Fios An Ceann Ceud Bliadhna

by Martin MacIntyre

Image provided by VisitScotland/ Kenny Lam

Seall sa Ghàidhlig

And that...is as true as I’m telling you it!

Seall sa Ghàidhlig

I was actually searching for something else in Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies, as the day darkened over The Meadows when I halted the thick tape in the Uher recorder abruptly. I had heard names that bid me pay closer attention!

"When we were behind Uist’s Ben More – a very remote place," the storyteller then told the genial interviewer, "I used to go and visit a shepherd who lived about a mile north of us, Dòmhnall mac Eachainn (Donald son of Hector). This one time, coming up to Halloween, I was ceilidhing with himself and his mother, Mòrag, who were both in good form. "But,” said Donald to me, “You ought to start heading home now as the day is gloaming."

And indeed the light was fading very quickly when I leapt across the river under his house, Abhainn Chorghadail. However, the second my foot touched land, did I not hear these voices though I couldn’t understand a word of their conversation. Then suddenly, as if a brief mist had lifted, one of them – Dòmhnall mac Aonghais (Donald son of Angus) urged the rest. “Boys, boys,” he said, ‘Take it easy. Keep it down, keep it low down.”

“Is that you, Donald?” I shouted, “A Dhòmhnaill, ’n tusa a th’ ann?" But not a word more did he say so I hurried home.

My father was in and I asked him if he’d seen Dòmhnall mac Aonghais. "No! Why?”

“Because,” I said, “I heard his unmistakable voice when I was returning from the shepherd’s house, though I never got a glimpse of him!”

“Unless he visits tonight?” He didn’t! Nor the following evening. And on the third night, who should appear but Dòmhnall mac Eachainn. My questions began.

“When did you last see Dòmhnall mac Aonghais?”

“Not,” said the relaxed shepherd, “for over a month.”

“Who have you seen, then?”

“Just yourself, the day before yesterday.”

And that was that. No more was said on the matter. The months passed, fourteen of them, when news reached us that the old lady, Mòrag, had died. They were all anxious to get her body out from behind Ben More to the church, but the weather was so awful that they couldn’t move. There was an improvement the next day and someone walked out to gather six well-built men who could carry a coffin over and then collect the poor soul.

“And,” said the storyteller, “I was waiting all day. And as soon as I spotted them descending towards the shepherd’s house, I ran to meet them. And when I reached the very spot where I’d stood those many months previously, the ground was so slippery that one of the men at the back of the coffin almost stumbled. But what did the man at the front - Dòmhnall mac Aonghais! –do but support the others with his strong arms. And in words so clear that you would think a sudden mist had lifted, he said “Boys, boys. Take it easy. Keep it down, keep it low down.”"

"And that," said the storyteller in 1960, "is as true as I’m telling you it!""

And who am I to cast doubt on his account, especially since Dòmhnall mac Eachainn was my great-grandfather and the woman who died, Mòrag, my great-grandmother.



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