Monday, 25 April 2011

Making Hay and Old Stories.

It had been another warm day. This was the fourth day of glorious weather, which elsewhere would not be deemed unusual, but in Dalmore, even in July, this was exceptional. The air was warm and balmy and the smell of cut hay hung heavily over the feannaigean. Clover flowers gave off a delicate perfume, and the bees were ever busy gathering nectar. The sky was a pale blue with a few cirrus clouds seemingly motionless, high in the firmament. Down at the traigh the sea was azure blue and no sound was heard, but for the few small rollers to reach the beach. On a day like this, Dalmore really is God's Little Acre. The animals from Taigh Shoudie and Taigh Glass animals had worked hard at the hay making, Iain Shoudie had said, but their contribution was of a specialised nature. They caught the mice (and a few rats), which fled the advancing cuts of the scythe. They carried their fellow creatures to a place of safety, and there released them. This was a policy now favoured by them all, called "catch and release". Fred, the wee Glasgow terrier, could not get his head round this. It was against nature, he said, and certainly against his nature. Still, when in Dalmore, do as the Romans do. The ministrations of the Reverend MacCollie had won over the hearts of his Dalmore "flock". They now lay on the hay, tired but happy, and it was not long before they fell asleep in the shade of a hay stack. Filax, Victoria, Rupie and So-Sally, the cats, were asleep, lying close to one another, while the dogs, Stowlia, Fancy, Jura and Fred were lying on a bundle of hay near the top of the feannaig. Shonnie and 'An 'Houdie were good with the "speal" and had cut a fair amount of hay that day. The hay would be turned in the following days using pitchforks and rakes, to ensure that it was thoroughly dry before it was taken by cart to the barn.
After their rest, Fancy suggested a climb to the top of the Beinn Dhalamor above Taigh Glass, which afforded a magnificent view of the village and beyond. The highest point on the Beinn is an outcrop called Clach Thormaid, and no one knows why this large boulder, stranded here during the Ice Age, is called Norman's stone. Fancy offered himself as guide, this being his own backyard, and suggested that he might mention a few stories , which he had heard in Taigh Glass in the past.
Fancy :- "The dark, dank passage we passed through has taken us part of the way up the beinn. It is known to this day as Sgorr Dhomhnull Duncan, and it is said that it was here that this man, Domhnull Duncan, chose to say his prayers. He was at that time a shepherd on the Dalmore / Dalbeg sheep farm, run by the Sinclair family from their house in Dalbeg. The people in these villages were cleared from their homes about 100 years ago, to make way for many hundreds of Cheviot sheep, which would enrich the tacksman, but disinherit and impoverish the people of the Dailean. Domhnull Duncan was devoutly religious, and a man credited with the second sight. One day, while walking on the Beinn, he was amazed and a little afraid as he looked down at the valley below. Where he might have expected to see a land ravished by hundreds of sheep, he now saw fields of potatoes, and others of corn and barley gently swaying in the breeze. When he reported this strange spectacle to Old Mistress Sinclair back in the farmhouse in Dalbeg, it is said that tears filled her eyes. She knew that their days here were over. Rupie :- Since the time of the clearances from the two villages , and throughout the years of the sheep farm, up until the land was set aside as crofts, this was a period of 60 years. Kenny Iceland claims that one day while emerging from a rabbit burrow, he beheld Dalmore 60 years into the future. He makes no claims of being a seer, but what he saw that day was real enough, and is in his mind, a portent of a time to come. He saw a glen where no crops grow, where sheep have returned in even greater numbers and where the land is not green, but grey, "odhar" you might say. He saw the land again raped by the Big Sheep, as it had been following the clearance in 1850. Neither Padraig Sinclair nor Sir James Matheson can be blamed for what Kenny Iceland saw that day. The future Dalmore made a pitiful spectacle, in which today's industry and thrift would be replaced by greed and indolence. And yet, when we look down on the beautiful village now, it is hard to believe what Kenny saw, but like Cailleach Sinclair's response to Domhnull Duncan's prophecy, one day we too might have tears in our eyes, but for different reasons."
That evening in Taigh 'Houdie, the animals were gathered round the fire, listening to Old Murdo telling stories, and, as often is the case, the stories gravitated to ghosts and the "second sight." After some time, Murdo hushed his excited little friends.
Murdo :- " People somehow believe that ghosts only existed in the distant past, and that nowadays we never hear anything about them. But that is not the case, and to prove the point, listen to this story about events which happened only 30 years ago, in a village near here. It concerns a widow lady called Mary, who died a few months after buying a cow from a man in her own village. She was buried in the cemetery here in Dalmore, but some time later strange things began to happen, which frightened the villagers. Mary could be seen walking through the village still dressed in her burial shroud, with her eyes fixed pitifully on people, as if she wanted them to stop her and to speak to her. Word soon spread and people were terrified of the unearthly spectre of a woman whose burial they attended only weeks before. For days Mary walked down the road through the village, but no one dared speak to her. However, one day, a man who had lived next to her during her life, saw Mary approach and addressed her as follows :-
Man :- "Mary, why in God's name do you still walk this earth, when I know that you died, and saw you buried in Dalmore ?"
Mary :- " My soul is greatly troubled, and I will not rest easy until my name has been cleared of the vile rumour that has been spread about me among the good people of our village. You will remember that I bought a cow from Duncan, some weeks before I died, and he now claims that I did not pay for it, and is claiming the money from my relatives. What he says is a lie, and I cannot rest in my grave unless the truth is told. If you go to my house, you will find under a lamp on the dresser, a paper which is the receipt for the sale of the cow. The man found the receipt, confronted Duncan, and Mary was never seen again."


Feannaigean - strip fields / traigh - sea shore / taigh Shoudie - Shoudie's house.
speal - scythe / sgorr - steep hill / Domhnull - Donald / cailleach - old woman / Dailean - dales

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