'd nott afore lang. Her aal faither hid given her the coin on his deein day sayin that she'd ken the time tae spen it fin it cam. Noo that time wiz here, she'd ask the gods tae grant her a fyowe mair days tae get the bairns safe an then they could tak her tae the ‘Tap Camp’ faar the music an stories gyang on athoot eyn an the kettle is forivver fulled o the very best Tinkie's slab (tea).
She caad oot for wee Mary tae come intae the camp and handed her the puckle coppers sayin, “Mary I've tae ging awa for a filie an if I dinna come back by the forenicht tak you the bairns up tae the fairm abeen this quarry an ging tae the fairmer Bill Gow by name at Sooraldaab an tell him faa ye are an that he's tae get ye tae his brither at Eden faa's the minister there. He'll see ye get tae yer ain folk.”
Wee Mary's een fulled o saat tears for young though she wiz she kent her grunny wiz affa nae weel. Tearfully she promised that she'd dee as she'd been bid and gaed intae her grunny's bosie sobbin fit tae brak her aal grunny's hairt. Dichtin Mary's tears wi her thooms she askit o her tae get a hazel staave for her journey. Fin Mary left, Cathy teen the ither bairns tae her bosie an tellt them tae dee Mary's biddin an it teen aa the work in the world tae hud the saat tears back fae her aal een though her hairt wiz brakkin in twa.
In nae time Mary cam back wi a fine strong staave an got her grunny roadit helpin her tae wun oot o the low bow camp. Michty but Cathy wiz affa wyke but she hoped she'd be able tae mak it tae the Prechum Steen.
Mary waakit a wee bit o the road wi her grunny but Cathy tellt her tae ging back tae her sisters an brither. She held the bairn ticht an muttered aa the blessins on her an begged the gods tae gie her strength tae gyang throwe the comin days athoot her grunny.
Cathy struggled alang stoppin an startin ivvery fyowe yards as the pain in her side wiz near takkin the braith fae her. Ae time she teen the coin fae her pooch that her aal faither hid given her on his deein day. It wiz made o siller aboot the size o a saxpenny but misshapen an on the front a man that wiz supposed tae be the Bruce or so she'd eence been tellt. The man that tellt her offered her twa haafcroons for it but Cathy widna pairt wi it for ten times that. Mony's a time she could've spent it but her faither's words stoppit her
“Ye'll ken the time tae spen it fin it comes”.
This wiz 'that time' an her seein the ‘Prechum Steen’ that very mornin proved it. She cairried on a bittie at a time till she cam tae the haanfae o girss she'd laid doon at the roadside as a marker but look though she did nae a sign o the steen could she see. The forenicht wiz weel on by this time an the licht wiz beginin tae fail, Cathy kent she'd nae manage tae wun back the road for she'd used the last o her strength tae get tae this place an the pain intae her side wiz teerin the intimmers fae her. Tae her it lookit aifter aa like it wiz only the fancy o a deein an desperate aal collich (woman) that hid believed a fairie tale an noo she wiz in this place that she'd nae be leavin.
Leanin gey heavy ontae her staave Cathy wiz on the point o lettin hersel faa tae the grun fin a glint ontae something cast by the settin sun teen her ee. Wi her hairt thumpin she hirpled across the peat bog, faain ivvery puckle steps but keepin her een ontae the fabled steen. Aifter a gey painful chauve, she at the hinner eyn, reached the steen an held ontae it like grim death in case it wint awa fae her. A fyle later ,aifter catchin her braith she could see the lochin wi its watter as black as jet streetchin awa intae forivver. The air here wiz fresh an smelled sweet as the finest summer’s day.
The ‘Prechum Steen’ itsel wiz fite as the driven snaa an aboot as heich as twa big men an as broad as an oak. It wiz said that at the very tap a big lump o't wiz missin shape like a bite fae a giant. Cathy could see that wiz true enough for a big lump wiz oot o't. Cathy teen aff her aal cwite an takkin the siller coin intae her left haan, the haan nearest the hairt she leaned her back against the ‘Prechum Steen’ lookin forrit at the black watter and cannily waakit intae the lochan up tae her chest. The watter wiz freezin caal an near sapped the very last bit o life fae her.
Afore she lost her mind wi the caal Cathy flung the coin as far as she could intae the deep watters o the lochin askin the gods o the place tae grant her but a fyowe mair days o life tae get the bairns settled. Slowly she backed oot o the watter athoot lookin eence ower her shooder for if she did then the gods wid grant nithin bar death. Still gyan backwyes Cathy eventually felt the ‘Prechum Steen’ at her back and thankit the gods for guidin her tae it. Lettin hersel slide doon the steen she cooried fae the bitter breeze that hid sprung up fae naewye. Raxxin for her cwite Cathy shudderin haapit hersel fae the caal. She must've slept lang for fin she waakened the moon wiz heich an she wiz covered in frost. Somehow wi a gey fyaacht she managed tae get tae her feet an wi ivvery been in her body on fire she by the help o her staave made her wye back tae the quarry.
Fin she got there by the scam o the moon she could see the bairns were awa. Wee Mary hid deen as she'd bid her dee. Fair caa’d deen an in fact thinkin lang for a suppie mait Cathy crawled intae the camp an wupped hersel intae a blanket thinkin o a fine lump o cheese an a corter o breid.
The next she kent the birdies were chirmin in the trees an somebody wiz shoutin her name. A heed lookit in aifter she managed tae croak faar aboot she wiz. It wiz a loon fae the fairm an she heard him roarin for Mr Gow.
“O my God Cathy faar hiv ye been? We've been raikin the country far an near for ye the hale nicht. The bairns are safe up at the fairm but Mary is in a gey state aboot ye!”
He speired at some o the loons tae lift Cathy ontae the back o the cairt an in nae time she wiz in the kitchen at the fairm wi fine saft blankets wuppit aboot her an the bairns aa tryin tae get intae her bosie at the same time. Ower the next fyowe days Cathy begun tae feel that the sareness in her side wiz gettin less an that she could keep mait doon athoot bein seeck.
Cathy wiz weel acquant wi Bill Gow for she'd hawked his aal mither an gey an affen tellt her fortune as weel as aa the quines that vrocht aboot the place. Mony's the time she'd sat in this very kitchen sellin odds an eyns oot o an aal leather case fin Bill Gow an his brither Gordon were rinnin aboot in short breeks an fyles a snotter tae their noses ana.
Little did she think back then the twa loons wid growe up tae be sic gran cheils. Yin a big fairmer an the ither a man o the cloth. Bill wiz in an affa state aboot her an couldna dee enough for her comfort ayee makin sure she wiz warm eneuch an hid the fire bankit up o peats day an nicht. Mary wiz sic a gweed worker aroon the kitchie that Bill's wife Bunty wintit her tae bide on so Cathy wiz gi’en a wee cothoosie at the side o the glen athoot ony rent tae pey. It wiz jist a wee aal bucht but it wiz up tae the sun an fine an dry. It wiz jist the very place for an aal Tinker collich tae see oot her days. Mary landit up mairryin een o the fairmer's loons an her grunny wiz kinichtit that she lived lang eneuch tae see that.
The lump in Cathy's side nivver left her but there wiz nae pain an she could ait like a horse.The gods hid granted her much mair than the fyowe days she'd askit for.
A post script for this story though is that mony a lang year later, a gey aal collich by noo an a granmither as weel, Cathy teen her last illness. She lay ontae a fine feather bed an fine she kent that she wiz on her wye tae the ‘Tap Camp’. She hidna dreamed o the Prechum Steen as a warnin. Na she nivver nott till-since the forenicht at the lochan sae lang syne the gods hidna jist grantit her life but also the ability tae see something o the future.
The gods lookit doon weel on her granbairns an gweed lang lives they'd hae. For Mary, hooivver there wiz tae be a black cloud o some kind that she widna wun throwe so she'd need tae be owerseen. Cathy speired at Mary tae come tae her side an handed her a coin, the very yin that she'd thrown intae the lochan aa that years ago. The gods hid pitten it back intae her pooch fin she lay at the bottom o the ‘Prechum Steen’. Waikly Cathy said “You tak this coin Mary ye'll ken the time tae spen it fin it comes”!
Aal Mrs Lowe wiz affa come at. She’d geen tae milk Jinty her goat but she’d only produced aboot a quarter o the milk she usually did ilka day. She thocht tae herself that something wiz wrang wi Jinty so she gid her a drappy meal mixed wi treacle tae see if that wid help tak her milk back. Onywye she tried that but neist day her milk wiz still the same. Noo the milk she hid in the coggie wiz perfect as usual so there wisna ony signs o illness. Aftimes fin a goat’s milk fell like this ye could smell it if something wiz wrang or fyles a budy could find a bleed spot in the milk if there wiz ony kind o infection. She washed Jinty’s teats an checked them tae see if there wiz something wrang there but nae a thing did she find.
That nicht she tellt Wully her man fan he came hame fae the plooin. He didna ken muckle aboot goats ava an apart fae aitin a bittie goat’s cheese noo an then he couldna care less. But seein foo upset his wife wiz he tried tae help wi a puckle suggestions. Mrs Lowe jist shook her heed for it wiz obvious he kent bugger all aboot goats. But one thing though he did say in the passin wiz that he mind fan he wiz but a bairn een o the cottar wifies that bade aside them hid heen the same kind o problem wi her goat and aifter puzzling ower the heeds o this for a fair fylie hid fun oot that futtritts hid been sookin the goat at nicht. She’d come across wee preenpricks on the goat’s teats. Seemingly they’d been wunnin intae the shed faar the goat sleepit. She’d closed aff aa the places faar the futtritts could wun in and that hid solved the problem. Mrs Lowe teen this een onboord an decided she’d hae a closer look at Jinty’s teats in the morning. Jinty sleepit in fit hid been an aal henhoosie at ae time. It wiz a gweed set up wee hoosie but the biggest problem wiz that Jinty widna aloo herself tae be shut in ava and twice hid kickit the door doon tae wun oot. Aifter that Mrs Lowe hid left her tae sleep there athoot a door.
Jinty wiz a gyan aboot goat an jist wannert aboot the placie as she pleased. She nivver wannert far apart fae fyles she’d gyang intae Fukiesteen widdies aside the Mains searchin for a tasty morsel.
Neist morning afore she milkit Jinty Mrs Lowe checked the goat’s teats an tae her amazement she fun wee preenpricks. Ye jist widna hae spotted them if ye hidna kent fit tae look for. That nicht at supper she tellt Wully fit she’d fun. He tellt her the best thing tae dee wid be tae shut Jinty in at nicht tae stop them. But Mrs Lowe reminded him fit happened the last time they tried tae close her in. Wully fairly mind on that so he suggested she should keep a watch faar aboot the futtritts came fae and he’d set traps for them at their hole.
So that very forenicht Mrs Lowe teen oot a stool fae the hoose an settled doon tae her wyvin watchin the henhoose aa the while. Jinty wiz fair kinichted wi her sittin there so came inaboot and made a fuss roon her for a fylie then headed tae her hoosie. By gweed luck she liked tae sleep jist inside the entrance so that wiz fine she’d be able tae keep an ee on her for as lang as the licht laisted. It wiz a fine saft nicht so Mrs Lowe enjoyed sittin deein her knittin in the fresh air but ayee keepit an ee on Jinty. Jist afore it got ower dark Mrs Lowe decided there’d be little pynt on her sittin ony langer as there seemed tae be nae ongyans ava fae the futtritts. She put her oo intae her pyoke an wiz aboot tae leave fin she saw Jinty comin oot fae her hoosie an start walkin doon the road towards Funkiesteen widdies. Her knittin pyoke forgotten she follyt Jinty. Ivvery noo-an-then Jinty stoppit an wid hae a quick look aroon afore she carried on makkin her wye tae the widdies. Mrs Lowe hid nivver seen sic ongyans fae Jinty afore so she keepit ahin but at a distance. Doon doon Jinty wint towards the widdies as if she kent exactly faaraboot she wiz gyan. Ivvery noo-an-then she’d stop for a look aroon afore she carried on eence mair.
It wiz gye dark in the widdies so Mrs Lowe hid tae tak care as tae faar she put her feet. The last thing she’d nott wiz tae braak her ankle on some unseen stickin oot tree reet. Eventually Jinty stoppit an started bleatin oot o her. She did this for a minty or twa an Mrs Lowe hidin ahin a tree oot o sicht wiz fair puzzled at this strange ongyans fae Jinty. It wiz gye eerie in the widdies as the licht failed an it got eerier by the meenit an stories lang forgotten aboot goats bein the ‘Gweed Man’s’ servants came tae the fore in her mind. As a bairn she’d heard plenty strange stories aboot the goats an their ongyans that mony’s the time she’d geen tae her bed an happit her heed wi the blankets terrifeart o seein ‘the ‘Gweed Man’s’ goats. Noo aa this thochts came rushin back tae her an the fear came ontae her hidin ahin the tree watchin Jinty bleatin oot o her. Mrs Lowe let the wee lassie in her free as she imagined that Jinty wiz summoning her maister tae come up fae Hell tae gie him some o her milk for it wiz said there wiz nithin he liket better than a sook o fine fresh goat’s milk. Mrs Lowe in a spleeter o panic an thoroughly terrifeart thocht she’d better leave afore ‘Aaal Leather Tail’s’ heed an shooders started tae wun up fae aneath the grun. She wiz on the pynt o takkin tae her heels fin oot o the corner o her ee she saw movement comin fae allo a coupit tree’s reets. Oh me she wiz ower late Leather Tail wiz comin oot fae the tree reets. She started tae whimper a wee bit an wiz on the point o knypin back tae the hoose as if the hounds o Hell wiz nippin at her heels. Aa this kind o thochts an mair came tae the fore fin she then saw fit the movement actually wiz. Fae below the reets aboot a dizzen wee black an fite kittlins ran up tae Jinty an started haein an affa excited cairry on wi her, gyan roon aboot her as if playin. Mrs Lowe jist steed there open mooed at this ongyans fin Jinty lay doon on her side an allowed the wee kittlins tae suckle her. There wisna enough teats for them aa at eence so them that wyted their turn played on tap o Jinty as ony geets wid dee. Jinty wid push aboot at them wi her nose an ivvery noo-an-then she’d lick at their cwytes like their ain mither wid’ve deen. Aifter they’d aa eventually gotten fed they left tae gyang back allo the tree reet eence mair. Jinty aifter a wee check they were settled made her wye back tae her hoosie folliet at a distance by Mrs Lowe faa felt she’d jist seen a miracle happen afore her very een. She’d came tae the conclusion that kittlins’ mither hid maist likely deet or been killed an somehow Jinty hid came across the wee catties starving tae death an started tae feed them. Jinty wint intae her hoosie an syne settled doon for the nicht. Mrs Lowe steed lookin ower at her goat wi her hert filled at fit she’d been a witness till an dichted awa the tears. She nivver tellt her man Wully aboot fit she’d seen the nicht afore but only let him ken him aathing wiz fine an that Jinty’s milk wiz back tae normal. Aifter this though Mrs Lowe wid watch fae the scullery windae ilka nicht as Jinty made her wye doon tae the widdies tae feed the wee catties. She’d wun back in aboot an oor’s time an gyang intae her hoosie an contentedly settle herself doon for the nicht. This wint on for a fyowe weeks till eventually ae nicht Jinty nivver left her hoosie. Neist morning Mrs Lowe wint doon tae the spot she’d seen the catties comin oot fae an apart fae the usual obvious signs o habitation the catties were gone. Jinty hid fed them till they could fend for themsels. Wi the tears fleein fae her she made her wye back and gave Jinty loads o bosies as she sat at the door o her hoosie. The catties noo? Well fyles she’d see een or twa gyan aboot the place but they’d nivver come near nae matter foo muckle she trysted them tae wun tae her. Aifter aa they were wild beasties. But they’d ayee hae a work wi Jinty though an mony’s the time she’d see a puckle o them playin aboot wi her inside the hoosie.
Ackers led the horse up the hill at the side o a lonely glen aboot the Cabrach wye. Fin they come tae the heed o the glen the road wiz a wee bittie wider at this point and there wiz a wee green bit jist aff the road. There wiz enough room for the wagon tae pull aff and leave room for anither cairt or wagon tae pass.
Wi darkness comin doon Ackers decided they’d mak camp there for the nicht. He wiz jist aboot tae lead the horse in fin an affa racket got up alang the road a bit. It soondit like somebody wiz draggin chynes ahin a horse gan at full bat. A black shape came tearin past him makkin his horse shy and it teen aa his strength tae haud it fae makkin a bolt.
Onywye aathing sattled doon aifter a meenit but the horse wiz gey chauvin kine wi its lugs staannin and its een lookin wild. His wife Becca and the bairns were oot o the wagon by this time winderin fit aa the commotion wiz aboot. Ackers didna let on aboot the black shape and as his wife said nithing aboot the soon o chynes he jist let it be and said “Ach the horse got spookit at something!”
It wiz fin he wiz soothin the horse that Ackers noticed in the shaddas at the bottom o the glen fit lookit for aa the world like a nun waving up at him. Strange, thought he “Fit wye wid a nun be doon there at sic a time and it comin doon dark?”
He shouted on Becca tae come and hae a look. Fin she saa this she said “ Oh me me there’s something queer gan on here!”
She wintit tae move on but Ackers widna hear o’t pyntin oot that it wid be pick-mirk in a wee filie, an onywye this micht be the only decent bit tae pull in for miles. Aifter their fower bairns were fed and beddit Becca sat a file at the fire an Ackers gaed tae pull some grass fae the ‘lang-park’ tae gie the horse.
That nicht though, Ackers couldna sattle affa weel an neither it seemed could the horse. It chauved and clappered its feet as if its queets were itchy. As Ackers lay in bed he wiz still tryin tae work oot fit hid come past him earlier on. It seemed tae him that it lookit like the form o a black bull but the mair he thocht aboot it the mair he realised he’d been able tae see throwe it. But mind you sayin that the draggin chynes were rale eneuch by the noise they made an the sparks fleein fae them!
He must’ve dozed for he awoke in the early daylicht. This wiz Ackers’ favourite time o day so he rose quaitly so’s nae tae waaken his wife and bairns an slippit oot o the wagon. It wiz a fine saft mornin wi a heavy dew stickin tae the girss. He’d a quick look at the horse and it wiz grazin awa quite contentit nae signs o the skittishness o the nicht afore.
Lichtin his pipe he waakit back tae faar he’d gotten the fleg wi the black bull and lookit for signs on the grun o fitivver hid been. The only marks he could see wiz faar his ain horse hid reared up and the tracks o his ain wheels. On seein this the hairs on the back o his neck fairly got jabby. Mutterin awa tae himsel “Shannish shannish!”
He lookit ower tae whaur the nun hid stood waving up at him the nicht afore. The place she’d been staanin wiz completely covered in whins, nettles and brummels. In amangst them he could mak oot some waa steens though the whins hid maistly covered them aathegither. That wiz faar the nun hid stood and he jaloused there must be a road up tae it fae the ither side. He gey near convinced himsel tae this but decided he’d jist gyang doon for a look.
It wiz a gey steep trauchle doon but on reachin the bottom he wiz confronted wi a gey near solid waa o brummels and nettles. He tried tae push a path throwe but hid tae stop fin he wiz near torn an stung tae daith. Walkin doon the glen for a fair bit afore he found a clear bit tae cross he managed athoot leavin ower muckle o his skin hingin fae brummel thorns. He walkit back up towards the waa steens fin it soon became evident there wiz nae road inaboot ava. If onything, hereaboots the growth wiz even mair dense wi bein the side awa fae the prevailing weens that came up the glen. Try as he micht there wiz nae wye he could get nearer the ruins. Puzzled an mair than a bit feart Ackers loupit fin his wife shouted doon fae abeen “Fit are ye deein doon there min?”
The licht weel up noo he could see a man dressed in black staanin aside Becca. “Oh bugger it must be the peeler tellin them tae move on!”
He shouted back “I’ll be up in a meenit or twa!”
Then tae his surprise Becca shouted doon in the ‘Cant’ tae get some sticks for there’s nae a thing up here tae cause spark or lowe. And mind this wi a peeler nae standin but feet fae her.
It teen Ackers a fair while tae gither some bits o broom an mak his wye back up tae the wagon. Throwin doon the bundle he askit o his wife “Far aboot’s the peeler?”
Becca looked at him “Fit peeler?” Ackers said tae her.
“The man in black that wiz staanin richt aside ye fin ye shouted doon tae ma!” Becca says “Awa min ye must’ve been seein things there’s been nae peeler nor onybody else inaboot here!” Ackers didnae argue he jist said “Aye yer richt eneuch it must’ve been a shadda!”
So sayin he gaed tae yoke the horse an in a fyowe meenits wiz ready tae leave this eerie place. The bairns were still sleepin so he didna waaken them. Becca wiz neen ower trickit an sayin “We’ll hae a cup o tay at least, we’re nae in that much o a hurry!”
But the look ontae Acker’s face gave the game awa an Becca sparkit up noo, grabbit the reins fae Ackers an led the horse an wagon awa lookin ower her shooder as she did so.
Within aboot three miles they came upon a wee clachan o a half dizzen hooses and a sign proclaiming it tae be Dunghobar.
Ackers pulled up at the smiddy an askit if he could bile his kettle on the coals.
“Aye jist pit it there min,” he said raikin the coals tae mak room for it. Newsin awa tae the smiddy Ackers tellt him something strange hid happened back the road. The smiddy wintit tae ken fit bit o the road so he tellt him and also aboot the bull trailin chynes, the nun and the man in black. Ackers wiz startled tae see the smiddy cross himsel and tak a couple steps back. He pyntit tae the kettle an bid him tak it fae the coals an leave the smiddy.
Ackers protested but there wiz nithing else for it but tae tak his leave. He wiz warned nae tae go near anither door in the place but tae leave for he’d get nae hospitality at Dungobhar. The smith walked in front o him still crossin himsel an mutterin prayers as he led Ackers an wagon fae the clachan. Ackers wintit tae tell the smith tae tak a lang lick o his erse but he couldna be bothered for he wiz mair worried aboot fit he’d seen staanin aside his wife back at the glen. Ivvery noo an then jist on the edge o his sicht he wiz sure he kept seein a shadda walkin at the side o Becca.
It would’ve been a stretch ayont Dungobhar afore Ackers calmed doon. Becca wiz mair than pit oot wi him for he’d nae tell her fit wiz wrang. In a soor mood he kennled a fire an set the kettle on the jockey. He wiz ayee lookin ower at Becca wi a strange look on his face. The bairns were waakened by this time and playin at the roadside fin inaboot came the youngest laddie an says tae his father “Wha’s the man staanin aside mither?”
Ackers near chokit on his tea: recoverin he speired at the bairn fit he lookit like. The bairn tellt him and it wiz the self same man he’d seen staanin aside Becca an the same yin he wiz pickin up wi the tail o his ee. Dressed in a black suit and the bairn added mair details that his father couldna see. He said the man wisna aal for his face wiz young and white as snaw an his een were reed like hett coals fae the fire. The bairn started tae cover his een “Daddy daddy it’s girnin at ma and his face looks affa ill-naitert!”
The bairn ran tae his dad’s bosie greetin “The man’s lookin at ma. Dinna let him tak me awa daddy!” and beeriet his face intae Ackers’ oxter. Becca by this time wiz gettin spookit for she wiz weel aware o Ackers watchin her. She saw the bairn greetin in his bosie and her man lookin past her “Whit’s wrang min? Ye’ve got the bairn greetin and ye keep watchin ma like I’m feel. Whit are ye lookin by ma like that for?”
The bairn wiz cooried in and widna lift ee tae his mither and jist keepit his face beeriet intae Ackers. Wi a muffled voice he said “Oh mammy the man in black is staanin at yer side… the big man wi the glowerin yaks . Oh Mammy Mammy!”
Becca gaed intae a swoon like a toff woman faas steys are ower ticht. She hut the grun like a tackit and flailed aboot wavin her airms wailin oot o her “Oh shannish shannish wha’s the man in black wi the reed glowerin yaks?”
The bairn wiz shakkin and clung tae his faither like grim death as Ackers dived ower tae help Becca. The bairn wiz lookin past his mither and set up sic a noise “Oh shannish shannish the man in black’s staanin ower her an he’s girnin at her! Oh me he’s gotten mair teeth in his mooth than twa horses!”
Becca fainted clear awa her eenies rollin tae the back o her heed. Wi aa the commotion the rest o the bairns githered inaboot an afore lang they jined in wi their brither’s wailin although they couldna see fit he could. Ackers handed the bairn tae his aalest lassie “Here pit him an the ither yins intill the wagon an bide wi them I’ll get yer mither!”
Ackers tried tae pick Becca fae the grun an near gave himsel a double rupture, she must’ve been twinty steen if a pun. Instead he rolled her semiconscious body towards the wagon o skirlin bairns. Aifter a gey chauve he got her intae the wagon amongst the terrifeet bairns.
He got the horse gyan as fast as he could awa fae the place. The horse tried tae gallop but she wiz aal and the wagon wiz a fair wecht wi abody in ower so he pulled back a wee bittie. The foam wiz fleein fae her mooth and he wiz feart she’d die atween the shafts. The bairn started tae scream oot again “Daddy daddy the shancoul’s back and he’s leanin in tae reach mammy!”
Ackers shouted tae the horse “Go lassie go!” and the peer aal horse gave her best. Clapperin alang for at least a half mile afore she stoppit o her ain accord wi the braith fusslin fae her mooth an foam fleein like soap. Ackers lookit in the back at his wife an bairns. Becca wiz in an affa state and tried tae shush the bairns tae calm them. The bairn wi his een stained wi tears wiz lookin oot the back o the wagon.
He askit the bairn if he could still see the man in black? The bairn said he could but he wiz far awa noo and jist stood there wavin them back. Ackers mined that witches an demons couldna cross rinnin water and they were stopped in the middle o a wee brig. Becca hid nivver seen the man in black but fin she lookit oot the back o the wagon she could see him staanin way back the road Becca gave oot a skirl that could’ve been heard five miles awa an gaed intae a faint again.
As Becca came tee she asked Ackers if the shancoul wiz awa. He assured her he wiz gone. Later they got a chance tae spik aboot fit hid happened. Ackers thocht it micht hae been the Devil himsel in human form and the nun wiz yin o his demons. Becca thocht it wiz maybe the black airt that’d been workin or the ‘Gweed Fowk’ hid put the comehither ontae them. For the rest o the time they travelled the highways & byways o the Heilands Ackers made sure fin they stoppit for the nicht it wiz beside habitation!
Gillespie Hoose 1968 A.D.
I stood in the early mornin freest awytin the arrival o the solicitor wi the key for the big wrought iron gate. My work’s van wiz tucked in at the left o the big gate and I could see the hoose set well back intae the grounds. It lookit fae here tae be biggit o saansteen. It wiz een o yon Victorian biggins made tae look like a seventeenth century masion but only a third o the size. It wiz a twa storied building wi a big covered entrance held up wi three huge pillars in the centre front. On the richt o the entrance there wiz a big bey windae that wint up twa stories, on the left were twa flush casement windaes een abeen the ither. I coulda be sure fae the distance but een or twa peens o glaiss lookit broken. The gravel drive tae the hoose wiz weel owergrown wi weeds comin up throwe the chuckies. Through the trees at the left o the drive I could jist mak oot the reef o anither building. I teen that tae be a stable, maist likely.
As I waited, I wint ower in my mind the reason I wiz staanin here waitin. I wiz a pinter tae the trade but ae time a couple o years afore work hid been gye scarce. At that time the Government hid teen oot a scheme for trainin up six month tradesmen so I’d managed tae get masel ontae the jinery course. It wiz better than signin ontae the dole an stagnatin through the winter. They taught ye the basics o the trade only. Mair or less jist the roughin work like framin oot the intimmers o biggins an sic like.
A lot o time served lads werena ower happy aboot it though an gave a lot o the sax monthers a gye hard time o’t. But I wiz aaricht wi my bein a pinter tae the trade. Onywye I’d vrocht on plenty o the same sites and kent a lot o the lads fine. I actually enjoyed deein the roughin jinery and the bonus wiz it gave me the chance tae get awa fae the smell o pint for a fylie.
Then comes the reason I’m staanin wytin at the gates o a big hoose. I’d been vrochtin deein the roughin work ae time in a new bungalow fin this toff kindo lad comes in. He jist steed lookin aboot for a while and my thinkin he wiz probably an architect or some sic like jist let him get on wi it. A fyle later he came inaboot an speired if I’d be interested in deein a homer? Well my bein but a sax monther I usually pit onybody needin a job deen ontae some o the real jiners unless it wiz a simple job like pittin up a fence or something the likes o that. So I tellt him there wisna ony jiners on the site that day but if he gave me his number I’d see if ony o the lads could help. He lookit puzzled fin I said that and pynted tae the haimmer in my haan sayin he thocht I wiz a jiner?
I tellt him the oots an ins and he wiz affa interested in this speirin me aboot the roughin jinery and seemed trickit wi my bein a pinter ana. Onywye it ends up he wiz seekin somebody tae expose some jeest eynes intae an aal hoose tae check for ony rot. A customer o his wiz needin tae buy the hoose but wanted it checked oot aforehaan. I wiz reluctant, thinkin tae masel that this wiz a job for a real jiner nae a sax monther the likes o me. The toff lad seemed adamant that he wanted me, so that nicht aifter work I wint an hid a look. I tellt him though that if it wiz ower complicated I’d nae be deein it and he’d need a time served lad in. This suited him fine so we’d arranged tae meet at the hoose.
In the event the job wiz richt straacht forritt, so I did as he asked and exposed the suspect jeest eynes. The gweed news wiz that athing wiz perfect an there wisna one pick o rot aboot the place. Aifter I’d feenished and pittin my tools intae the van he come inaboot fair chuffed lookin. He teen oot his wallet and handed me a twenty pound note.
On seein this I said, “Oh no no min that’s faar ower muckle!”
The look o surprise that crossed his face wiz a picter.
I thocht maybe I’d embarrassed him so I quickly said, “I’ll tak a fiver if ye want tae gee ma that.”
Well he recovered fae his surprise but wid hear nae sic thing aboot a fiver and shoved the twenty intae ma dungaree pooch sayin it wiz well worth it tae him getting the job done at such short notice!
It wiz my turn tae feel embarrassed noo because twenty pounds wiz mair than I earned in a week. He then handed me his business card. He owned his ain firm o solicitors and if it wiz aaricht wi me he’d pit me on his books as the firm’s catch hand kindo lad.
Ower the next couple o years I’d got a lot o work throwe his firm fae changin locks tae emergency repairs on buildings he owned and quite a lot o pintin jobbies for baith him and his customers. I’d started on my own aifter that, as a handyman and michty plenty jobs did I get. But the jobs I got fae him ayee peyed weel.
He eence tellt ma it wiz my complete honesty that hid struck him and laughingly spoke aboot the cairry on wi the twenty pound note. He said nae muckle fowk he kent wid’ve refused that. But fitivver the case here wiz I wytin tae gyan and dee a cracker o a job.
I could hear a car comin alang the narra road but I couldna see it for the hedges that lined ilka side o the road until the funcy BMW came intae view and pulled intae the gateway. I could see it wiz een o the young solicitors fae the heed office. He smiled and gid me a wave fin he saw me as he hurridly jumped oot o the car. He’d nae jaicket on. He wiz weerin a fite sark wi tie, so the caal ween hut him fair an bye and in second he wiz shiverin. He’d thin breeks on and a pair o Italian shoes that lookit for aa the world like cardboord wi some blaik on them for a shine. Nae exactly the type o riggoot a budy maun weer in sic a caal barefaced morning.
He lookit ower ma shooder at the hoose and I saw a fleetin swype o fear cross his face. He’d been here afore makkin oot the list o jobs nottin deen so I winnert why he lookit so feart. He leaned back intae the car takin oot a big folder. He said the job schedule and order numbers were aa in order then he handed ma a huge bunch o keys.
I speired at him if he wiz comin tae show ma the jobs but he jist nervously pynted tae the folder sayin athing’s in there. I saw a look o horror cross his face at my suggestion. A look at his watch then wi a quick, “Affa busy! Must be getting on!”
Anither short look at the hoose, then hurriedly back inower his car. Wi a quick wave he fired up the engine spun the wheels a bit an wint off doon the road as if Aal Leather tail himsel wiz nippin at his heels. I stood there a minty lookin at the hoose tae see fit fleggit him so muckle. But bugger a thing could I see.
I’d a fair chave wi the padlock on the big gate for the key wisna among the bunch o keys he’d geen ma. So I’d nithing adee but tae cut the chyne that keepit baith haafs o the gate secure. Ach well, I’d jist hiv tae get a new lock fin I wint tae the buildin suppliers in the toon.
The drive wiz aboot a hunner yards lang, wi a turnin circle near the hoose like a roundabout. The centre o it wiz full o overgrown bushes and the drive wisna muckle better wi aa the weeds growin thowe the chuckies. Thankfully it widna be my job tae sort that mess oot.
It wiz a richt bonny buildin wi a big covered entrance faar a coach could drive under allowin the fowk tae enter the hoose oot o the elements. The covered entrance wiz held up by three huge ornate pillars and hid a plain flat roof. The rest o facade wiz completely plain, nae carvins or date steen tae be seen. Tae my taste this added tae its beauty because so much saansteen biggins o this kind were destroyed by the builders owerdeein it wi ornamentation.
The door wiz made oot o oak and must’ve weighed haaf a ton. It wiz plain as could be, wi three panels on each haaf an lookit as if it hid jist been varnished weeks ago and nae the years it must’ve been. The lock though wiz a fair chave tae wun open. Eventually it turned and I gave it a shove. Michty though the hinges protested as I shoved it open. They’d nott a liberal dose o WD40 or Wully Donald as we caad it. I’d hiv tae dee that tae aa the hinges an locks aboot the place so’s nae tae braak them.
Inside, there wiz a second door. It wiz glaized wi stained glaiss and in the centre there wiz some kind o coat o arms deen wi the same glaiss. Beyond it I entered a big haal wi a saansteen stair case on the left gyan up tae the next level. The hall wiz plain and apart fae a big ornamental cornice gyan roon the ceilin and a massive plaster centre piece wi a chandelier and globes in it, the place wiz pretty unremarkable. Nae a lot o licht came in apart fae a big windae at the back waa aside the stairs. But maist o it wiz deen wi stained glaiss and that teen awa much o the licht. At the bottom o the stairs on my richt there wiz a big bonny panelled door an tae my left on the opposite waa wiz twa mair.
The rooms themsels were jist big boxes, the only ornamentation wiz the cornices and ceilin centres o the maist basic style and the widwork wiz the same, wi aichteen inch varnished skirtins an fite pinted windaes. The waas were pinted wi primrose eggshell pint, a colour that actually suited the rooms. The pint though wiz peelin here an there and the varnish on the skirtins were aa kill cracked and perished wi time. I could see a puckle bits faar water hid gotten in, particularly ablow the windaes.
Only one room doonstairs could be caad a bit mair interestin. It let in fae ablow the stairs and obviously hid eence been the library. Very few shelves were left but ye could see on the waas faar they’d been. In this room the fireplace wiz made o cast iron wi bonny tiles done in hunting scenes set in the surrounds o the fire. The rest o the fireplaces I’d seen were made o plain saansteen that were cracked an reekit wi years o use.
Up the heed o the stairs ye struck a left alang a dull lichted lobby that let intae the the sax bedrooms. They were much smaller than the doonstair rooms and very plain, even plainer if that were possible. The waas again were o primrose yella eggshell pint. The rooms were hingin wi spider’s wobbs and flakin pint and the timmer fleers were covered in styowe. But upstairs there wiz little evidence o water comin in so the reef itsel must’ve been in gweed enough nick. That’s always a plus in an aal buildin like this. Actually I wiz a bittie disappointed wi the inside really, for it could’ve been so much mair. But ach, I wisna here tae judge but tae get on wi the vrocht.
The best bit for me wiz fit hid been the servant’s quarters in the attic. They were cosy wi licht grey pinted timmer linings. Richt bonny wee rooms that were as functional as they were practical.
There wiz an annex on the left haan side o the main hoose that I’d nae noticed fae the road. This wiz the kitchen and the first thing ye saw on enterin wiz the massive cookin range anent the back waa. It wiz in a dire condition pure hingin wi corrosion. There wiz a wee room aff the main kitchen wi twa big sinks sittin alloe fower wee windaes and the waas were decked oot in marble shelves. At the back waa an aal farrent stove for heatin water. This must’ve been the scullery. The fleer wiz decked oot in sclate flagsteens like the kitchen and I saw there wiz a door tae the ootside at the side o the sinks. I thocht tae mak this the place tae store my tools and ony ither materials I’d be getting for the job.
I read the schedule the young solicitor hid given ma. There wiz a wee bit o history aboot the building. Seemingly it hid been built on the site o a twelfth century castle in the mid nineteenth century by a ‘hen-trippin-ower’ kindo lad faa’d decided tae bigg himsel a mansion. In the event the siller hid run oot. I thocht tae masel that must be the reason for the auster intimmers o the hoose. The big hoose hid remained in the faimily but it wiz nivver tae be the place it’d been intended tae be. The faimily still owned it but bade oot in Sweden and hid decided tae mak it intae a holiday home.
The schedule gave me a rindoon on fit I’d tae dee but it wiz gye sketchy tae say the least. Minin on the young solicitor’s face as he’d lookit at the hoose and the pure fear in it then nae much winder there wiz sic a dearth o information in the schedule. But I kent weel enough fit wid be nottin deen so that wisna a problem. The pey wiz gweed at three pounds by the oor. If I’d been vrochtin on a site I’d be lucky tae be getting ten or twelve bob an oor. On tap o that I wiz tae be given fifty pounds a week for my digs, a bliddy fortune back in the sixties I can tell ye. I’d nae intention tae get digs but wid bide in the hoose for the sax wikks I’d been given tae dee the job.
I spent the rest o the day getting the scullery ready for my occupation. First my tools teen in and pitten on the shelves. There wisna ony electric in the hoose but that wisna a problem as I’d be workin the haan mull tools onywye. I put my camp bed aside the stove and teen in my primus for cookin an makkin tay. As it wiz still gye caal I spent some time ficherin wi the scullery stove and found it tae be in nae ower bad o a condition. Nithing like as bad as the kitchen yin onywye. I checked oot the lum tae see if it wiz clear o birds nests or rubble but it wiz clear. Next I wint on the raik for bitties o sticks fae alloe the trees. A fyowe oxterfaes o that and in nae time I’d the stove lowin. Kettle on and soon I’d a fine brew on the go.
For licht I’d ma Tilley paraffin storm lantern. It gid aff a gweed enough light seein it wiz pressurised, but for mair general use I’d a basic wikk lantern. Basic I’d say, but gweed enough for me at that time. Onywye I planned tae get masel a wee petrol generator lighting set aifter I wiz peyed for this job. That wid mak a gye odds workin in places like this faar there wisna ony sparks and as a bonus I’d get tae use my electric tools instead o the haan mull like I’d be deein here.
That nicht I settled doon cosy pie on the camp bed inside ma sleepin pyoke. The stove wiz weel loaded wi sticks so I jist lay watchin the flickers comin fae the vents and thinkin aboot the job.
I must’ve drifted aff but awoke wi a start. For a minty I windered faar I wiz. The bricht meenlicht wiz comin in throwe the windaes castin its caal eerie glow aboot the room. Thinkin that’s fit must hae wakened ma I turned awa fae it and settled doon. Seconds later I heard a door bangin inside the hoose and wiz sure I heard voices. Anither bang then silence as if faaivver they were hid wint intae a room closin the door ahin them.
I lay and listened for ony ither sounds but apart fae the normal creaks an groans ye get fae empty hooses there wiz nithing. I fellt a wee bittie spookit at this but I kent fine there must be a mair rational explanation than the thocht o ghosts. Then I mind on the look o fear on the young solicitor’s face fin I’d suggested he come in an show ma fit tae dee. I snuggled doon intae my sleepin pyoke wi that, I’m tellin ye.
I awoke early jist as the licht wiz comin throwe the windaes. I fellt surprisingly fresh even aifter my near bein fleggit haaf tae death in the early oors. Wi the daylicht came the reasonin and I put it doon tae masel dreamin and comin haaf awake. Well that’s fit I convinced masel wi.
A blackie wiz singin its hert oot in the trees aside the scullery, so I lay listenin tae it for a while afore getting up and firin up my primus for a cuppy o tay. The stove hid wint oot durin the nicht so I shivered as I fichered wi ma tay things. That day I planned tae gyang intae the toon for some things I be nottin for the job and also I’d need mait an something tae cairry drinkin water.
I’d heen a look at the water supply yestreen and found it came fae a waal but athing wiz choked up so I’d nae be getting ony drinkin water fae there. The hoose water hid come fae the waal by a pump but the pump wiz jist a bag o roost. In the whole hoose there wiz but three lavies, fower sinks and one bathroom and aa run in wi lead pipes so I couldna hae got water supposin the wall and pump were in perfect workin order. Aal lead pipes were notorious for leakin if they’d been aff for ony length o time, nivver mind the fower decades since the twenties like here.
I set off for the toon and set up an accoont at the building suppliers under the name o the solicitors and placed my first order. Next I wint tae the shop for eerins tae masel. Nithing grand jist tay, sugar, dried milk, tins o bullybeef, spam, beans, peys, cheese, oatcakes and packets o pom (dried tatties). Maybe nae the best o mait for noo-a-days healthy fowke but by God it wiz tasty aa the same. Jist fit a man body needs tae get on wi the vrocht. My next stop wiz the ironmongers for twa five gallon plastic containers for water and a couple o gallons o paraffin for my lamps. There wiz a coonty yard near haan and I got my water containers fulled there nae bother.
In gweed fettle I made my wye back tae the hoose and fin I turned intae the drive I could’ve swore I saw movement in een o the windaes abeen the entrance. I thocht tae masel that some bugger maun be bidin in the hoose and mindin on the door slammin in the middle o the nicht, that must be exactly fit it wiz. Bugger!
Hurridly I let masel in throwe the scullery door and made for the hall. As I entered I could’ve swore the place wiz full o fowk aa mutterin awa. I physically didna hear onything barr a pressure in my lugs but the hall wiz fulled wi a brooding atmosphere and an evil presence.
The hall wiz a gloomy place onywye so that could’ve been fit gave me that feelings but fitivver it wiz it fairly stoppit ma in my tracks for a fyowe seconds afore I spoke oot loud;
“Awa min, yer lettin yersel get spookit like a bairn!”
I made for the stairs and jist as I reached the bottom o them a door banged abeen ma, so I ran up the stairs tae catch faaivver wiz up there playin silly buggers. Eence I got tae the heed o the stairs I stoppit and hid a quick look aboot ma. I wiz jist awa tae move eence mair fin I noticed the fleer. It wiz covered in the styowe o decades and the only fitprints I saw were my ain yins fae the day afore. Jist tae prove something tae masel I wint back doon the stairs and aboot haafwyes I saw ither fitprints that must’ve been the young solicitor’s. I could even see faar he’d turned an made his wye back doon. Fit hid fleggit him? Hid he heard a door bang and hightailed it fae the place? Or hid he felt the atmosphere or heard mutterin?
A bit troubled and mair than a bitty scared I made my wye back up tae hae a check in the rooms even as far up as the servant’s quarters in the attic. But nae a thing did I find and apart fae my ain fitprints in the styowe o decades I could see that nae ither person hid walked there. Gye thochtfull and mair than a bittie spookit I made my wye doon tae the scullery.
I unloaded my eerins and water then decided tae hae something tae ait. I wiz bliddy ravenous for I’d nae hin a bite since braakfast the day afore. I fellt much better aifter some oatcakes and cheese wi a fine cuppy o tay. I put aa the strange ongyans doon tae a vivid imagination I nivver even kent I hid afore. Geein masel a bit o a shak I jist lookit tae the front and held gyan wi my work. This pullin masel up tae point fairly workit awa for a wee whilie but I started tae feel I wiz bein watched and ivvery noo an then I’d catch a movement at the tail o ma ee. Eence or twice I’d turn ma heed fast but there wiz nivver onything there.
Fin I did that I’d shout oot loud tae masel; “Awa min an stop this bliddy silly cairryon!”
The words felt as if they came back tae mock ma but jist as a pressure ye’ll understand. In this wye I got throwe the first week. There’d been nae mair doors bangin nor mutterin and my sleep hid been completely undisturbed. But the feelins o bein watched were ayee there. I settled doon fine and wiz fair getting on wi the vrocht.
Ilka nicht I’d hae a wanner aboot the gruns. There wiz fit hid been a vast formal gairden but aa growed ower wi weeds noo but michty it must’ve lookit gweed back in the day. There wiz a cracker o a kitchen gairden wi brick waas aa roon aboot fifteen fit heich. The hinges on the entrance door were seized solid an nae maitter foo muckle WD40 I applied they widna move but I got in throwe the north side faar a bit o the waa that hid fell in at some point.
A big greenhoose wiz at the far eyne; a lot o the glaiss wiz broken in it and the whole structure wiz in a gye unsafe condition so I didna venture in there. Fit hid been the kitchen gairden wiz jist a mass o weeds and gnarled bushes and apart fae that there wisna an affa lot tae see. But michty it wiz fine an warm and I could see plenty fruit trees against the sooth facin waa. I’d love tae see this place in the growin season.
At the ither side o the kitchen gairden I came across fit hid been the stables. It wiz a richt weel set up wee buildin biggit wi the same saansteen as the big hoose. It hid twa stories tae it. Doon ablow wiz the staas for a puckle horses and abeen that must’ve been faar the stable haan hid bade. Up there water hid gotten in an rotted a lot o the fleer so I only got a peek in nae wantin tae faa throwe the fleer. It lookit tae me as if somebody hid dossed in there for I could see a wee shackydoon o course woollen blankets and a dish aside it wi fit looked like tabbies in it. But that must’ve been an affa lot o years ago for aathing wiz covered in a thick lair o dust. I wun carefully doon the stairs watchin faar I put ma feet.
Oot in the licht eence mair I made my wye doon tae faar I did my ablutions. I’d found this place fin I’d geen on the raike for fresh water. There wiz a sheltered pool that must’ve been a water feature for the main gairden, though noo it wiz full o waterlillys and reeds. The bit that fed the pool wiz a bonny clear wee burn, so I’d come doon here ilka forenicht for tae sweel the styowe fae aff masel. The water wiz freezin but it washed awa the swyte o the day an invigorated a budy nae handy.
Ae forenicht I wiz sittin on the doorstep o the scullery haein a bit supper and enjoyin the last o the sun’s rays, fin I noticed an aal craw sittin in een o the trees opposite tae faar I sat. It seemed tae be affa interested in fit I wiz deein by turnin its heed an lookin me up an doon. I threw some crummles o oatcake oot ontae the chuckies and the craw half flew doon tae them. I could see it hid a crookit wing and thocht tae masel it must’ve brook it at ae time peer wee craiter.
I said till it, “Aye aye crawsie!”
It keekit up at ma fin I said that and for a minty lookit ma up an doon then cairried on aitin the crummles. This wiz a starter for ten, an afore the wikk wiz oot the big aal craw wiz feedin fae ma haan. Michty, but it wiz affa fond o the spam an fyles managed a haaf tinny. Afore lang it wid come intae the scullery an flee up tae the shelf abeen the stove an gyang tae sleep for maist o the day. Fin it awoke it wid land aside ma, pesterin ma for anither morsel or twa.
Michty, I wiz fair trickit wi this craw an noo an then I’d even get tae claw its heed. I caad it Jock-in-the-mooth and it fairly answered tae that and wid come doon fae the tree but I’d later find oot ‘he’ wiz a ‘she’, though mair on that later.
As usual, I bankit up the stove wi a puckle sticks an snuggled intae ma sleepin pyoke cosey pie. Hardly did I close ma een but I wiz oot fae the coont. I’d nae need tae set my alarm for at sunrise Jock-in-the-mooth wid be tap, tap, tappin on the scullery windae lookin tae wun in for a morsel an then a sleep abeen the stove. This hid fairly become a mornin ritual.
That nicht though wiz fin the strange dreams started. I’d find masel intae a chamber aboot twinty fit by ten fit. It wiz biggit wi roch steen and a coomed ceiling. The only licht wiz a big rosety stick stuck intae an iron hoop against een o the waas. In my dream I could actually smell the roset.
Slowly I’d become aware o a presence aboot ma as if I wiz being watched. Bit by bit fower monks came intae view mutterin awa tae eenanither. They showed nae interest in me though, but seemed tae lookin past ma. I turned, and that wiz fin I saw a naked man tied tae a frame. Oh me, he lookit gye sair made and I could mak oot lots o wounds coverin maist o his body. I tried tae gyang towards him but nae a muscle could I move barr my heed.
On the poor man’s face I could see sic despair as I nivver in aa ma life afore hid yet seen. But the look o despair changed tae pure horror. I turned ma heed and saw een o the fower monks place a sharpened stake intae a hole in the grun. Although I couldna see their faces I heard the strange words as they started chanting.
This galvanised the man tied tae the frame tae attempt tae braak free. As he struggled I saw the shackles roon his wrists cut intae his flesh as he thrashed aboot.
Three o the monks teen him doon fae the frame and led him tae the sharpened stake. Michty me, the peer man struggled against them wi aa his might but tae nae avaul. They held the still strugglin figure abeen the stake and seemed tae be askin him questions. He shook his heed vigorously jist makkin a low keenin sound.
The fourth monk standin by, nodded his heed tae the ither three and they slowly lowered the now screamin man ontae the stake.
I tried my best tae move but I really wiz fixed and couldna move ava, so I roared oot o ma for them tae stop in the name o God!
This got the attention o the monks and that’s fin I saw their faces fae alloe the hoods. And supposin I live tae be a hunnder years aal I nivver want tae see sic evil faces again. It wiz my turn tae scream and I gye near burst ma very thrappel as I stood there screamin oot o ma. I wiz shakkin and freezin ma hert wiz near burstin its wye throwe ma very breest.
I found masel oot o ma sleeping bag lookin oot the windae o the scullery in a state nae handy. Relief swept ower ma fin I realised it wiz only a bad dream but Christ it hid felt real enough. Shakkin like a leaf and covered in swyte I wint back intae my sleepin bag and lay awake for the rest o the nicht til Jock-in-the-mooth started tae tap on the windae.
I wiz pretty unsettled for the rest o the day and ayee fellt tae look ower ma shooder but aifter ma dream I’d nae be deein that jist in case I lookit intae the evil faces again.
Onywye I vrocht awa but I jist couldna get the image o that poor man’s face oot o ma heed ava. My big aal craw seemed tae hiv changed his habit and instead o gan tae sleep as usual aifter his morsels he follyt ma aboot as if reluctant tae let ma fae his sicht. I wiz so upset that I thocht tae gyang intae the toon for digs and only vrocht here in the oors o daylicht. I fairly considerd deein that and wid’ve if Jock hidna wint oot wi a caw. Then I thocht tae masel fit wid he dee for a wee morsel. Silly though it may sound I wint against ivvery alarm bell ringin in ma heed tellin ma tae get awa fae this place ower the heeds o an aal craw nae getting a tasty morsel.
I’d the same dream a couple mair times ower the space o a wikk, always wi the same result o me stannin oot o my sleeping bag screamin oot o ma. I thocht that I must be gyan aff the gourd.
As I said, the dream wiz the same wi the selfsame results but there wiz ae subtle change. As the monks manifested themsels instead o lookin past me at the man on the frame they first focused on me and boy, did I feel the evil come aff them at this point. I wiz rael sparkit up aboot this but aiterhin I wiz left in peace as they fixed their attentions tae the poor terrifeart man chyned tae the torture frame.
It wid’ve been the beginnin o my third week there, jist aifter I fitted the security wire on the doonstairs windaes, that I saw the fower monks stannin doon aside the kitchen gairden lookin up at ma.
The very hairs on the back o ma neck birrsed up because even fae this distance I felt the menace.
Then a strange thing happened.
My aal craw appeared fae naewye and started tae swoop them. They were neen too happy aboot this and behaved if they were terrifeart o him, coorien doon an wavin their airms aboot. Slowly they wint fae sicht and the feeling o menace wint wi them.
That nicht I’d the re-occurring dream again. It wiz the same dream but this time the fower monks focussed on me as they teen the poor man doon fae the frame. They hissed strange words at ma and their breaths smelled like that fae a rotten sewer. I started screamin as they made a grab for me and dragged me towards the sharpened stake on the fleer.
The next I kent my aal craw wiz there beatin them wi his wings. I wiz still screamin fin I found masel leanin ower the big double sink in the scullery gaspin for breath and greetin like a bairn.
I managed tae calm masel doon a bit, but michty I wiz breathin hard, as if I’d been hill run. Instead o gan back tae ma bed, I made masel a cuppy o fine sweet tay and lichted my we paraffin lamp for it wiz still gye dark. I heard a gentle tap tappin at the windae and saw it wiz my aal craw so I let him in. Michty but it seemed wrocht up, an hopped aboot wi its queer broken wing loup afore comin up ontae ma knee. I petted him for a while as he sat mutterin awa tae himsel and my askin him as if a budy fit wye he wiz oot and it still pickmirk ootside. He widna leave me so I put him up in his favourite place abeen the fire.
By this time I wiz beginnin tae feel mair relaxed and aifter dichtin aff maist o the swyte fae masel, I climbed back intae my sleepin pyoke. I turned the paraffin lampy doon low an tried tae wun back tae sleep. I must’ve dozed a bit but I awoke wi a loup as a door slammed in the hoose, then anither, then anither. Na, na I wisna haein this ava. I wiz eether gyan aff the heed or the bliddy hoose wiz haunted by evil spirits.
I put on ma clyse beets ana and fired up my Tilly storm lamp. It gave aff a gye bricht licht so I thocht I’d settle this oot one wye or the tither.
By the time I wun intae the hall I could’ve sworne the place wiz crowded oot wi fowk. Ivvery door wiz slammin een at a time startin fae the tap o the buildin richt doon here tae the hall then gyan fae the hall richt back up tae the tap o the hoose. Ower and ower this happened but nae one bliddy thing could I see bricht Tilley lamp or no.
I wiz scared aaricht, that I can tell ye but nae as scared as fin invisible haans started tae tug at my clyes and stroke ma face. Aa the while the doors were bangin bangin throughoot the hoose. I almost did tak tae ma heels then but anger started tae replace my fear. Then burnin shame on me, for I believed in nithing at that time, but I roared oot shakkin ma fist intae the air;
“In the name o God and aa the saints in heaven wid ye stop!!”
Nae one mair sound. Nithing! It jist stopped like that. The atmosphere wiz still ‘full’ though. As if a crowd o fowk awaited the next bit. Then slowly even that changed and I could’ve swore I heard the licht scuffle o feet on the treads o the big saansteen stairs. By this time I wiz nearly on the point o collapse and, almost in a daze, I made my wye back throwe tae the scullery and lay oot on my bed.
Bricht sunlicht awakened ma, alang wi the tap tappin o Jock-in-the-mooth at the windae.
Bleary eyed I got up an let him in sayin, “How did you get oot?”
I distinctly remembered him comin in in the middle o the nicht then my pittin him up tae his favourite place.
Oot loud I said, “This is it I’m gan pure aff the crump!”
I’d my breakfast, makkin sure the aal craw got his share ana. He wint tae his favourite place an wiz soon asleep. I cairried on wi the work. Anither fyowe days and that wid be me feenished weel aheed o schedule. I’d nae be sorry tae see the back o this brooding place. I’d hae a word wi the young solicitor aboot it and hear the reason why he bolted.
Onywye I stuck it oot athoot ower muckle bother. I’d nae mair dreams and for that I wiz gye thankful. The only soor note wiz my haein tae leave my aal craw ahin. I could’ve done tae tak him hame wi me but that widnae hiv been practical.
The next day I’d a couple wee jobs tae dee afore I shut the hoose doon. so I settled doon in my sleepin pyoke wi mixed feelins. Seek at leavin peer Jock-in-the-mooth but glaid tae be leavin…
I wiz staanin lookin on as usual but this time the monks were leavin by a door I’d nae noticed afore. They slammed it shut ahin them makkin ma jump then I heard the groan. Lookin doon, I saw the peer man in agony sittin faar they’d left him wi the stake up inside his intimmers. There wiz bleed awye roon faar he sat and I could see he wiz dyin. He lookit up at ma wi sic a look o misery and despair on his face.
I moved towards him.
This time I wisna rooted tae the spot so in seconds I hunkered doon aside him. I tried tae lift him up aff the stake but he howled in agony so I let him be. He spoke tae ma but I didna ken the words he said so he started pyntin at the waa sayin Drostan, Drostan ower and ower.
I’d nae clue fit he meant but tae please him I moved tae the waa and put ae haan on een o the steens. At this he shook his heed so I touched anither steen wi the same result. I keepit deein this till at last he nodded his heed. I made the motion o pullin the steen fae the waa and at this he nodded vigorously. I put my fingers at each side o the steen and pulled as hard as I could but nae a move could I get. I raikit in ma pooch for ma pocket knife and cleaned awa the muck fae the jints. The next time I rived as hard as I could takin the skin and nails fae ma fingers. I’d nae time tae worry aboot it for the man wiz on his last gasps. I pulled an pulled till eventually the steen come free in my haans.
Throwin it tae the side, I put a hann intae the hole. I rummled ma haan aboot till I touched on something. I fellt a strap an jist haaled as hard as I could. Aifter a bit o a chave I got fitivver it wiz oot. There in ma haan wiz a big leather satchel.
I heard the man ahin ma gasp oot o him. Turnin, I thocht he’d died but na he’d baith haans oot wavin ma owere wi the bag. He teen it fae me and held it tae his breest wi tears rinnin doon his chikks unheaded.
Aifter a while o this he lookit up at ma an smiled the pain and despair gone fae his face. He put a haan oot seekin ma tae help him tae his feet so I did that. The bleed and the stake were gone fae the fleer and by the looks o’t he wiz fine.
Jist then my aal craw came in and sat on his shooder and ae me sic a work the hid wi eenanither. Turnin tae me, he made the sign o the cross then steppit inaboot an gave me a bosie. The aal craw next wint ontae my shooder mutterin awa tae itsel and rubbin its heed on ma cheek.
The man spoke but I’d nae idea o the words. He saw this, and tried some ither words but wi the same results. Next, he opened the satchel an teen oot a huge book. On the cover wiz twa words: Drostan’s tears. Fin I read them oot loud he went tae his knees and kissed the book.
Stannin up he handed me the book sayin, “abbee et clova!”
I repeated fit I thocht he said.
“Abbey at Clova?”
He smiled and nodded pointin tae himsel he said, “Kenniff!”
I did the same; “Sanners!”
Wi one last smile he made the sign o the cross as baith him and my aal craw slowly wint fae sicht.
I jist stood there like a gype lookin aboot ma at the torture chamber till even it wint fae sicht and I wiz back stannin in the scullery. Somehow I understood that I’d tae tak Drostan’s book tae the Abbey o Clova. But there wiz a big problem there. I’d nae idea faar aboot the Abbey o Clova wiz.
It’s nearly fifty years ago now since that time and that experience changed me forivver. I did weel in life aifter my adventures at the big hoose and eventually ended up ownin a lot o properties. But that is only the material part which means little really. I got tae see something that changed ‘me’, the person deep inside, in a wye I still canna explain aa these years aifter.
I’d love tae write here sayin that I’d become a deeply religious person but that I canna dee for that nivver happened in my life. That I got tae see the spiritual side o life? Well, I’ve nae doot aboot that for I only need tae pit oot ma haan and touch Drostan’s book tae prove that tae masel.
Wiz I dishonest keeping the book? No I dinna think so. If I’d handed it ower tae the kirk it wid’ve ended up hidden awa and its existence wid maist probably be denied. This wye at least fowk will get tae read it and touch it if lucky.
Inside the pages are twa locks o Drostan’s hair pitten there by his friend Kenniff and some notes written by him aboot Drostan. I used some o his notes tae write the story Drostan’s Tears.
I’m nae sure faa the monks were in the torture chamber but poor Kenniff hid suffered at their evil haans for mair than fourteen centuries protectin Drostan’s book till I came alang and somehow set him free. That’s a mystery that will nivver be solved as tae faa the monks were.
My thinking is that the church hid somehow got wind o Drostan’s book and hid sent the monks tae waylay Kenniff on his wye tae Clova. Now, that’s pure conjecture on my part but it strikes me as strange that the Abbey o Clova only comes doon tae us as merely a name o a place that could’ve exsited. My thocht is that fin they couldna find the book they destroyed Clova and eradicated it fae history.
In the event, history tells us the Abbey o Clova wiz lost in time, roon aboot the 10th century some scholars seemed tae think, but like its location the date is a mystery. But Clova ceased tae exist centuries afore, in the sixth century AD. Wi my huddin ontae the book and this being the first time I’ve ivver lettin dabb aboot it, the scholars will hae a field day fin I publish a copy o the original in the next couple o years. And wi that publication a lot o dates will be changing, as well as lot o details aboot the Picts completely unknown tae history.
I still sometimes see my big aal craw noo an then. Ruby’s her name an she’ll fyles sit up in the rowan tree in my gairden an mutter awa tae ma. She winna come doon for crummles though, jist contented sittin there lookin doon. I think she keeps tabs on ma because I’ve her maister’s beuk, or maybe she jist likes tae look aifter ma?
I winner noo if Ruby will gee me one last bosie like she gave Drostan fin my time comes? I do hope so!
Sanners Gow, Gillespie Hoose Banffshire AD 2018
Drostan arose fae his mornin devotions and closed his book o The Gospels. He’d wrote and bound it fae the original himsel many years afore at Iona and like himsel the book wiz getting the waar o the weer. The thick leather bindin wiz worn by use an some o the folds were like tae disintegrate. Een o the monks back at Deer wiz affa gweed at leatherwork so he’d get him tae look at it fin he returned fae his retreat tae the Abbey.
Drostan heard the tap, tap, tap at the windae that owerlookit the steen altar he’d jist feenished prayin at. He smiled. This wiz the mornin ritual ivvery time he came here tae his cell at Aberdour bay. The tap tap tappin got mair insistent so he made tae open the wee windae. As he made tae dee this he wiz always struck by how clever the Picts were for the wee windae wisna glazed wi glaiss but wi cured fish skin scrappit till ye could near see fair throwe it. The mornin sun cast a warm pale yella licht intae his cell and ower the steen alter and even as important the fish skin keepit the caal breezes that were usual in this exposed place oot. Mair tappin and Drostan laachin tae himsel said
“Aricht ma quinie!” and opened the windae.
Standin there wiz his constant companion. A big aal craw that he caad Ruby. He’d saved her years afore fin she’d brook een o her wings an fae that day till this she’d nivver left him.
She stood there blinkin an haaf turnin her heed she lookit him up an doon afore jumpin in an settin hersel doon ontae the altar. Drostan’s face wiz a picter an fair lichted up as he made a fuss o the big aal craw by strokin her heed an spikkin tae as if a budy.
Her wing hid healed a bitty crookit giein her a bit stoop but she could flee for aa that. A devil’s bird some o the Celtic kirk said but Drostan nivver saw craws like that and in particular nae Ruby. The Picts held the craw in great veneration and even they were impressed fin they saw him walk forth wi the craw sittin atop the Holy Cross on a pole that Drostan always cairried fin he wiz oot and aboot in the district. Though the Picts were by nae means aa Christian at this point they themsels held Drostan in great store as a holy man and this holy man teen een o their pagan birds as his constant companion.
Ruby hoppit ower towards the lowin fire and set hersel doon at een o the binkies mutterin awa tae hersel jist like a budy drawin in aboot tae get some heat. Drostan teen the wee bowl he keepit some scraps for her and in nae time Ruby teemed the wee bowl then settled hersel doon and nodded aff. Drostan smiled kindly. Ivvery mornin she wint throwe the self same routine and Ruby liftit his spirits wi her antics. Drostan himsel hid a bowl o porridge for braakfast but the last speenfae wint intae Ruby’s bowlie for she likit a wee drappy porridge fin she awakened.
Drostan teen oot his wee three fittid stool an set it in front o the altar. Fae a shelf he teen doon his pen and ink pittin it tae the richt o the altar. Then fae a big leather satchel he teen oot his pride and joy. A massive tome o a beuk bound in deer skin. Inside wiz his life’s work faar he’d recorded much o his travels. Nae only that but he’d written extensively aboot the Picts, their beliefs, their wye o life, their language and a lot aboot the herbs they used tae cure illnesses.
The Picts spoke a language much like the Gaelic Drostan himsel spoke though wi a lot o different words and pronunciations. The book also recorded a lot aboot the grasses that grew in abundance here in the lands o the Buchan. There wiz pages and pages dedicated tae the grasses wi a lot o drawins showin their different stages o growth and notes o observations made ablow the drawins. Some hid even been coloured in but nae much o them for Drostan much preferred the ordinary pen and ink. Some o the monks back at the Abbey were affa gweed at makin illuminated manuscripts . But nae wye could he the Abbot let ony o them read his book because it wiz full o stuff that would be viewed as heresy especially aboot the Picts and their belief that stones were alive.
The subject o the stones fascinated Drostan and through time he’d tried tae find oot mair aboot this living stones and fit the carvins on some o them meant? He’d spoken tae a fyowe o their priests but neen were affa forthcomin and wid only tell him the carvins were tae pey homage tae their ancestors. Drostan kent there wiz much mair tae it than that but keepit gweed counsel and accepted fit he wiz tellt.
But his writins recorded some o his thoughts. One entry says that he noticed fae the distance how the Picts approached the symbol steens. They waalkit inaboot tae the steens wi their airms folded then they’d kneel in front wi their airms still folded then say some words. He wished he could hear fit they were sayin but the Picts wid nivver let him near enough for that so he’d jist hae tae dee wi at a distance. He did notice one thing though and that wiz the concentric rings were the maist used symbol. Different fingers o the richt haan wid be used and ran alang the grooves startin fae the ootside towards the centre as the person spoke. This wid often be repeated a fyowe times then the person folded their airms an arose walkin backwyes for twelve paces then turnin fae the steen. It wiz obvious tae Drostan the rings were for prayers o some kind and he observed that some fowk used different fingers. Through time and many observations that wiz the conclusion he’d come tae?
Eence he’d saw aicht men fae een o the bigger boats in the bey come tae een o the steens and there each teen a turn at kneelin and rinnin the first finger o their richt haan in the trochs o the circles while speakin tae the steen. So he concluded they micht’ve been askin their gods for a safe return? Quite a few pages were dedicated tae the standin steens and the different symbols on them.
Drostan’s cell at Aberdour stood faar the ancient kirkyard is noo on the brae on the richt o the Dour waters. At the ither side o the burn there wiz a group o standin steens aboot the place faar Mess John’s well is noo. That wiz the Pictish priests place and Drostan wiz nivver allowed near it because o an stupid act he’d deen as a young man. In fact that is why he preyed wi sic fervour ivvery mornin beggin forgiveness for that stupid act. Mair aboot that later.
Drostan’s cell wiz a steen built building built by the monks fae the Abbey o Deer usin the saansteen that wiz abundant at Aberdour. Jist roch cut blocks thegither wi mortar made fae clay mixed wi the jellied bree fae aff o biled seaweed that keepit the simple buildin ween an waterticht. The reef hid fower cruck trusses that gave the reef a haaf circular appearance like a Nissan hut. The reef wiz then covered by mats made fae woven grass then covered wi divits tae keep oot the weet. The biggin wiz nineteen feet lang an ten fit braid wi side waas aboot sax fit heich an curved gaivels at twal fit. The east waa hid ae wee windae faar his alter stood an richt across fae it on the opposite waa wiz the door tae the wast.
The gaivel at the North eyne hid a simple widdin lum an the fire jist a squaar pit lined wi the hard dark blae steen fae alang the coast. Abeen the fire there wiz an bronze bar stuck oot that could be swivelled abeen the fire tae cook in his bronze pot. At the left o the fire wiz his bed made intae a box oot o saansteen lined wi dry girss for a mattress and a couple o woollen blankets for tae haap himsel. Drostan smiled fin he mind foo the Picts were fair amazed at seein a steen built biggin for the first time. They maistly lived in roonhuts made o timmer wi cone reefs covered in divits or sometimes animal skins shewed the gither. They’d also some simple places undergrun faar they keepit milk and grain, they were lined wi steen though.
The Abbey o Deer itsel wiz o timmer construction but Drostan hid plans tae rebuild it wi steen in the future. He’d even drawins o some plans in his beuk.
Drostan wiz tall and rawbeened wi a slight stoop noo that the years were beginnin tae lay their haan on his tall strong frame. His hair wiz the colour o Summer’s straw wi een o cornflooer blue turnin tae purple dependin on the licht or if he wiz tired. His face wiz pleasin tae the ee wi a short beard the same colour as his hair but a wee bitty darker.
He spoke the Gaelic wi a safter lillt tae it than the Picts used it. They hid lots o different words but found it quite easy tae understand them as they understood him. He wrote in baith The Latin and the Gaelic and wiz kent tae aa as ‘Drostan the Scribe’ because he nivver wint onywye athoot his satchel o writin materials hingin fae his side.
Though Abbot o Deer Drostan nivver wielded the power o sic a man wi onything but decency and tolerance and that mair so aifter his stupid act o so many years afore. He vowed then that he’d nivver again interfere in fowk’s beliefs be they Pagan or Christian.
Drostan lived a gye austere life wi little luxuries but the greatest gift that could be given him wiz sheets o parchment tae write on. In this funnily enough it wiz the Picts that keepit him supplied wi the parchment even though they themsel didnae seem tae hae much in the wye o writin apart fae carvins on steens. That wiz gye handy for Drostan because he couldna hae used the official parchments sent doon fae Moray for tae write his beuk.
A couple o the monks back at the Abbey were Picts. Een o them in particular wiz learnin tae be a scribe and hid an amazing ability makkin illuminated manuscripts. The ither Kenniff by name kent so much aboot the local herbs and grasses that he’d become a particular favourite o Drostan due tae baith their interests on that subject. He vrocht in the infirmary at Deer and lookit aifter the health o the monks and ony locals that came in for treatment.
Drostan wiz soft spoken and hid nivver been heard tae raise his voice in anger.
The clyse he wore wiz as simple as they were austere. A habit wi a hood made oot o the course local wool caad hodden wi a belt o the same wuppit aroon the middle. The locals dyed their wool in different colours but aa monks wore habits o the natural colour. On his feet wiz the Pictish type shoes that came up weel ower the ankles made o deer skin wi a thicker ox leather for soles. In the Buchan a budy needed that for the climate that wiz maistly caal an weet.
Fin he wint abroad on affairs o office his uncle Columbic’s bell wis cairriet tae his front by een o the monks on a pole so that at each step it rang oot tae let the fowk ken the Abbot wiz aboot his Christian business and could be approached for blessings. Passin throwe the various settlements Drostan would be asked for coontless blessings even though maist o the population were as yet Pagan in their beliefs. Drostan himsel wiz once a Pagan till converted tae Christianity as a bairn by his uncle Columba so he understood a fair bit aboot them. Also wi him haein his big aal craw Ruby sittin aheed o the cross he cairriet wint a lang wye in crossin the divide.
Fowk wid gither roon him many askin tae touch his hair for they’s nivver seen onybody wi hair that licht. Drostan allowed them tae dee that even though it wiz a distinctly Pagan custom in so deein. It wiz common tae the Picts in the Buchan faa believed if you touched the hair you were in touch wi the dream o the before an aifter times. And wi Drostan bein so licht coloured getting leave tae handle his hair wiz lookit on as a particulary good omen or blessing.
He’d tour the four Holy healing waals that lay within the policies o the kirk and there hud wee stations and prayers. He did the same wi the one lochan at Pitfoor owerlookin the the Abbey o Deer. Lastly he’d gyang on his ain tae the standin steens at Aikey and there he’d perform devotions while waakin on his knees roon each steen gyan as the sun’s course beggin forgiveness fae God and the Pagan Gods for his stupid act o so many years afore. He’d feenish by sittin atap the big recumbent steen wi the tears o misery and shame rinnin doon his chiks unheeded.
It hid aa started fin he’d been made the Abbot o Deer by his uncle Columba faa hid tellt him tae rule wisely and wi prudence in dealing wi his abbey and the local peoples.
Drostan being young nodded in agreement withoot really understandin fit wise words his uncle hid jist imparted tae him. Columba teen his leave o Drostan doon at the shore o Aberdour and legend tells us that Drostan cast tears at this farewell and faar his tears touched the grun bonny clear water began tae bubble up fae that spot. Now Drostan noted this in his beuk merely as nonsense for the well wiz already there as it hid been for many many years and used by the Picts at Aberdour as a Pagan Holy waal. Drostan indeed did cast tears on Columba’s leavin tae gyang back tae Iona and Columba in one last act on his farewell put his blessings on the waal and embraced Drostan for baith kent they’d nivver meet again. Columba wi a sad hert climbed aboord the vessel that wiz tae tak him tae Iona and stood at the stern wavin tae Drostan till the vessel wint oot o sicht roon the heedland o Fiddes. Drostan hid stood for a lang time lookin oot at the sea his hert feelin like a lump o lead and his stamaach churnin. He knelt and gave a prayer for his uncle’s safe journey and askit o God tae gee him the wisdom tae be a decent and fair Abbot.
For the first fyowe years athing hid wint well and the Picts though distrustful o the strangers in their midst at first began tae accept their presence. It wiz Drostan that hid much tae dee wi this change by his gan oot amongst the people nae as a Christian wieldin a rod o iron as some did in ither places but merely as a man interested in them and their wyes. The lands o Deer hid been granted tae the Celtic church by een o the Monemaer’s that ruled ower part o the Buchan aifter Columba and Drostan hid prayed for the Monemaer’s favourite son that lay near tae death. The laddie hid made a full recovery so in thanks Columba and Drostan were given the lands o Deer for as lang as ‘green girss grew an clear waater ran.’
Noo within the policies o the kirk lay the steen circle spoken o earlier. Fin Drostan started tae dee his rounds as the Abbot he got tae hear aboot the holy rowan tree that grew in the centre o the steen circle and aboot it’s magic healing powers. He’d been tellt by een o the Pictish priests that the tree grew health geein roddens in great abundance for sax years then on the seventh year it grew barren o berries but in that year it grew big pods the size o a man’s heed intae the cruick o the tree. An fae this pods wee man bodys aboot twa fit heich hatched oot like an egg. The priest caad them limpachs and this wee fowk attended the tree and steens ivvery need and made a wine fae the roddens collected and dried by the priests fae the sax years afore. Noo accordin tae legend the medicine fae the roddens cured maist athing that could deeve a body. The Pagan priests handed oot a beaker o this wine ilka mornin tae them as needed.
Noo Drostan for some reason teen a set against this tree and because the tree wiz on the gruns o the kirk he ordered it felled. This created a gye stramash amongst the fowk an they even tried tae get their Monemaer involved tae stop him. But as the lands hid been given tae the kirk for as lang as green girss grew an clear waaters ran nithing could be deen tae save the tree.
Twa widmen were called and they reluctantly set tae work but only as far as the first swing o the aix. The tree screamed fae it in anger and pain. Leastwyes that’s fit they said as they ran awa. Drostan staanin there hid heard nithing o the kind. The result o aa this ongyans wiz that the widmen refused an wid hae nithing mair tae dee wi it. Eventually Drostan got twa monks that were widmen doon fae the Abbey at Clova tae fell the tree. The local fowk were affa angry at losin their Holy tree and it teen many months afore things settled doon. Drostan hid been on his high horsie aa the while even ignorin the words fae Columba ‘Tae rule wisely an wi prudence’ Columba’s words were tae come back and haunt Drostan thus settin the course for a lifetime o shame.
It come aboot this wye. The very next year a plague o sorts hut the district an laid its caal haan o death across the fowk. At first there wiz as muckle wine in storage tae cure the first infections but as it spread the wine seen ran oot an aifter that many fowk deet o the plague. Drostan at last realisin his mistake tried tae mak amends by gan in amongst the ill and sayin prayers for them. Aa his prayers proved useless and he stood lookin on helplessly as men, weemin and bairns deet in their droves. He even asked God tae infect him as a punishment for fit he in his stupidity hid deen tae the peer fowk. But God it seemed hid ither plans for Drostan? A life time o shame wiz tae be his lot poor man. Fae that day on ivvery mornin at the dawnin he preyed for forgivneness and for the souls o them he’d sentenced tae death by cuttin doon their Holy tree. This stupid senseless act though made Drostan een o the best Abbots in the whole o Pictland. Ivver aifter he nivver wid interfere in people’s beliefs be they Pagan or Christian? If they wanted tae convert tae Christianity he wid help them, if no he left them tae believe as they wanted. But he’d help abody tae mak their lives worth the livin and treated all wi decency and tolerance.
As the years passed Drostan wrote as much as he could intae his big tome o a beuk. The only ither person that hid ivver yet read some o it wiz Kenniff the Pictish monk. Kenniff hid become a life lang freen o Drostan’s and a pact hid been made atween the twa o them that on Drostan’s death he Kenniff wiz tae tak the beuk up tae the Abbot o Clova for safe keeping.
Drostan deet at the cell at Aberdour aboot the year 602 AD in his fifty seventh year. Kenniff hid been in attendance at his last illness and hid tried aa the herbs he could tae save him but tae nae avaul. Fin Kenniff entered the cell in the mornin Drostan lay in his bed as if still asleep. Kenniff kent he wiz gone because his big craw lay across his chest in the same state as her maister wi her wings spread and her heed restin ablow Drostan’s chin as if she’d been tryin tae gee him bosies.
Kenniff owerseen his beerial under the fleer o the cell and seen tae it that Ruby wiz placed aside him.
A church wid later be built on that spot and bits o it still staans at Aberdour tae this very day.
Kenniff left the Abbey o Deer and made his wye tae the Abbey at Clova cairryin Drostan’s beuk. On it he’d carved on the leather cover ‘Drostan’s Tears’ but Kenniff and the beuk nivver reached Clova and nae sicht norr soon o Kenniff wiz ivver tae be heard or seen upon this earth again.
Now! Ye’ll be winnderin why a semiliterate man likes o me kens so muckle aboot Drostan fin the scholars ken virtually nithing aboot him ava apart fae wee bitties in different writings aboot ither Saints?
Drostan wiz canonised lang lang aifter his death and apart fae some fragments aboot him nithing now remains. That apart fae on his beerial three locks o his hair wiz teen only one o which is sill known tae be in existence and great cures hiv been attributed tae it. It’s me that his tae tak up the next story aboot Drostan fourteen centuries aifter his time.
Now here’s how it wiz that I ken so muckle?
In the year nineteen sixt aicht I got a job vrochtin at Gillespie Hoose and a richt placie it wiz- - - - - ? But fitivver it’ll mak yer very bleed rin caal an the hairs on the back o yer neck birss up like a cat’s and rob ye o sleep for wikks if nae months tae come? For the next installment ye’d best read Saint Drostan’s Tears part two: Gillespie Hoose next week .
Drostans tears is in twa pairts, as we gang fae Phase 1 to Phase 2 Lockdoon... dinna forget yer dose o' the Doric, an come back neist wik.
Wully Smaa wiwiz een o the Tinker clan. He come fae the Cyack in Buchan far he wintered intae an auaal cotter hoose at Rivenstipe and traiveled the highways an byways o the Noreast fae the month o Mey till near the start o winter.
His real name wiz Wullie Brochan but on accoont o him bein sae lang aboot the back an there bein sae mony Wullies among the Brochans aabody jist caad him Wullie Smaa. In his mid twenties he wiz strong and gey fit an it wiz because he wiz sae fit he ayee came up here tae the Cabrach tae dee a bit o skipperin. Noo for them that dinna ken fit skipperin is I'll jist set ye straacht at the ootset.
At the time I'm tellin ye aboot a lot o Tinkers wid ging skipperin jist aboot the eyn o September. It wiz usually the unmairried loons that did it. They'd range far an wide collectin the rubbit skins fae fairmers, gamekeepers, cotters and shepherds. The skipperin bit wiz the reason only single loons did it because they wid bide in barns an sic like. That's fit skipperin means mair or less- sleepin roch.
Onywye Wully wiz here in the Cabrach wi that in mind, the last season hid been een o the best he ivver mined on and this year he planned tae cross ower tae the Glenlivet an micht even tak a look up at Mortlach. He wiz usin the same wee fairm for his base as he did last year. The man that hid it wiz an affa fine chiel an let Wully use a corner o his byre tae store the skins he collected. Scorranclach sat at the bottom o Glenfetter an wiz the maist fertile bit o grun for miles.
The fairmer gid by the name o Rab Thain, a wee stocky bit man wi a reid mop o hair an a cutty forivver stuck intae his moo. They newsed for a fylie an syne Wully teen his leave tellin Rab that he'd be back in aboot a wiks time. He aye teen his bike wi him fin he gaed the skipperin for it wiz handy for hingin the skins he got up the glens. Nae only that but the bike wiz fair handy for cairryin his pack o swag that wiz full o bogey roll, spunks, pipes an ither things a shepherd in the back o ayont micht nott. But best ava wiz the wee timmer box that held his Sunray melodjin.
Wully wiz a fair haan at the box an fun it een o the handiest things a body could tak up the glens for the shepherds were fair stairved o music an wid dee onything tae garr ye bide a nicht or twa. Whit a skins he'd gotten the year afore mair or less for the takkin because o the box.
A gey fit lad wiz Wully tall an raa beened. The hills an glens were nae a problem tae him an even though he couldna ging the bike alang the tracks he noo an then got a wee hurrl by staannin on the pedal an freewheelin at ony doon slopes. Mind ye sayin that there wid be little eneuch doongyans on this track for he wiz climmin aa the wye. He kent that fae the year afore: even tae him it hid fyles been a bit o a chauve an a lang shove for the bike.
It wiz aboot the middle o the day fin Wully cam tae the mooth o a side glen that he'd nivver gotten the chance tae gyang last season so aifter a bit rest at the burn o Letterach he started up the side glen. There wiz a bit o a track so he held tae it, he could see it wiz made by sheep for the pints o the heather hid been grazed at eether side.
Ae thing aboot the Cabrach if ye saw the signs o sheep, there wid maist likely be a shepherd's bucht somewye aheed o ye. He caad awa wi that thocht in mind but by a half mile or so he began tae realise that this wisna muckle o a glen.It wiz mair like a balloch wi sheer sides and gey narra at bits. A wee runnle o water cam doon the middle o't an the path criss crossed it makkin for a fair yoke wi the bike.
Up aheed he saw the balloch kinkit tae the richt an lookit as if it wiz even steeper. He thocht tae himsel that he'd hud gyan for a file langer at least as far's the neuk. But michty Wully fun it a fair yokin, an swack though he kent himsel tae be, by the time he reached the neuk he thocht his legs wid gyang fae aneth him. Pechin sair he wiz gled tae lay the bike on the heather an sat himsel doon. He could see the balloch noo opened up a wee bit as it held tae the richt an even better the slope livellt aff a fair bit so the goin wid be easier.
The place he sat must've been a well at some time in the past because the watter wiz bubblin up fae ablow and ran ower a puckle steens that were man made by the looks o them. He scrapit een wi his fit tae tak aff the green goore and saa a holy cross rochly carved intae the steen. At the tap wiz an ee an some words he couldna mak oot affa weel. It must hae been a holy well awa back and michta been that fowk made their wye up here for cures or jist tae pray. He kent weel eneuch aboot holy wells for he'd seen plenty as he traipsed the country roon but he'd nivver seen ony wi carvins like this yin The watter wiz fine an clear so he teen a drouth o't tae slake his thirst.
Aifter a wee fyle Wully set fit on up the wee glen because that’s fit it turned intae, the sides werena sae sheer an the goin wiz a lot easier for pushin the bike. His spirits liftit a bittie fin he saa a decent eneuch track and the rowan trees scaittert here an there up baith sides o the glen. There wisna ony signs o habitation though as yet but he could see a twa’r three sheep heich up. Aifter aboot anither oor o waakin on the easier trail he wiz beginnin tae winder if he'd deen the richt thing comin up here. He could see a mist rollin doon the glen an felt the temperature start tae drap. A fyowe meenits later an he could barely see his haan afore him. Noo naebody wints tae be caught oot on the heich grun fin a thick mist comes doon especially if yer nae acquant wi faar ye are..
Wully kent he'd hae tae cairry on throwe it for there wiz nae gan back doon the dangerous balloch an him nae able tae see. He teen it gey canny but the trail that hid been sae clear only meenits aforehaan seemed tae peter oot aathegither and he eynt up waakin throwe heather an big steens. Kennin that he'd wannert fae the trail he tried tae backtrack but tae nae avaul. Well, well he'd jist hae tae bide faar he wiz until it cleared.
He sat doon faar he steed an pulled a puckle heather aboot him that wid keep the caal oot for a fyle onywye. The mist didna bother Wully for he'd been caught like this mony a time, but the thing that did garr him worry wiz the stervation caal that hid gotten as bad that he startit tae chitter. Noo this only bein the month o September there wiz nae wye it should be this caal. He pondered ower this for a fylie an that wiz fin he heard the dog bowffin awa in the distance. Wully wiz pleased tae hear sic a soon for that meant that a shepherd must be aboot. He shouted tae tak the dog's attention an in nae time the dog cam oot o the mist an ran inaboot wi it's tail waggin.
Wully petted the dog an whit a bonny craiter it wiz:;a black an fite collie wi the bonniest wee facie he ivver did see. It started rinnin aroon him wi it's tail still gyan then it started tae nip at his heels the wye collies dee fin they're drivin the sheep. Wully kent fine fit it wiz up tae so he teen his bike and gaed in the direction the dog wintit him tae gang. In nae time he felt the track aneth his feet an fae there on the dog ran in front then wid come back and repeat this action.
Aifter a fair bit the dog led him tae a shepherd's bucht that wiz a simple squarr biggin wi a sod reef and he could smell burnin peats. The dog headed for the side o the bucht an crawled throwe a wee openin intae the biggin. Nae lang aifter an aal man cam oot at the door. He wiz riggit in hamespun hoddin grey breeks an jaicket wi a reed Tam o shanter on his heed.
“Michty min fit are ye deein wannerin aboot up here in sic weather?”
He'd a couthie smilin face an athoot anither word beckoned Wully inside. The bucht wiz jist ae room simply furnished wi a table aneth the only windae he could see, in ae corner a big black timmer press an alangside it a washstaan wi a big blue booie an a joog. The fire though teen Wullies attention wi its bleazin peats piled high and unusual for the normal shepherd's bucht: the fire wiz anent the waa an hid a timmer hingin lum. Aa ither buchts he'd ivver been in hid nae sic a thing , only the fire on a hearth in the middle o the room an nae lum tae let the reek oot. A big deese stood at ae side o the fire an lookit as if it wiz made oot o sods but at the ither side there wiz a big aalfashioned cheer wi a high back an sides that wid nae doot keep oot the drachts in caal nichts. A cloot lay infront o the fire an the dog sattled doon noo, snuggled up on it an gaed tae sleep.
The aal man wiz full o questions tae Wully speirin at him the fit's an it fit wye’s an foo's. At the same time he pyntit tae Wully tae sit doon ontae the deese afore makin him a caapfae o toddy. Takkin the caap fae the aal man Wully thankfully teen a fair drouth o't an felt it deein its work as it heated his cheeled beens. The aal man wint by the name o Hebbie Gow an hid bade aboot here aa his days. Wullie tellt tae him aa the news fae aboot the glens for he kent fine the shepherds were aye hungry for news aboot the ongyans o fowk they ken. Fin it came doon tae the reason for him bein up the glen Wully tellt him he wiz aifter rubbit skins but Hebbie hid nae sic thing and said it wiz only noo an then his dog wid come in wi yin for their supper.
The aal man speired o Wullie if he wiz een o the Tinkler lads that eesed tae bide aboot the Bin. But naa Wullie wisna o that clan- he cam fae anither clan farrer awa nor that . He hailed fae the Buchan at a place caad the Brunty aside Knaven. Aifter a big caap o pottage an anither een o toddy Wully felt in affa gweed fettle and him an Hebbie got doon tae spikkin music an in nae time Wully hid oot his box.It wiz his pride an joy, a Hohner Sunray wi twinty base.
Seen the bucht wiz fulled o music an the aal man's face beamed as he listened tae the tunes.
“Michty me loon ye can fair mak that thing stott!”
An in a meenit he teen doon aa aal battered fiddle fae the heed o the big press an jined in wi Wully. They played for oors an they only dauchled fin the aal man lichted the fir cannle tae pit some licht on the ongyauns an of coorse tae hae anither sup toddy. Wully let him hear some o Scott Skinner's tunes an michty they gaed doon weel: he'd nivver heard ony o his stuff afore. He in turn played tunes by Gow an Marshall- some o them though Wully hid heard afore and could jine in wi.
Aifter a gran nicht the aal man bade Wully tae sleep on the deese an gave him a thick blanket made o hamespun an biggit up the fire wi a load o peat. The aal man gaed tae the back o the room faar there wiz a bun-in-bed wi doors on it, itsel jist like a big press but on its side. Wulliy wiz jist aboot asleep fin the collie cam up aside him an cooried its wye aneth the blanket but Wully wiz far ower tired tae bother and jist left the craiter happit wi the blanket. The neist day wisna ony better regardin the mist an Wully wiz fairly stuck; the aal man though wiz rale chuffed for he enjoyed Wully's company an widna complain o a fylie langer.
So that day Wully helpit the aal man aboot the place, takkin in peats an gettin watter fae the wall. The collie stuck tae him like glue, its tail gan ivvery time he peyed it the least bit o attention. The dogs name wiz Loochy an Wully got a laach at that because a loochy in Cant wiz a rat. Bit whit a clivver dog Loochy wiz seemin tae understand ilka word said tillt. Wully asked the aal man if she ivver hid pups could he get yin, a female of coorse. He promised Wully that he'd get the pick o the litter.
Aboot the middle o the mornin things got a gey bit waar witherwyes fin the snaw startit, an in nae time the grun hid a fair coatin lyin on't. Wully didna like bidin aitin mait fae the aal man but michty fin he let that een slip the aal man gaed tae the big press an showed him that there wiz plenty mait there tae laist months.
Wully felt a bit better seein that the aal man widna be left in stairvation if he'd tae bide for a few days ower the heeds o the snaw. That nicht the music got gyan again an their fingers were fair swaak due tae the toddies an the news inatween.
Anither three days were tae pass afore Wully teen leave o the aal man. He promised he'd come back the neist year wi twa’r three reels o strings for his fiddle. It wiz a sad pairtin fae that place.He'd been trickit wi the aal man's company an he could see by the look on Hebbie's face that he felt the same aboot it.
Loochy led him farrer up the glen tae faar the aal man said he'd find a clear path back doon ontae Glenfetter. He said there wid be nae snaw there because o the wye it faced awa fae the north. Loochy led him richt tae the path an startit bowffin as if tae tell him so. Wully bent doon an pettit Loochy, gie’in him a bit oatcake that he snappit up. He gid Wully’s haan a lick then took aff back tae his maister.
Wi a sair hairt Wully made his wye doo intae the Glenfetter an made up his mind that he'd jist haud back doon tae the fairm at Scorranclach an pick up the skins he'd aaready left there. By the time he got doon tae the fairm it wiz mid aifterneen an for some reason it felt as if he wiz gan inaboot tae a strange place, something seemed different tae him, something he jist couldna pit a finger on.
Athing lookit the same as he mined an then he saw that, in the fyowe days he'd been awa the fairmer hid pitten up a new shed at the side o the hoose. He chappit at the door an Scorranclach's wife came oot lookin gey doonhairtit an speired at him fit he wintit. He askit if her man wiz aboot but tae his surprise she burst oot greetin an said he wiz deed.
“O michty quine faan did this happen?”
She dried her een an telt him he'd been killed in the war.
“War? Fit war?”
She lookit at him strangely as if he wiz a feel.
“The Great War- the war they focht in France!”
Fin she saw the look ontae his face she teen a bit o peety on him an speired him tae come inside.
Wully hid nivver met Scorranclach's wife so he didna ken if she wiz even the richt person but fin he saw the photie o him an her on the mantlepiece he kent at least that bit wiz richt eneuch. She tellt him her man hid been killed at a place caad the Somme in October 1915. At this Wully near took a dwam. Fin he cam tee a bittie, he speired at her fit the date wiz. She nivver lat myeowt but gaed tae the dresser and handit him the People's Freen. On the tap o the page wi a thumpin hairt he read Tuesday 17th September 1920.
“Na na this canna be richt I've only been awa fae here fower nichts an it wiz the month o September 1913 an yer tryin tae tell ma it's 1920!”
She burst oot greetin eence mair sayin, “It's true I'm nae tellin lees My Jock is deed an this is 1920!”
Wully kent then he'd hin the comehither on him and that the aal mannie must've been een o the Gweed Fowk. He'd kept him for syven years an a day for that is fit is said; there is ayewis a day added tae the years- that is your day! Aa but Wully widna rest easy until he kent fit hid been gyan on so he askit the woman if it wid be aaricht tae leave his bike in the byre.
He startit up the glen again an this time wi nae bein trauchled wi the bike he made gweed time. Aboot an oor later he cam tae the wee side glen an made his wye up. He'd rest fin he reached the holy well an nae afore! The aifterneen wiz weel on by the time he cam tae the well but that didna maitter. He hid tae prove something tae himsel. He lookit aroon for the carved steen an sure eneuch, he saa the marks he'd made wi his fit scrapin aff the goor. Nae wye hid syven year gin by or his marks wid be awa lang syne.
He sat doon for a meenit or twa afore he set aff eence mair up the glen. There wiz nae problem this time tae get this far up for nae mist cam rollin aff the hills. He found the shepherd's bucht athoot ony trouble an fin he did he near fell awa. The bucht wiz still there richt eneuch but in ruins, the waas were tummled doon an the sod reef hid faaen in. Nae fowk hid bidden in there for mony a lang year.
Steppin inaboot tae the bit faar the door hid been he saa something lyin there that made the hairs on the back o his neck staan straacht up.It wiz the finger boord o the shepherd's aal fiddle. Wully pickit it up kennin fine as he did that it wiz the fingerboord because o the beaded mither o pearl inlay on the edges. A raik aboot aneth the faaen in reef an he fun tunin pegs, an the broken body o the fiddle wi the bow alangside. Time an wither hid ruined the wid but he githered up aa the bits he could fin an carefully wuppit them in his jaicket.
Sadly Wully startit doon the glen wi his treasure. Faa the aal man really wiz he'd nivver ken, that he'd been wi the powers o darkness there wiz nae doot. But michty he'd been fair trickit wi the aal man's company an felt that sair made that he'd nae get anither chance tae play sic gran music.
A dog barkit in the distance makkin Wully winner if it wiz Loochy barkin but na it wiz only anither dog nae doot wi it's maister takkin in the sheep. Something powkit his leg an there wi it's tail waggin stood Loochy. He clappit her an held a work wi her an fin he lifted his ee up the trail, there stood the aal man wavin doon tae him. He stood up straacht an made tae walk up tae the aal man but the dog growled an pulled at his breeks tae hud him fae gan up. He understood so waved tae the aal man an turned back doon the glen wi Loochy leadin the wye.
The dog nivver left him an teen him richt doon as far as Scorranclach then sat at his heel as if tae say “I'm bidin”! It seemed that Wully noo hid a dog so he petted her an lookit intae her bonny wee facie an felt fair kinichtit. Layin his jaiket doon he unwupped it tae tak oot the puckle bits o the aal man's fiddle but instead o bits it wiz whole an the varnish wiz gleamin. Wully pickit it up; he wiz a box player an he'd nivver tried the fiddle. Could he play? So he pit it aneth his chin like he saa the aal man dee an liftit the bow an…?
It wiz a grey dreich mornin fin the bairn wiz born at Crichie. It hid been a fair chauve for the lassie, nearly thirty oors in labour and she wiz foonert. The doctor and the mid-wife hid been glentin at eenanither wi panic in their een. In the hinnereyn though the olive ile hid deen the trick and the bairn cam intae the world. A skelp on the doup and it startit tae skirl oot o it so that bit wiz aaricht. The lassie lay pechin wi the swyte fleein fae her. The doctor gave the wee laddie a quick gyan ower then turned awa fae the mither and fuspert tae the mid-wife “Big heed and imbecile- pit it in a pail!”
The mid-wife grabbit the bairn and said “Gweed saiks min ye canna dee that!” The doctor grumphed at her sayin, “It’s better pittin it oot o its misery noo! Imagine gyan throwe life wi a broo like that lassie!”
Waikly the mither speired tae see her bairn and the mid-wife gave the bairn a wash an wupped it in a cosy shawl and handit him tae his mither. It wiz love at first sight. She bosied him and fuspert “Douglas!” for that wiz tae be his name, Douglas MacGregor aifter his faither.
The years passed and Douglas wint tae the skweel. A shy laddie wiz he and ayee tried tae hide his big broo eether aneth a bonnet or by swypin his hair doon ower his broo. He wiz really conscious aboot it and his fowks hid an affa job gettin him tae play wi ither bairns because they’d caa him names like “Big Heed, Neep, Brooie and sometimes “Look at the boy’s broo!”
That usually garred Douglas pit his heed doon and charge. His first day at skweel wiz nae different.At play-time the bairns githered roon aboot him powkin at his broo and makkin fun o him. Douglas hid jist hid eneuch and gid for the geets like a rhino and in nae time there wiz nithing but bleed, snotters an eebroos aawye. His education lasted tae aboot the age o twal fin the skweel tellt his fowks they widna tak him ony langer and gave them a pass tae let him leave early.
Douglas wiz fair kinichtit at this. Forbyes he wiz seeck tae daith o bleachin fowk at the skweel for makkin fun o ees broo. He got a job fae his father in the ragstore he echt at Crichie so he vrocht awa getting bigger and stronger wi aa the wechts he’d tae lift ilka day. He ayee wore a big bunnet tae hide his broo so fair an by he got on weel as a rule. Ae day his father tellt him tae tak a cairt load o bales o rags tae the train at Mintlaw. The cairt wiz weel loadit so Douglas teen it canny throwe Aal Deer. It wiz the middle o summer so he strippet doon tae his sark and threw the bonnet on the seat aside him.
A puckle lads were makkin their wye hame fae Mintlaw. They’d been at the Market and hid a twa’r three drams and were in richt fine fettle. Fin they saw Douglas and the cairt comin alang the narra road they steed tae ae side tae let him pass an that’s fin the trouble startit. Ae lad pointed at Douglas an shouted, “For the love o God wid ye look at the size o that napper!”
The rest o the lads startit roarin wi laachter at this an makkin rale naisty comments aboot Douglas. Canny like Douglas stoppit the horse an pulled on the brake. He lookit roon at the lads and this garred them laach aa the louder. Ae lad shouted, “Come on then Big Heed!” and made a show o shadda boxin.
They thocht they were safe in numbers but that wiz a big mistak and some o them must’ve realised jist how big a mistak they’d made in the seconds afore Douglas’s broo connected wi their mooths.
The years rolled on and by the age o twinty Douglas hid growed tae be weel ower sax fit wi a fine pair o shooders on him but of coorse his broo grew ana..
The Great War hid started aboot this time an Douglas like mony ither chiels answered the cry tae jine up. At the medical the doctor couldna believe the size o his broo an speired dizzens o questions aboot it. He even fessed ither doctors inaboot tae see it. This wiz beginnin tae pish Douglas aff big style but he kept his wheesht. Onywye aifter aa the powkin an gyan, he wiz passed as A1 and jined the ranks o the Gordon Highlanders. There wiz that mony new recruits that a training camp hid been set up oot at the Black Dog firing range.
Kitted oot wi his uniform and big TOS bonnet (Tam o Shanter) he really lookit the pairt. At ower sax fit and braid at the shooders he lookit ivvery bit as a Scottish sodjer should. The Tam o Shanter on his heed and Douglas, bein a gweed lookin cheil if it wisna for the big broo, gid doon a treat amongst the weemin fowk at dances in Aiberdeen. Douglas teen tae this army cairry on like a jook tae water. Three gweed meals a day and the very best o rigg suited him doon tae the grun.
Aifter a fyowe fechts wi some o the ither recruits aboot his heed he wiz pretty much left alane. Naebody wiz sikkin tae eyn up in the sick bay nursin a burst mooth. That wiz until Sergeant Redress came. He wiz a complete shite-hoose o a man and gave them hell. He teen a richt dislike at Douglas and wid, at ivvery opportunity pick at him aboot his broo. It teen Douglas ivvery bit o self control nae tae stick the object o his jibes fair squarr in his big raik mooth for it wid mean sax months in the glaiss hoose if he mashed him.
Redress wiz a bully o the worst kine but Douglas bein, quick o wit renamed him Sergeant Reederse because he wint aboot in a bad mood like a sharny bull wi a reed erse hole. In nae time that’s fit aa the recruits caad the bully bastard.
It wiz weel intae 1915 by the time Douglas and his mates arrived at the trenches and some sotter o gutters they proved tae be. It wiz a quate bit o the line though and apairt fae a fyowe shells lobbed ower fae the Germans ilka mornin it wisna ower dangerous. Ivvery nicht there’d be patrols sent oot tae spy oot the laan an mebbe tak back a prisoner or twa.
Ae nicht Douglas wiz in een o the patrols fin they waakit intae a squad o Jerries at work sortin some trench works. The fechtin started but there wisna time nor room tae use their rifles so it wiz haan tae haan, rifle butts or using entrenchin tools in a vicious bloody fecht. Douglas used his broo tae gweed effect and the Jerries didna staan a chance. Flares gid up fae the German lines followed by the rat tat tat o machine guns jist lettin rip at onything.
Sergeant Reederse gaed gyte and teen a dose o the screamin abbdabbs. Tae save him fae rinnin intae the enemy machine guns he’d tae be held doon and Douglas got the chunce tae land a weel overdue blatt tae his face tae quaiten him. Returning tae the British lines they handed ower the unconscious Sergeant Reederse tae the medics tellin them he must’ve teen shell-shock.
Things were gan nae ower bad for Douglas until the army startit tae phase in the soup plate steel helmet. Ye could only weer the TOS bunnet at the rear; in the trenches ye’d tae wear the soup plate. Douglas got the biggest yin that ye could get but wi his big broo he lookit like a bamstick w’t cockit on tap o ees napper. His big broo wiz tae the Jerries like claiggs tae horse shite and shooers o bullets came at him finivver he showed his heed abeen the parapet. It got that bad his comrades avoided him like the plague.
The German even named him ‘Grossa Brow’ and promised the man that got him an Iron Cross 1st class and a months leave in the flesh pots o Berlin. This drew officers and men fae aa pairts o the front tae try their luck. The fine quate bit o the line became like Aiberdeen’s Union Street on a Saiturday nicht.
Douglas’ comrades near gid tae mutiny so Douglas wiz teen oot o the front line an wiz given vrocht deein orra jobs like clearin latrines or takkin up rations tae the trenches. Slowly the quate bit o front returned tae normal.The Prussian officers packed up their pre-war hunting rifles and the ither troops wint back tae their ain sectors.
Douglas wiz sortin throwe timmer sticks ae day fin he lookit up and saa a Jerry sodjer standin aboot twinty feet fae him. The Jerry wiz a wee runt o a man but he managed tae shout oot “GROSSA BROW!” and fired his rifle. The bullet hut Douglas richt on the broo and he gid doon. The wee Jerrie ran up tae him and teen his pey-book as proof o daith and ran aboot shoutin, "Whoopee whoopee Berlin hooers for me!"
His name wiz Vulltums Croint fae Hamburg and he’d been on his wye tae surrender tae the British because he wiz seeck o war fin he’d spotted Douglas. Noo he Vulltums Croint wid be a hero wi an Iron Cross 1st class on his breest and the whores in the 'Vinkle Strassa' in Berlin wid be hingin aff him.
A file aifter Douglas waakened wi a splittin heedache in a casualty clearing station. The doctor says, “Yer waakened?” Douglas managed a painful nod.
“Yer a lucky man. If that bullet hidna been a spent round then it wid’ve been tatties ower the side for you!”
Douglas mined on the doctor back hame bein affa interested in his broo so he replied, “Aye doctor I’m lucky richt eneuch!”
He didna ken fit he’d say if he tellt him the bullet hid been fired feet awa. But on that he keepit his gob shut.
Meanwhile Vulltums Croint wiz hooerin in Berlin, his shiny new Iron Cross 1st class on his breest.
As for Douglas he wiz kept at the casualty clearin station for a couple o weeks, nae because he needed it- he wiz as fit as a flea. It wiz because o the doctor. He’d teen an affa interest in Douglas’ broo and invited ither doctors tae come and see it.
In the hinner eyn Douglas got seeck o the cairry on and returned tae duty. This startit aff a richt chyne o events. First Douglas wiz spotted by a German officer and this led tae a signal tae Berlin sayin that ‘Grossa Brow’ was still alive. Next Vulltums Croint wiz trailed awa fae his whores skirlin an yowlin. A week later at dawn Vulltums Croint wiz sent tae his maker. His last word wiz “FOOKERS!”
Aroon this time the German army started tae gie their troops the coal skuttle steel helmet and Douglas wiz guardin a puckle prisoners fin he noticed een o the Jerries weerin een. An idea came tae him and aifter a fair bit o hagglin he managed tae get the helmet fae the Jerry for a packet o fags and a tin o bullybeef.
Oot o sicht o abody he tried it on back tae front. The lang scoop bit at the back covered his broo as bonny as ye like. He’d get back tae the front wi this!
A fyowe weeks later Douglas got separated fae his squad while on a nicht patrol. He’d nae a clue faar he wiz and daylicht wiz comin up by the time he reached fit he thocht wiz his ain bit o the line. He stood up an startit tae rin towards his ain trenches wavin his airms aboot tae let them ken he wiz British. An officer jist happened tae be lookin throwe a trench periscope viewer fin he saw fit lookit a German rinnin backwards towards the British lines an wavin his airms aboot so he ordered “Stand to!” and abody started shootin.
The Jerries meanwhile saa fae their perspective fit lookit like a German rinnin backwards towards the British lines wavin his airms in surrender so they startit shootin ana. Wi the amount o lead fleein at him it wiz only a maitter o time afore he got hit and that’s exactly fit happened. A bullet clipped the underside o the helmet and tracked roon the inside piercin baith his lugs and makin a track across his broo as it spun roon an roon afore the reed hett bullet stopped and drapped doon the back o his neck.
He wiz brocht hame tae Crichie as an invalid because he couldna hear a thing for the ringin in his lugs. Aabody thocht he’d become dumpish because the only sounds he could mak wiz “blaaaah or Ooooo!”
This laisted till 1927 until he got hut on the heed wi a tattie fin a fairm cheil threw it shoutin “Look at that lad’s broo an twa half luggies!”
Fae that day on he wiz as richt as rain and aifter blooterin the tattie thrower he gaed hame a happy man. Douglas wiz kent for the rest o his days as ‘Bullet Broo’ but nae tae his face ye understaan!
This story can be found in Sanners Gow's Tales an' Folklore of the Buchan (vol 1) paperback and ebook
A series of longer stories from Sanners Gow's collected works to entertain you through lockdoon an' beyont.