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