Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Memoriam I

The hardest thing about our trip back to Coigach in the spring was going to the cemetery at Badenscallie and realizing how many of our dear friends were sleeping there. We had gotten the letters over the years tolling the loss of each one - but somehow it was seeing the stones and the names of so many of the people we knew and loved all there together that made it so terribly sad. A generation has passed and we realize how very lucky we are to have been there at that pivotal time. What a privilege it is to have known these wonderful people and count them as our friends.

Those of you who have read the book will recognize many of these people and perhaps chuckle when remembering a story or two where they played a part. I will start with Wilf Bell, owner of the flock of pet sheep (Fred of the Roman nose and dear Frieda the love-starved); owner of Seaview Cottage where we stayed on our first visit to Coigach and inspiration for our eventual move to Castlehill. Wilf and his wife, Wendy, helped us settle in during our first months in the village, shared our holidays, gave us time, tools and friendship all along the way. We shared many a laugh and many cups of tea and we all had a special love for Joan and Murdo. I could never thank them enough for their help and encouragement.

Murdo and Joan - our dearly beloved surrogate parents and owners of Castlehill. Their passing hit us particularly hard and we miss them and think of them often. Joan was a mother hen, making sure we were fed and happy and making us endless cups of tea and goodies, and making sure we behaved ourselves. Old Murdo - one of the Three Worthies - spent Saturday afternoons at the pub with Jack and a few good old friends swapping tales and doing justice to a pint and a dram or two - then back to a warm fire for tea and village gossip. May they rest in peace.

Alastair West - shepherd, crofter, and patient mentor to a neophyte shearer. He and Margaret shared their home, their work, their fireside, their family and their wisdom with two American incomers. The second of the Three Worthies, Alastair made us feel loved and welcome and gave Jack the chance to learn a new skill without making him feel like the fifth wheel on a wagon. And he was a mean hand with a pool cue. Alastair's children now have their houses clustered around the old homestead next to Achnahaird beach. They can look out their windows and see the ancestral view across the bay of the strange and beautiful mountains of Coigach. Long may they prosper.

The third of the Three Worthies, John Alec Campbell - crofter, shepherd, friend and father of Iain Campbell. A crusty old man and singer of gaelic songs, he had his home in a crofthouse down at the end of the road at Cul na Craig, and even in his eighties he was walking the hills after the sheep and keeping his hand at the shearing.

The three of them are together again now - hopefully still sharing the old stories and maybe a ghostly dram or two.

Donnie Darling - the self professed "Last of the local crofters in Polbain". I will always picture him standing in the pub, draped over the bar singing "North to Alaska" (at least the few lines he could remember). He and Jack shared many a sheepy adventure spending untold hours together at the shearing and dipping. He was irascible and funny, the subject of many good stories - and we remember him with great fondness.

Jim Muir - fisherman, story teller and repository of village memories. Many an afternoon was whiled away in the Muir kitchen or in Jim's shed while he told us delightful tales of past times and characters; and somehow what started out as a short walk to the store would stretch out into hours that passed too quickly, lost in the spell of his stories. He is badly missed by everyone who knew him.

To be continued..........

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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