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