Monday, 19 October 2009

" A Doll Dhachaidh." Going Home.

For Dalmore's cats and dogs, the summer months of July and August were always eagerly anticipated. This was when the Islanders from every part of Britain would return "home" to the village of their birth; "leis na'daoine againn-fhein" (with our own people). Often, they would bring with them their "pets", a strange name mainlanders had for their animals, but perhaps not so, when you observed the miscellany of creatures that descended on Lewis. Rupie asked Murdo about "pets", but was none the wiser for his explanation. She was to learn much later, that the only time one would hear this word, was if Iain Shoudie had to hand feed a young lamb, whose mother had died, or had "not taken to" her lamb. Bottle fed in the house, such a hand reared creature was called a "pet lamb". In no other sense was the word "pet" used, with regards to animals, as far as I know. Pets or not, these strange cats and dogs were like a breath of fresh air in the village, and many were the friendships that were forged between Dalmore's animals and the mainland "crew". Among many of the cats and dogs it was a case of renewed friendship, as the majority of the "Gall"(strangers) had been in Dalmore before.

The regular visitors to Nos. 4 and 5 Dalmore were free to stay in either house, which they regularly did. Prominent among them was Victoria Chantelle, a blue-cream Persian cat, the epitome of feline beauty, who hated her pedigree second name, Chantelle, which she thought sounded like that yellow mushroom favoured by chefs. Blue-cream was fine, but yellow, no. She was always called Vicky, except on the odd formal occasion she attended with Mr. Dow, her boyfriend. Vicky's grown daughter, by Mr. Dow, of course, was a beautiful large tabby, with a white front and white 'spogs' on an otherwise striped fur coat. She was a very bonnie cat, with a delightful nature. She answered to "Tigger". Bringing up the rear, so to speak, was Guinness, "the Cardonald Cat", a small slim black cat, with white markings on her mouth and paws("spogs"). She did not enjoy any mention of "Cardonald", unlike the Reverend MacCollie, who never failed to mention that place in every testimony he gave. In charge of these holiday cats, was Jura, the black Labrador who had travelled up with her" three sisters" from Glasgow by" train and Macbrayne"(their little joke). It should be pointed out that their master accompanied them, since the rail and boat authorities had some strict rules vis a vis animals in transit. Jura would venture that these companies might take a closer look at the state of the poor craturs that stumble in and out of that favoured room, the "saloon bar". Still, they were so happy to be "home" once more in Dalmore, with all their "cousins". A lot of parenthesis in that last sentence,but you know what I mean !
Tigger and Jura mostly stayed at No.5 with Filax and Fancy. Tigger and Filax looked alike, and were simply two of the gentlest of creatures - what you might say, "real pussycats". Fancy and Jura were straight out of Burns' poem, "The Twa Dogs"
Her hair, her size, her mouth, her lugs,
Shew'd she was nane o'Scotland's dogs,
But whalpet some place far abroad,
Where sailors gang to fish for Cod.
Burns here is describing a "Labrador" dog, or it might be a "Newfoundland" dog. Same difference, I'd say.

The tither was a ploughman's collie,
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie.

Her gawsie tail, wi' upward curl,
Hung owre her hurdies wi' a swirl.
No explanation needed here, except that the original dogs in Burns's poem, Caesar and Luath were male, and
Nae doubt but they were fain o'ither.
Victoria Chantelle (sorry, Vicky) that beautiful blue-cream Persian cat boldly stated that she would reside only at No.5, a modern "taigh dubh" cared for by two maiden ladies, a house beautifully appointed with dressers, settees, fireside chairs, curtains and some wally dugs. As nice as the Shoudie Boys were, and even if they could talk to the animals, Vicky couldn't see herself spending eight weeks up the hill at No.4 - no way, a' ghraidh !
Guinness always knew where she would stay; up the "liathad" at "taigh Shoudie" with So-Sally,Rupie and Stowlia the dog, and Kenny Iceland, if he was actually "in from the cold." It might be a tad primitive ( two old bachelors) but this was a house full of fun, music and ceilidh. Iain Shoudie was the Master of Ceremonies in this theatre of laughter, because all agreed that Iain was best placed to talk to, and understand the animals. You might recall that 'an Shoudie was, if you like, "Dalmore's Doctor Dolittle" possessing a very rare gift, and his brother Murchadh (Murdo) to a lesser extent.

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