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
A series of longer stories from Sanners Gow's collected works to entertain you through lockdoon an' beyont.