Friday, 9 October 2009

Aig Reitich an a' Siabost.

It is always an occasion on the island, when two cats decide to marry, because, in truth, it doesn't happen very often, and hardly ever in Shawbost. Uisdean (Hugh) was from Upper Carloway, a fine big ginger tom (there's those Norse genes again), and Eilidh (Helen) was from New Shawbost, her hair almost all white, with a neat little pink nose and a rear right "spog"(paw) of charcoal black. Eilidh and Uisdean were third cousins, who had known each other for some time now, and we all thought that if there was to be a cat wedding in our lifetime, then it would be theirs.

Soho and Rupie had invitations to the wedding, through friendship or kinship, while Kenny, "Cat a' bheinn" (Gael : hill cat) was persuaded to tag along, having come down from the creeks for a spell. Anyway he might just find a brammer there ( "brammer"- girlfriend - perhaps Gael.) , although rabbits were really his thing, if you get what I mean. Now this wasn't the wedding as such, that they would be going to, but the "reitich", which in the Hebrides is an event celebrating the betrothal of the couple about to marry. Relatives and close friends of Eilidh and Uisdean were invited to the "reitich" to celebrate their forthcoming nuptials. There was a great deal of cat cleaning going on in taigh Shoudie that afternoon. Spogs and rasping tongues were very busy, and old Murchadh Shoudie had to smile as he watched Rupie trying to lick a centre parting into the forehead of a strangely shy Kenny Iceland. Murchadh (Murdo) placed a piece of broken mirror against a table leg, for the ladies to take a look, and off the three Shoudie cats went, laughing and cavorting as they climbed up the beinn. As they descended the Cleit into Dalbeag, they encountered a worthy lady of the village known as "Banntrach Cu Aonghas Dhubh". This was a lengthy moniker for anyone to carry, but this old lady dog revelled in her name because of her love for her recently departed husband, that is to say - departed this earth, and not up the road to Shawbost. Her Gaelic name tells us that she is the widow of Black Angus' dog. She was rightly proud of her husband's action a few years back, when villagers witnessed his brave rescue of a young child who was being carried away from the beach by a strong rip tide. His name was Ben, and his dear widow was named Sine(Gael : Jane). When they were together, she was known as "Beinn Ben Aonghas" - literally "the wife of Angus' Ben."
Skirting the beautiful beach of Dail Beag, they climbed the "leathad", and arrived at the northern side of Loch Raoinavat, below Cregan Loch an Iaruinn, where in the past, the ancients built a circle of stones, which now lie flat in the rough grass. They moved at speed now to the other end of the loch, whose waters join Allt na Breac, which powers the old mill further down the river. Here they joined the road into Shawbost. They were looking forward to the "reitich" of their good friends, Eilidh and Uisdean, two of the nicest "cat people"you could ever know. "Cat people" was what Iain Shoudie called cats that spoke to humans. They didn't have to, of course, and some chose not to. As they neared the village, they saw some large crows sitting on a fence, who greeted them courteously enough, but from behind a "cruach mhoine" (peat stack) appeared an altogether different crow, a black feathered, big beaked guy whom you would not normally see "air a' Taobh Siar" ( on the west side)
He was wearing a narrow brimmed leather cap, pulled low down over one eye, and a multicoloured scarf around his skinny neck, weighed down by a large metal cross. He stood there in the middle of the road, his legs akimbo, leaning back at a pronounced angle, and with one wing of shiny black feathers fully stretched and pointing downwards, he muttered "Yo, man, what's going down ? Where yo beeches goin'? " Well, the Dalmore group had never seen or heard anything like this anywhere before, although, if it were to happen anywhere, Shawbost would be high on the list. One of the other crows apologised for his "friend's" bizarre behaviour, and our party continued towards New Shawbost unmolested, but a little bemused. Later that night, they learned a little from Eilidh about this manic crow. She knew his people well. "Broinein bochd", she whispered in low tones, which just about says it all ! ( Eng. "poor sick person" ) . "It seems that he once flew out to Glasgow to stay with cousins in White Street in Partick, and was never the same again. He sits around all day chewing straw, and listening to "rat music". He's really a nice crow, just different. His friends look after him.
Soho, Rupie and Kenny Iceland had a wonderful time at the "reitich". There were lots of cats there(naturally) ,but not exclusively. They noticed Toss and Tiny, those two Carloway canine worthies in the barn giving it big licks during a "Strip the Willow". The food was very tasty, and the bowls of cream kept coming. Everyone raised their spog held glasses to the future happiness of Eilidh and Uisdean. As they made their way home in the early hours, the full moon lit up their path, as if it were daylight. They had to agree that there were some very nice people in Shawbost, albeit they were descended from the "Lochlannich" (Norsemen) . They had lots to tell the "boys", Murdo and John, back in Dalmore.
Glossary. Gaelic/ English

Cregan Loch an Iaruinn/ Hillock of the Loch containing Iron
Allt na Breac /Trout river
Others /On request

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