Monday, 14 April 2014

Nigeria - Why The Moon Waxes and Wanes




There was once an old woman who was very poor, and lived in a small mud hut thatched with mats made from the leaves of the tombo palm in the bush. She was often very hungry, as there was no one to look after her.

In the olden days the moon used often to come down to the earth, although she lived most of the time in the sky. The moon was a fat woman with a skin of hide, and she was full of fat meat. She was quite round, and in the night used to give plenty of light. The moon was sorry for the poor starving old woman, so she came to her and said, "You may cut some of my meat away for your food." This the old woman did every evening, and the moon got smaller and smaller until you could scarcely see her at all. Of course this made her give very little light, and all the people began to grumble in consequence, and to ask why it was that the moon was getting so thin.

At last the people went to the old woman's house where there happened to be a little girl sleeping. She had been there for some little time, and had seen the moon come down every evening, and the old woman go out with her knife and carve her daily supply of meat out of the moon. As she was very frightened, she told the people all about it, so they determined to set a watch on the movements of the old woman.

That very night the moon came down as usual, and the old woman went out with her knife and basket to get her food; but before she could carve any meat all the people rushed out shouting, and the moon was so frightened that she went back again into the sky, and never came down again to the earth. The old woman was left to starve in the bush.

Ever since that time the moon has hidden herself most of the day, as she was so frightened, and she still gets very thin once a month, but later on she gets fat again, and when she is quite fat she gives plenty of light all the night; but this does not last very long, and she begins to get thinner and thinner, in the same way as she did when the old woman was carving her meat from her.


You can read the original 1910 publication, 40 Nigerian Folktales here.

Magic Torch are sharing Commonwealth folktales as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations. In addition to publishing a book and comic, which retell some commonwealth tales, we are also sharing traditional tales on our blog. We are presenting the stories exactly as collected, without editing or rewriting. Some of the tales have been recorded recently, others, many years ago in traditional forms, more often than not using dialects and local mannerisms - the "voice" of the people telling the tales. We have opted not to change this.

The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, it is also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on unicef.org.uk/herald; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

White Gold - Get Involved


White Gold is an ambitious, site-specific performance set in Greenock’s iconic Sugar Sheds. Brought to the warehouse for storing, sifting, refining and presenting, White Gold is woven together from vivid and touching stories gathered across Inverclyde.

As audiences walk through the show, artists, performers and 200 volunteers will bring narratives to life through drama, movement, original music and breathtaking aerial performance. Surprising, poignant and deeply moving, White Gold gives the community of Greenock top billing as the nation’s stars.

An original creation conceived and overseen by Mark Murphy, directed by Simone Jenkinson and Joseph Traynore of Cuerda Producciones. It is produced by Iron Oxide and includes Cuerda Producciones from Argentina, All or Nothing Aerial and DJs/musicians Tigerstyle. Part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.

www.glasgow2014.com/culture


Volunteer cast and crew

Volunteers are currently being sought to join the White Gold cast and crew, working with a talented team of artists and theatre professionals.


Cast Members, Assistant Stage Managers, Runners, Lighting Design Crew, Site Crew and Stage Crew are all required. The positions are accessible to anyone 16+, with a willingness to learn and there are a number of roles available, depending on how much time each volunteer has to give.

To find out more please come along to our Open Evening at the Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, on Mon 14 April from 7.30pm-8.30pm. You’ll have the chance to talk to the team, see the aerial performers in action and find out how you can get involved with White Gold.

For further information or to request a pack on the opportunities above please email
Laura@beaconartscentre.co.uk 


Monday, 7 April 2014

Andros Island, Barbados - Maddy Glassker



Once upon a time was a good old time.
Monkey chew tobacco and spit white lime,
Cockeroach keep time, knock the big drum bum! bum!


Jack went out fishing one day, and he had very bad luck. He went from drop to drop, and could not catch any fish. Last of all he went to a drop where he hook a fine yellow-tail. He pull it up to the boat; and as he went to lift the fish in the boat, it drop off the hook. Jack never stand, he pitch overboard behind it. The yellow-tail went, Jack behind. Jack dive until when he blow, he blow on a strange little island. Jack was there all day till he began to get hungry. Jack stood up, and said, "Ah, well! if I was home, I would have had somewhere to go."
He heard a voice behind him: "Mr. Jack, there's a house behind you,"
As he turn round and look, he saw a fine three- storey house. He went to the house; but now it was late, and the house began to get dark: so Jack said, ''Ah, well! if I was home, I would have had light."
The voice said, ''Mr. Jack, there's a lamp on the table." Jack went and found the lamp and candle and
matches. As he light the lamp, he said, "Ah, well! if I was home, I would have had something to eat." The voice said, "Mr. Jack, your dinner is on the table."
Jack went and found his dinner, and sat down and eat. When he was finish', he said, "Ah, well! if I was home, I would hav^ had a bed to sleep in."
The voice said, "Mr. Jack, there's a bed in the room." And so Jack went to bed.

Next morning Jack said, "Ah, well! if I was home, I would have had breakfast."
The voice said, "Mr. Jack, your breakfast is on the table." So Jack went and get his breakfast.
In the evening Jack said the same thing, and he continue to say the same thing for seven days. This night more than all, his mother come to him in a dream, and told him if he wanted to see who it is that prepare him the house and supporting him, he must set the clock to alarm at twelve o'clock; and when the clock alarm, he must rise up and light a candle, and he will see.

So Jack did so, and twelve o'clock the clock alarmed. Jack jump up and light the candle, an' when he look in the bed, he saw a woman. She was the prettiest woman that eyes ever behold, and she had written across her breast in golden letters, "Maddy Glassker the glory of the world." Jack could not stop looking till a little of the melted candle drop on her. Then she jump up and said to Jack, "Well, Mr. Jack, since you is Mr. Jack and I am Maddy Glassker, the glory of the world, I am gone at the word."
She and the house, with all that was in it, flash out of sight like lightning, making a great noise. And
Jack was left alone on the rock again.
So Jack remember his fine yellow-tail that he brought up to the boat, and the pretty woman that use to sleep in his bed; and while he thought of all tliis, he got so sad that his countenance I could not bear to see; so I turn myself round with a very brisk turn, only my turn was too brisk, for I could
not stop myself until I buck up here to tell you this story; and if you don't believe it, you can ask . . .

Bo be ben,
My story is end.


There are many more collected tales in the full text of Folk tales of Andros Island

Magic Torch are sharing Commonwealth folktales as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations. In addition to publishing a book and comic, which retell some commonwealth tales, we are also sharing traditional tales on our blog. We are presenting the stories exactly as collected, without editing or rewriting. Some of the tales have been recorded recently, others, many years ago in traditional forms, more often than not using dialects and local mannerisms - the "voice" of the people telling the tales. We have opted not to change this.

The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, it is also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on unicef.org.uk/herald; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Vikings! Ossian! Somerled!



We have been really pleased with the positive response to our Viking project (here's another wee sneaky detail from Andy's work above) We'll be showing the exhibition during the Viking Festival in Largs and then throughout September in the Dutch Gable House.

The graphic novel themed project is the first in a series which will explore our Norse and Celtic heritage - one using text from the controversial Ossian poems as the basis of the comic artwork, and the others retelling some legends of Somerled - Thane of Argyll and legendary Welsh King of Strathclyde, Rhydderch Hael, both of whom feature prominently in our original Tales of the Oak book from 2000.

Andy did in fact produce a wee panel featuring the mighty Rhydderch Hael Thane of Argyll for The Archivist's Treasure Graphic Novel. Doesn't that flaming sword Drynwyn look very familiar to the one sugar based superhero Mr Cube now brandishes...



Monday, 31 March 2014

Uncommon Tales

what horrors has Sir Glen unleashed this time?

As we've mentioned, Magic Torch are sharing Commonwealth folktales as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations. We have Captain Kidd chasing treasure around the commonwealth for younger readers, collected, curated and retold by the Torch team and illustrated by Mhairi, and an all new Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes comic adventure looking at some darker commonwealth tales with artwork by Andy. The project is supported by the Big Lottery Celebrate fund. Both books will launch in late summer.

In addition to publishing a book and comic, which retell some commonwealth tales, we are also sharing traditional tales on our blog, starting in April. In most cases, we are presenting the stories exactly as collected, without editing or rewriting. Some of the tales have been recorded recently, others, many years ago in traditional forms, sometimes using dialects and local mannerisms - the "voice" of the people telling the tales, other times, reinterpreted by Victorian collectors. For the stories we're sharing on the blog, we have opted not to change the tale whatever the format.

If you have your own particular tale you'd like to share, please contact aulddunrod.

The heritage and history of what we call the Commonwealth can be a cause for controversy as well as celebration. However throughout 2014, many folk are taking the opportunity to shine a light on some of the more uncomfortable histories of the Commonwealth and also to address real issues which exist across the world today. The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, it is also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on unicef.org.uk/herald; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

For now, here is an Anansi tale, the first of many...



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Absent Voices / Are ye Dancin?





Whit yuptae this Friday?

The Absent Voices project are having a pop up exhibition at the Beacon Arts Centre where the team will be displaying some of the work in progress created so far and will also be signing people up for workshops in stained glass, urban drawing and collodian photography. There will also be live music and special guest Jimmy Watt will talk about being part of the Urban Drawing programme. 

And once you have enjoyed the artwork, it's time for some dancing, at a free entry 1980's disco event as part of RIG Arts Are Ye Askin'? Heritage project. Fri 28th Mar'14 8pm til late, Cruden Hall, Greenock. Music by Kodac Disco. Free entry tickets available from The Exchange cafe under Cruden Hall.

Enjoy!

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Raven's Flight by Jim Carnduff



We have been given this story by our colleagues at Greenock Writers Club. It's a Viking tale from Jim Carnduff.

Jim trained as a compositor and was employed in newspaper production during his working life.  He also freelanced news events for two local newspapers, adding photo coverage when he retired in 1987.  His interest in creative writing has fuelled his attempts to submit stories and poetry for publication with occasional success.  He served with the RAF in Burma during the Second World War and qualified for the Burma Star campaign medal. This story was written in memory of the late Alan RocheYou can also hear an audio recording of the story by writers club member Isobel Watt below, or on our soundcloud page.

The tiny piece of artwork above is another sneaky Andy Lee detail from our own Viking project, which will be on display in Largs during the Viking Festival.

The Raven's Flight

Inga's eyes betrayed troubled thoughts.

She was not seeing the weakening evening light with traces of muted pink, or gannets plummeting off the headland point, nor the dark outline of Cowal hills in the north. Her mind was on events that could bring tragedy.

King Alexander had assembled his troops on the moorland hills above Largs. Haakon's Viking fleet had already entered the Clyde.
She stepped away from the croft door and took the path down the hill. She felt the chill and withering touch of autumn. On the grassy plateau above the beach she could see her two daughters. They were skipping to a rhyme and as the tempo quickened they tripped and fell laughing in a heap.

Like herself they were both blonde, yet their father was a Gael with dark features. Ann was12 and Mary 10. She had chosen Christian names for them when they were baptised in the Chapel of the Blessed Brigid in her home village of Rothesay.

Her parents had opposed her marriage to Angus the Dalriad. Up until then her line was pure. But she had not heeded. An ancestor had fought with Somerled and she was proud of her heritage. Now it mattered little to ordinary folk which king had sovereignty over the islands. Gael and Norse had lived side by side for centuries. Their offspring were the `gall ghaidheill,' a virulent stock unfettered by old loyalties.

Her grandmother had witnessed the seige of Rothesay castle. Eighty Viking ships had come to Bute with troops recruited from the Western Isles and the Isle of Man to counter the threat to Norse suzerainty. The besieged garrison had fought tenaciously, pouring down burning pitch and lead on the attackers. Three hundred Vikings perished before the Scots were overcome and the castle destroyed.

Now there would be an even greater battle.
Daylight was fading. Inga caught up her skirt and ran down to the platform of the grey rock where she could see the sweep of the Firth.
`Can you see your father's boat?'
The two girls stopped their play. Their mother repeated the question.
`Yes.' they chorussed. `He's coming up from porpoise bay. We can see his sail.'
`You should have told me!' Inga was cross. She retraced her steps.

As she mounted the hill a hoarse croaking made her look up. Black wings appeared for a moment. It was a raven. The sight sent a chill through her: the creature was an ill omen. It flew to a nearby tree. She had never seen a raven on Cumbrae island before.

Returning to the house she roused the fire. Venison was cooking in the pot. As a treat for the girls she had a bramble tart with honey and cream.

She shooed hens out of the house, swept the flagstones and set the table. Before lighting the lamps she placed a hand on the table and said a grace: `Holy Virgin take my hand. Holy Spirit be in our midst'.

For a moment Inga kept her hand resting on the surface. The table was her proudest possession. It had been a wedding gift from her parents and been in the family for generations. Maybe if she put her ear to the familiar surface she would hear voices from the past. She lit the lamps.

Angus arrived hand in hand with the girls. He was a thick-set man with an assured manner, a ferry-man for the island and crofter. Inga always felt relief on his return. She was never relaxed on her own. Her nearest neighbours were the Nicolsens, a mile away at Eiggan farm.
Mary held up a red apple.
`Look what father's brought from Largs. He's got a basketful!'
`Who gave you the apples?' Inga asked.
`Tam Duff, the weaver.' She held it up.'
Inga took the basket, smiling at her daughter's pleasure. `Tam is a good man.'. She looked at Angus and asked if there was any news.
`Nothing good.'
She sensed caution in Angus' terse reply. Their eyes met and she understood. He couldn't explain while Ann and Mary were within earshot.

At bedtime Inga combed the girls' hair and tucked them up in their cots. A pang of fear quivered at her heart. They were so dear and so innocent.
At the fireside Angus spoke in a whisper.
`Viking ships will be here tomorrow. Nicolsen was sent to tell me. Cattle, sheep and livestock on the island are to be confiscated. The fleet is short of food. They will set up their headquarters at the Hall and it will be used as an armoury and a hospital. Ground has to be prepared for graves near the ruins of St. Columba Cathedral. King Haakon may come too. Rumour is that he has been ill since he left Bergen in July. The princes want to relieve him of command.
He paused and looked questionly at his wife.
`Inga. You and the girls will need to leave tomorrow. I'll take you to Kirsty at Toward.
Inga said nothing, her face impassive. She stood up clasping her arms tight against her bosom.
`I saw a raven tonight.'
She sat down again and glanced at the recess where her daughters slept.
`Odin sends his ravens to watch the warriors in battle. Only the bravest and most daring are selected to live with him in Valhalla – the hall of the slain. The ravens return like carrier pigeons: the chosen warriors are escorted by the Valkyrie maidens to Valhalla, there to live forever in feasting and fighting.' She hesitated as if reluctant to continue.
`But Odin has living recruits – the Berserkir, the bear-shirted ones – fanatics who work themselves into a frenzy and howl as they enter the fray.'
`Inga . . . ' Angus began to protest but she put her hand to his mouth.
`I know it's wrong to believe pagan myths, but I am uneasy. Tomorrow is the Sabbath. I want you to take the children at first light to the church at Innerkip on the mainland. While you are away I will pack food and take what we can on the boat. When you return I will have everything ready and, God willing, we will get away before the invaders come.

The morning dawned to the sound of gusting winds snarling round the croft: rafters creaked and the thatch rigging rustled restlessly in the gale. Angus went to the door. A southerly wind was sending long raking seas up the Firth. If conditions got worse they would be storm bound on the island – and could he manage to sail back against such a gale if he took the girls to Innerkip.

Inga roused her daughters. They were excited at the prospect of going to Innerkip. They liked the vicar there. He was a monk from the Abbey at Paisley and he told them stories about places in Scotland. Inga gave them each a bundle to carry and insisted they put on their winter sheepskins. Ann was allowed to take her slate and coloured chalks and Mary wanted to sit in the prow.

Angus ran the heavy boat over poles down to the water's edge. The big sail, half raised, was snapping in the wind. He lifted the girls on to the vessel and told them to go for'ard to the awning- shelter until he shoved off from the shore.

Inga watched and waved until they got underway. Halfway up the hill she looked back. The craft was being swept up the estuary towards Kelly Quay and Innerkip. On the opposite shore, rounding Craigmore Point, Viking longboats appeared.

Inga stood transfixed. They were unmistakable. Red-striped sails filled the horizon. Fear gripped her heart. She felt breathless.

She hurried to the house anxious and confused. She steadied herself at the table and felt reassured as her hands touched the familiar surface. She would gather her valuable possessions and essentials for the journey, heap them on the table and tie them up in shawls and blankets and be ready for the boat returning. Then she would see to the animals.

But as she worked her mind was filled with the dread of war – and the hoarse croak of a raven!

With everything ready for the boat she went to the top pasture to get the cow. From there she could see the approach of the warships.

Thirty or more great vessels with sails billowing made an awesome pageant as they ploughed through the heavy seas. Fastened to their sides, the shields of the warriors glistened amid the splashing oars and flying spume. The leader had the great Viking serpent emblazoned on his sail. And in the sky above this menacing spectacle, Inga saw a skein of greylag heading for Bute. She thought of Rothesay and her home. Her mother would be worried for their safety.

She hastened back, milked the cows and fed the hens. In the house she smoored the fire. The peat would burn slowly for several days. Her wish was that she would return and find it still alight. She took the dried-herb box from the shelf on the chimney breast and put it on the table.

A noise made her look up.

She became aware of a figure framed in the doorway – silhouetted against the light. She looked in alarm. It seemed like a helmetted man, his face half hidden by a metal visor. She felt the blood draining from her face. The apparition didn't move. It kept staring. The mouth was grimacing. She shrank back, her senses reeling. She stumbled and fell screaming as the warrior came towards her. She lay helpless, the figure astride her, leering. His hands gripped her clothing. She summoned up all her strength and dug her nails into his face.
`Inga! Inga!' Angus was shouting, `In the name of heaven, get control of yourself!'
She lay limp for a moment.
Angus was dabbing his mouth with the back of his hand. There was a smear of blood on his face.
`Angus. I thought you were a Viking.'
`My God woman, you nearly ripped my face off!'
`I'm sorry. What a shame. I'm so sorry . . .
Angus took her arm and helped her up.
`Inga . We'll need to hurry. Let's get the bundles and go now.
They ran down to the beach with their possessions. Inga steadied the boat as Angus loaded the bundles. He told her to get on board.
'Wait. Angus. Could we not take the table?'
Angus started to protest. `We'll never get the table on the boat as well!'
`Yes we will. We can lash it upright to the mast. That's how we brought it here.
Angus shook his head. He didn't have time to argue. `Right. We'll take it. But you are taking a risk! Haakon's men could be here at any moment.
They raced back to the croft and between them they brought the table down to the boat.

Once the table was secured and the boat underway, Inga looked back. The island was being swept by a gale gaining in fury, The woodland that shouldered the hill swayed and protested angrily. Above the trees the raven fought the wind in agitated flight. Then, as if seeing their escape, it descended hawk-like alighting on the shore. It hopped down the keel marks of the boat to the water's edge. Inga crossed herself and looked away.

Beyond the shelter of the bay the sea was running in great troughs. As they met the surge, Angus felt the awesome power of the ocean as he struggled with tiller and sail. The weather had worsened since his trip with the girls. A darkening sky brought driving rain and drenching spray added to their discomfort. The wind was almost due south, thrashing in from the Irish Sea to a Clyde estuary with little shelter from the storm's direction. Angus looked anxiously at the table which had already loosened from its lashings. And as he watched the dark threatening sky, he knew the Vikings could never land their vessels to engage the Scots in these weather conditions.

Inga sat amidships, gripping the mast and glancing anxiously at Angus each time the boat shuddered. But his face was set hard-jawed with the stress of the moment. She looked ahead. Tears clouded her vision. She thought of her house now deserted and unprotected. Should she have stayed. Perhaps the battle would not have touched them. Had she forsaken her home on a superstitious whim.

Angus watched the table with some concern. What would happen if it came loose – he couldn't leave the tiller. He knew the storm would carry them past Innerkip, but he dare not risk turning and taking one of these waves abeam. The vessel would be engulfed in no time. He hoped for calmer water beyond Ardgowan Point.

The boat was swept swiftly up the Firth. They passed close to Innerkip. Just beyond, where the shore turns eastward, Angus glimpsed calmer waters. He prepared to come about and shouted to Inga to hold on. He leaned heavily on the tiller. As the craft took the full force of the sea, waves crashed on board. They were in danger of foundering as the boat shipped water. Angus fought the protesting tiller and held his course. Inga stood clinging to the mast, shocked by the cold sea striking her. Then as they cleared the Point they met calmer water and safety. Angus let the vessel run on to the shore.

On Cumbrae a thousand Norsemen had landed – the vanguard of the Viking army. They sought shelter and scoured the island for food. Homes were ransacked, animals killed, women molested and resistance punished by the sword.

The following day the Viking captains stood by to launch an attack. They could see the Scots across the three-mile stretch of water. The wind was still blowing fiercely and several support vessels from Arran were driven ashore below the Scots' positions. But Alexander's army stood their ground. King Haakon watched and weighed his chances. He decided to wait.

As another day dawned his hopes for a respite in the weather were dashed. The Norsemen looked at the white streaked sea and accused the Scots of witchcraft. But their leader had lost patience. He summoned his fleet to action.

The seaborne forces, hampered by the fury of the elements, landed in disarray. The waiting Scots seized their advantage and harassed the Vikings as they came ashore. A short and straggling bloody battle ensued along half a mile of coastline, but the Scots held their opponents and drove them back to their ships.

The Vikings attacked again the next day and in a fierce engagement drove the Scots back to their hill positions. But Haakon, realising that outright victory was beyond his grasp, called for a truce.

The horse and cart came slowly up the hill to the cemetery. Behind walked the bereaved relatives. At the graveside, the tall figure of a monk, hands clasped over the folds of his grey habit, stood with bare-headed mourners. The coffin was carried through the gate and brought up the path, the silence broken only by the pall-bearers' crunching tread on the gravel and a faint sobbing. Accompanied by a Latin liturgy, the body was committed to its resting place. Then in the soft Gaelic tongue, the priest spoke of the lad and their loss. He had fallen with his brave Scottish comrades in a battle which, God willing, would bring a lasting peace. The sadness they suffered was shared by all. Inga looked at the woman who had befriended her and lost her son. She went over and embraced her.

For a moment those assembled stood with their silent thoughts in memory of the village lad who had died facing the Norse invaders. Reluctantly they turned away from the grave, the women first, and the men following. Sunshine broke through on the Cowal coast and raced fleetingly along the hills. The storm had passed.

Inga and Angus with their daughters made their farewells and walked down to the estuary. The boat was moored and ready to sail. Some children came running down to the water's edge to watch, making crosses and circles with their bare feet on the wet sand as the sail was raised. With a signal from Angus they pushed the boat out in an excited mellee, laughing and cheering them away.

Hastened by a fresh westerly breeze, they were soon in sight of Cumbrae. The table was still lashed to the mast.
`Mother. Why did you bring the table on the boat?' the younger daughter asked.'
`Just in case it got damaged.' Inga answered.'
`Who would damage it?'
`Well. The soldiers might.'
`Why?'
`Maybe to break up for firewood. Soldiers don't care about people's property.'

As they sailed into the bay below their hillside croft, their eyes searched the familiar landscape as if seeing it for the first time.

There was something lying on the shore at the high water mark.

The boat grounded and Angus jumped ashore and made fast with a rope. He helped the others off and the girls made to see what had been washed up. But Inga stopped them.
`Stay where you are. It's something you don't want to see.'
She went to look for herself – She knew what she would find.
He had blonde hair and his eyes were open. A trailing piece of seaweed was caught in the top fastening of his coat.
She turned away.
`It's a dead Viking.'
Angus went forward and looked at the corpse.
`He's only a laddie.'
He knelt down and straightened the body, placing the hands together on the chest. He closed the eyes and placed a pebble on each eyelid. He stood up and made the sign of the cross.
`I'll put him in the boat tonight and take him to the Hall in the morning.'

The house was strangely quiet. The hens and the cow had gone. Inside there was no sign of any disturbance.

Inga knelt by the fireplace. She took the bellows and gently sent a draught of air into its embers. She said the prayer her mother had taught her. It would be a blessing if it did not have to be rekindled. There was a puff of ash, then a trace of smoke and gradually a red glow. She fed the fire with some dry twigs.

She went outside and stood. She missed the hens fussing around her. Taking the cow-stick from the byre wall, she walked up to the top field.
`Poor Daisy. What a shame.' she said aloud with tears in her eyes.
She looked across the water to Kilchattan. How did they fare in Bute she wondered.
She left the empty pasture and as she came by the wood something on the ground caught her eye. She bent down and picked up a black feather. She looked up through the branches. There was a movement. She glimpsed a red breast.
It was a robin and it sang its melodious song as if it was springtime.


Remember, we're always up for other contributors at tales of the oak, drop us a line...