By the Funeral Road to Loch
Moidart "The Galley of Clan ranald " - Among the Birch-woods - A Shelter
from the Storm-A Night with Wat the Wanderer-Dawn at Loch Moidart.
A NEW land indeed : the
wide green valley of Loch Moidart. So different was the look of this place
from the rocky corries of Glenuig that we might easily have imagined that
we had been wafted into another country. We had been travelling through
wild and impressive scenery, but as we walked down into the glen on the
south, we might have been stepping into the country of Surrey - a Surrey
with its skyline exaggerated, and the green of its firs and larches more
vivid. It was a friendly place we were coming to, a place that warmed the
heart. A big island covered with trees lay in the loch, and we set out
with renewed vigour on that long descent into the valley.
The sun was hot. It was
good to reach the shade of some birch-woods where the bracken grew
shoulder high. Above us on the left was a place that is called the Hillock
of the Big Woods-a name which suggests that forest trees once grew there,
trees which no doubt were used for building the Clanranald longboats, and
it set me thinking of MacMhaigstir's poem, "The Galley of Clanranald,"
which has been called the finest sea poem in any language. To one who has
had the Gaelic from his youth, it must bring a quickening of the heart,
but even in an English translation you can feel the surge of its power. It
opens with the blessing of the ship; then follows the blessing of the
swords and the bows of yew-tree; next, the order to bring the galley to
the place of setting out. When the rowers are seated at their oars, the
son of Ranald of the Ocean calls for a boat song: "Let the boat's track
gleam behind her in glory! ... Strain on your fir-shafts of grey hue . . .
the smooth shafts so slender!" Sailing directions are given, a look-out
man is ordered to the bow, and a man to the haulyards. A teller of the
waters is set apart, for the sea is growing rough, and another man to bale
out the green water that is breaking over them. The tempest reaches its
height; the deep is "full of spectres, and horrid is the screeching to
give ear to, that would drive to madness fifty warriors." They fight
through the storm gallantly, and reach at last the good harbour where they
cast anchor ... This is one of the poems of the golden age of Gaelic
poetry, the eighteenth century, and was written by a man who followed the
Prince throughout the 'Fortyfive, and afterwards lurked as a fugitive in
the glen to which we were descending.
It was three o'clock before we halted for
lunch. We dropped our packs on the moss beside a noisy mountain torrent.
The very sight of water seemed always to awaken in Gillespie a desire to
immerse himself in it, and before he touched food he had stripped off his
clothes and was wading into a tiny pool, breaking out in low joyous
chuckles as he stood beside the waterfall. I required no invitation to
follow him, and I can recall few things so refreshing as the spray that
lashed the skin like the needles of a showerbath. It even made me forget
the pain which the descent from the summit had brought back to my feet, so
that I had been compelled to keep slightly behind Gillespie to prevent him
from noticing how badly I limped. After a rub down, it was the peak of
physical bliss to lie back in the shadow of the birch trees and eat.
Gillespie had had some sandwiches made up at the inn, and by the time we
had finished them we had so blunted the edge of our hunger that the oat
cakes and cheese I had laid out were untouched.
The pipe of tobacco I smoked there, lolling in
shirt and trousers, is memorable. The sunlight came down into the
birch-woods in a multitude of long insect-laden shafts that picked out the
wild flowers and mosses and the grey crotal on the rocks, and dropped
little pools of light on the gently stirring surface of the sea of bracken
on the slope below. Through a gap in the trees I saw that the tide was
ebbing, and gulls stalked on the mud and seaweed around the
stepping-stones at Caolas, the little ford by which one may cross to the
island of Shona at low water. The Scots pines on the island were in deep
shadow. The air was unnaturally clear, for I could trace minutely the blue
gullies on the mountains beyond. I lay back on the grass and closed my
eyes. The sound of the waterfall pounding behind us was like the roll of a
distant drum. Time seemed to have stood still. I was conscious only of
being completely at peace with myself and with the world. The ghosts of
the resolutions I am always making and breaking, the gibbering spook that
follows me about in all my waking hours urging me to kick myself out of my
habitual indolence: even these had buried their ugly heads. Perhaps it is
good that we do not often have these experiences of perfect physical and
mental happiness when one somehow or other feels attuned to the rhythms of
the earth itself and shares with a deep intimacy the life of all created
things. These swiftly-snatched moments of ecstasy are the more precious by
their infrequent visits, for even an ecstasy dwindles into a bore when it
is as familiar as a well-trousered penny-piece.
When at last we went on our way, the sun
seemed to be already low in the sky; and on reaching an open space several
miles further on, we saw clouds blowing up from the west. It looked as if
there was going to be one of these rapid changes of weather which to
people with a roof overhead form part of the charm of the Highlands of
Scotland. But to us there was precious little charm in the prospect of a
wet evening ; and Gillespie, who was setting the pace, quickened his
stride as we made along the Beallach nan Coisichean (the Walkers' Pass) by
the side of Loch Moidart.
There was a stiff pull up the shoulder of a
hummock of rock that rose sheer from the lochside. If the Clanranald men
hauled the Prince's swivel-guns over it, they must have been hours at the
job, but I think it more likely that the artillery was taken down to the
water edge and transported up the loch in rowingboats. At any rate, I
afterwards learned that the Prince himself got into a boat at this point
and was rowed up towards Kinlochmoidart House. The rock is called the
Plate Rock, because it was here that the Macdonalds hid the family plate
and title-deeds when Cumberland's troops came to burn down Kinlochmoidart
House after Culloden; and it was at this place that there occurred the
only act of treachery known against any Moidart man in the 'Forty-five.
One miserable shivering creature confessed to the Government soldiers that
he knew where the plate was hidden, and he led them to the spot. For which
his kinsfolk kicked him scornfully out of Moidart, and he never again
dared to show his face in the district.
I was now quite certain in my own mind that we
would not reach Acharacle that night : at least I knew that I myself could
not, for my feet were paining me so acutely that soon I was no longer able
to conceal the fact from Gillespie. If we had been walking over springy
turf I would have slung the offending shoes over my shoulder, but the
track was sharp with a multitude of small stones. Gillespie tried to
induce me to hand over my pack for him to carry as well as his own, and it
was only my wretched pride that made me hang doggedly on to it. I was
beginning to wish I had never agreed to his coming with me, for there
seemed to be every chance that I was landing him in a rather awkward hole.
His friend at Acharacle - an Edinburgh man called Grant - was confidently
expecting him that night, and there was about as much hope of getting word
to Loch Shiel as there was of signalling to New York. I decided that
Gillespie and I must presently separate : I would try to find shelter for
the night in a cottage, while he went on alone. But he received the
suggestion with a slow smile: "We'll see what happens ! You set the pace.
There's no hurry."
seemed to me, however, that there was very good reason to hurry. The
clouds we had seen above the distant hills were now blowing blackly across
the sky, and one or two big raindrops were beginning to fall. The air was
stifling; and though we had not detected it in the exhilaration of our
climb from Glenuig, the atmosphere all day must have been sultry. It was
plain that a thunder storm was brewing, and the first crack came as we
emerged from the birch-woods. This was followed by a sharp patter of rain
around us. If we had not taken shelter beside a rock, we would have been
wet to the skin in ten minutes. The thin rubber sheet I carried would have
kept my shoulders and rucksack dry, but Gillespie had no covering, for he
had packed his waterproof coat in one of his suitcases, which by this time
was probably being taken off the Loch Shiel steamer at Acharacle, where
his friend Grant would be standing on the jetty puzzled at the absence of
rain was seeking us out beside the rock, and rivulets were beginning to
trickle down the face of it. It was doing us no good service to wait, for
we saw we were in for a wetting anyhow, and decided to push on. I had
stopped urging Gillespie to make for Acharacle by himself ; for in the
darkness that was settling down, I doubted whether he would be able to
find his way over the hills. Though a road of a kind was recorded on the
map, it twisted so often that it would have been easy to go astray. I was
beginning to feel wretched, and the pain in my feet did not help me to
look at our plight with what is called a philosophic calm. Indeed, the
only cheerful thing in that slowly blackening landscape was Gillespie
himself, who began to sing and caper like a half-wit until I was forced to
laugh, although I knew he was playing the fool merely to rally my spirits.
But he suddenly stopped his antics and drew to a halt.
At the foot of the crags on our left there was
a deep hollow under the rock, and from it a wisp of grey smoke curled out
and was being quickly dissipated in the rain. We went forward to have a
tramp," cried Gillespie. "Come on." And he raced for the shelter of the
overhanging rock, while I limped after him.
Gillespie's guess was correct. It was a
tramp's fire, for the startled face of a man shot up from behind a low
rampart of sacking hung on sticks. He had a fair bushy beard which grew
high on his cheeks, and he wore one of those small narrow-peaked cloth
caps that you sometimes see in the photographs of our grandfathers. The
hollow below the crag went quite three or four yards into the rock, and a
fire of birchwood was spluttering in the furthest corner. The smoke clung
to the sloping roof as it wavered upward, and its smell was homely. I
looked down at the tramp, who was throwing aside some sacking and
scrambling to his feet. He had deep-set blue eyes which were friendly
enough after he had recovered from his surprise at our hasty assault on
his lodgings. I saw that he wore an old short fawn-coloured overcoat, very
much tattered at the button-holes and sleeves, and the knees of his
trousers had been often and ingeniously patched, but his boots were good,
his face and hands were clean, and his soft Highland voice, as he told us
to sit down on a pile of bracken, had no suspicion of a mendicant whine.
However, I thought it unlikely that he would refuse a shilling for a share
of his fire for half an hour.
There is often something amusing in the
ill-luck story of a tramp who has been for years on the road. His story no
doubt changes with the locality he is in and the person he is begging
from; and I have even overheard one of them assume a rolling Irish brogue
when he perceived it was an Irishman whose withers he was trying to wring.
The real old-timer hates the gipsies and the tinkers, for they are the
aristocracy of the road; and I remember how a certain lovable
mahogany-faced rascal who from his early youth had been familiar with the
whole art and craft of "sleeping rough" once spun me a story of
persecution by gipsies so vivid in detail that it was worth the florin
which in my glow of admiration I handed over to him. When our tramp in the
cave began to talk I saw that he had a similar gift of the gab; and though
he had not yet touched upon his tragic lack of food and money, I suspected
that if we sheltered beside him for very long, it was much more than a
humble shilling we would be in honour bound to bestow upon him on parting.
I could even see ourselves paying his railway-fare from Fort William to
Perth or some other distant town where he had a starving wife and family
living in a hovel, both family and hovel having sprung miraculously into
existence in the twinkling of one of his innocent blue eyes. He was such a
gentlemanly tramp, I decided, that he might even try to assure us he was
not a real tramp at all, which would of course make the climax of his
story the more heart-rending. While I happen to like tramps, the genuine
old-fashioned tramps, I am not sorry for them. They are on the whole an
honest lot - if not by inclination, certainly in practice - for their
healthy fear of the county police is almost as great as their terror at
having to do a job of work. In country districts they are seldom refused
food, and indeed often get it from cottages where the pantry is emptier
than the hanging pantechnicons which they call pockets. True, on many a
cold night they sleep in the open, but they have so mastered the knack of
it that discomfort is reduced to a minimum, and they can usually find
shelter in some poorhouse or "Union" if they are prepared to pay for bed
and breakfast with a few hours' work next morning. While the idea of
settling down in some "cushie job" is seldom absent from their minds, few
of them could bear for one month the monotony of opening their eyes each
morning on the same old scene. The excuses they offer for their descent
into vagabondage are often as untrue as they are ingenious ; and since our
tramp in the cave seemed a cut above the average, I wondered how he would
explain why he had taken to the road. When I put the question to him, he
looked at me steadily for a moment, then shook his head and laughed. No ;
he would not be telling the gentlemen that at all He poked at the fire
with a stick. "Yess, a bit of green birch makes a grand blaze," he said.
"It's the only wood that burns wet. You ken the best wood to burn when
you're in my" - he seemed to fumble for a word - "when you're in my
circumstances," he added, and you could almost hear him smacking his lips
at the euphemism. Then he pulled from his pocket a couple of printed
leaflets and with a little gesture of pride handed one to each of us. I
leant towards the fire and with interest looked at the first page. In
large bold type was printed:
WAT THE WANDERER
other three pages contained effusions written to the tunes of well-known
Scottish melodies. "I am Wat," announced the man, and he told us that he
himself had made the songs and could sing them too.
"I didn't know you were a bard! " said
Gillespie, with a laugh. "Look here, you must sing us one of these before
we go. Do you make a decent living at the job?"
"It is no living at all," he said, his chubby
bearded cheek resting on his hand as he stared into the fire. "But it is
good enough when you do not think about it..."
Afraid that he was preparing to become maudlin
about himself, I changed the subject by asking what part of the Highlands
he was brought up in.
"Ach, I am not a Hielander at all," he
declared. "I come from the Borders, but I have been in the Hielands for a
long time. No, I have not the Gaelic just a wee bit I have picked up from
the country folk."
From his talk and manner, and his perky pride in his songs, I had been
sure he was a Highlander; but my ear had not been fine enough to detect
that he had acquired that soft lilt in his voice and many of his phrases
from long contact with Gaelic-speaking people. He told us he had once
ventured back into the Border country, but had done badly there : it was
the Highland folk that liked his songs. At the big houses, too, the gentry
were good to him, he said, and his eyes twinkled. "The gentry do not think
much of my songs," he declared, chuckling quietly to himself.
"Not the English gentry that come about in the
autumn ! When the English shooters are in the Hielands, they call me into
the big house to sing to them. As soon as I'm gone, ach, they are all
laughing at me, but I don't heed that if I've had a dram and some siller.
It's the poor folk, the Hieland folk, that like my songs, they are aye
glad to see Wat back at their door."
He flung some birch-wood logs and chips on the
fire from a pile in the corner, and glanced out at the pelting rain.
Gillespie asked him what he did in the winter.
"Oh, it is no life for a man," he said
lugubriously. "It is fine enough in summer, but in the winter I keep to
the West Country. It's warmer here, you don't get the snow so bad. I have
a bit hut in Argyll where I bide. It's in the winter I make my songs-it's
fine to listen to the storm when you are making a sad song in your head!"
He wriggled back from the heat of the fire, squatting against the rock,
elbows on knees, his face between his fists.
"I suppose we'd better wait till that
confounded rain eases off," remarked Gillespie, and at this Wat sat up.
"Then there is time to sing you a new song I
am making," he said, and looked at us for approval. Raising himself on one
knee, he pulled from his pocket a little note-book with a black shiny
cover. "It is a very sad song, but you will hear it, as much as I have
made," he announced, cocking his head with self-importance. And out of his
round little mouth that peeped from his thick beard, he began to sing.
He had a soft tuneful voice; but the shudder
of emotion he put into it almost turned the affair into a burlesque of
himself and of all his singing brethren of the road. Because of his
earnestness, I felt a little ashamed of my desire to laugh, and I did not
dare catch Gillespie's eye, for the singer was watching us eagerly in the
firelight to note the effect of his ballad upon us. He was (as it were)
trying it out on the dog, and I found the role of an appreciative dog a
difficult one to sustain. Nor was the situation improved by the words of
his song. He had fitted some verses to the air of "Wandering Willie," and
had taken himself for the hero. He drooled and mourned about Wandering
Wattie, who had no wife, no bairns, no bield of a rooftree, nothing but
the bleak moorland on which to lay his head ; and when he got a little
husky in the third verse, it was the voice of Leslie Henson I heard,
Leslie at the top of his form, Leslie leaning over the footlights on the
point of side-slipping into one of those falsetto squawks that bring down
the house in a pandemonium of delighted applause. Indeed, to bring down
the house was the only thing Gillespie and I could do to prevent us from
wounding our friend to the heart. We thudded on the ground with our
walking-sticks, and assured him that his new song would go down like honey
in farm kitchens. As for Wat, he was charmed. He stuffed his little shiny
note-book back in his pocket and rubbed his hands. "I'll send it to the
People's Friend," he said confidently. "I have had a song before this
printed in the People's Friend," And he added with satisfaction that he
would send a copy to Steenie: it would make Steenie envious. Steenie, we
learned, was a rival of his, though their beats were different. Steenie
kept to the country north-west of the Great Glen, selling his songs from
door to door, while Wat's country was south of it, including Lorne and
Kintyre. He was explaining this to us, when the words were taken out of
his mouth by a crack of thunder, and our little hollow under the rock was
lit up by the lightning that glimmered above the hills of Ardnamurchan.
"That looks bad," said Gillespie with concern.
"It's a wild night we're in for," Wat agreed.
"Is it far you're going, gentlemen ?"
"Loch Shiel," Gillespie told him. "But I don't
suppose we'll manage it to-night now. Is there a cottage hereabouts where
they'd take us in ? My friend's feet are giving him absolute gyp, so we
can't go far."
there is a shepherd on the hill," said Wat. "He would take you in."
"About four miles."
"No good." Gillespie shook his head.
"It's bad feet you've got?" said Wat, touching
one of my shoes with a sympathetic hand. "You should put crotal on your
feet. It grows on the rocks, and you rub it into a powder. Man, it's good
for the feet." I told him I was afraid it was a little late in the day to
apply his remedy, and besides crotal couldn't improve ill-fitting shoes.
"Isn't there any cottage nearer than the
shepherd's?" asked Gillespie.
Wat scratched his head. "Ay, but they wouldn't
take you in-they have no room. The shepherd's is the only place." He cast
little curious glances at us. "You're welcome to bide here for the night."
Gillespie turned to me. "What do you think?"
The rain was still coming down hard. Trickles
of water that had been drip-dropping over the mouth of our shelter had now
increased to steady rivulets. Steam was rising from Gillespie's jacket on
the side that was next the fire, and I had pulled mine off and was drying
it. The four miles to the shepherd's cottage meant an hour's walk, without
taking into account either the gathering darkness or my lameness. It would
have been folly to arrive there like a pair of drowned rats when we could
stay where we were; and I said so.
Wat's eyes lit up. "That is good," he said,
with a nod; "I can sing you some more songs." If anything would have
induced me to change my mind, it was this; but to my relief, he set about
making some tea, pushing aside the blazing logs, and setting a pan of
water on the red embers. He told us he had some food, enough for us all,
but he mentioned the matter diffidently, as though he doubted in his mind
whether we would care to touch anything of his: at least, I could think of
no other reason for his hesitation. "There's a wee shop along the lochside,"
he said, and his voice tailed off vaguely.
To go to the shop for food, I felt, would have
hurt his feelings, and Gillespie seemed to think the same, for he replied
that it wasn't worth a wetting. Our assurance that we would add our food
to his and all share alike got us out of the difficulty, though I had a
slight revulsion at the idea of eating stuff that he had handled. I took
from my rucksack the cardboard box with what rations I had left over from
the last two days, oat cakes, a hunk of cheese, some apples, and dates.
But my eyes opened when Wat set about preparing his contribution to the
meal. He moved aside the water to make room on the embers for a flat pan,
into which he dropped a lump of butter. Bacon and sausages followed, clean
and fresh-looking, and soon our little cavern was filled with the
appetising smell of frying. From a packet he tilted a small handful of
tea-leaves into the water, which was now beginning to boil, and kept
turning over the food in the pan; giving each piece of bacon a little
friendly pat with the fork as he did so. When he produced half a loaf of
bread he apologised for its staleness, but added that it was more
wholesome so. The tea was potent stuff, and there was barely enough milk
in Wat's half-mutchkin bottle to go round, and Gillespie and I ate our
bacon and sausages from the point of our penknives, but nothing detracted
from our good appetite. Afterwards, we lay back with pipes alight - Wat
did not smoke - and listened to the rain and the waves which the wind was
beginning to drive up on the rocks thirty yards away. When there came a
lull in the storm, I thought it was beginning to blow over, but presently
the thunder and lightning started again, this time much nearer at hand.
One flash, brighter than the others, made the surface of Loch Moidart look
like a sheet of white flame, while a crack of thunder seemed to split the
very hillside above us, and went rolling up among the mountains on either
side of the glen. The storm brought home to us the folly of trying to go
further that night.
By nine o'clock the rain eased off. Wat announced that he had an errand
down the loch which would take about half an hour, and when he returned he
was carrying under his arm a roll of sacking and some old newspapers. He
assured us that a sheet of paper spread between the sacking would make a
warm covering for us, and he scooped some bracken from his own bed, and
made up ours on either side of the fire. Half an hour later, with my pack
as a pillow, I crawled under the improvised coverlet and fell into a sound
Twice I awoke
in the night : the first time, I sat up with a start wondering where I
was, but settled down again when I heard the slow breathing of the other
two; the second time, a whaup on the marsh a little way up the loch sent
its whooping call across the water. The fire was out, except for one
little red eye that still glowed in the darkness. I did not know what the
hour was, but I felt completely refreshed and wakeful, and had an odd
longing for a cigarette-a thing I never smoke. Slipping on my shoes, I
crept out without disturbing the others. Wat was sighing uneasily in his
sleep, as though the final verse of his new song was running in his head
and the rhymes were refusing to come right, but Gillespie's breath was as
steady as a healthy pulse. Outside, the rain had stopped, and everything
was very quiet. I could distinguish the Isle of Shona, a dark mass upon
the water. In the opposite direction, dawn was beginning to break, there
was a pale streak over the hills around Glen Moidart, and the clouds were
slightly tinged with red. My ear, keyed up to the silence, began to detect
many tiny sounds that I had not heard on waking: the soft gush of little
streams in the woods behind me, the faint rustle of leaves, a curious
ticking noise which stopped and went on again like a hesitating clock, and
the soft wash of the receding tide on the mud flats below me. I could make
out the winding channel of the river Moidart where the whaup that had
wakened me was probably feeding. As I crawled back to the warmth of my
bed, after my glimpse of the ending of the night and the beginning of day,
I was grateful to the whaup for his timely summons.
It was bright daylight when I woke again. Wat
was twisting pieces of newspaper into little balls, and piling dry twigs
on them, to light the fire. The air was chilly - more chilly than when I
had emerged before dawn -and I was glad to get into the open and beat my
hands to restore some warmth to my blood. Soon Wat had what he called "a
fine lowe" - one of the few Lowland words I had heard on his tongue - and
was boiling some water he had taken from a burn in the birchwoods. He
warned us that the tea would taste earthy with the spate, and there was no
milk to subdue the flavour, but the hot drink was welcome-and so indeed
was the remainder of his bacon which he fried for our breakfast. Our
united larder was cleaned bare to the last crumb by the time we had
finished; and I unfolded my map, and traced out the road over the hills to
Loch Shiel. Gillespie asked me about our plans.
It was a little difficult to decide. The pain
had quite gone from my feet. But I knew very well that before I had
covered many miles, my shoes would be giving me the old familiar twinges.
I was bound to be a drag upon my companion, and it seemed to me that it
would be well if he went on alone at his own pace to join his friend at
the inn at Acharacle.
There was another thing. Acharacle was not my
destination. From Kinlochmoidart, Prince Charles Edward Stuart had crossed
the hill on the Acharacle road, but had struck down to Dalilea on the
lochside. Thus, for me to go to Acharacle at all would take me several
miles west of my fixed route ; in addition, it would make my day's march a
good deal longer, and to no purpose.
"I was hoping you'd come on to Acharacle,"
said Gillespie, when I put this to him. "There's supposed to be a
comfortable pub there, and you'd like Grant -he's a good chap. You'd have
a lot in common - he's in the book-trade. You could come out fishing, and
quack about books with him all day. Hang it, it would give your feet a
rest, and maybe you could get these damned shoes attended to-stretched or
something ... What about it?"
He paused in the act of stuffing back into his
haversack the cardigan he had worn under his jacket during the night.
"No good," I told him. "You'd better push on
alone. They'll be sending out a search-party if you don't turn up soon.
Besides, as I've said, Acharacle's a good many miles off my route. It's
Dalilea I'm making for, on this side of Loch Shiel." I opened the map and
pointed to it. "Acharacle's right round on the south side of the loch,
sorry," said Gillespie. "I dare say you're right. I was hoping you'd come
along with me, but I suppose you may as well stick to your route. Damn
Prince Charlie and all his Highlanders!" He strapped
up his haversack and got to his feet. "Look here, it was fine of you
letting me come. You'll ring me up in London one day? You've got my
address. I'll be going back on Monday or Tuesday, though I don't suppose
you'll be south for another month or so. Well, good luck."
Wat and he went off together, Wat carrying my
shoes which he was taking to a man who might be able to soften them with
grease; and rain was falling when he returned with them half an hour
later. Over these shoes a London shoemaker had made purring noises which
were no doubt meant to express a craftsman's pride, but the lovely brown
leather was now black with hot lard. The shoes certainly felt easier when
I hauled them on, but I knew that the test would come after I had walked a
few miles. I said I would wait with Wat until the shower blew over; and it
was in fact nearly noon before the steady downfall of rain ceased and I
said good-bye to him. I had had good reason to revise my first impression
of the man who grandiloquently called himself Wat the Wanderer ; and when
we shook hands, far from having to listen to a hard-up story, I had some
difficulty in persuading him to accept a few shillings for my board and
lodging. I am writing these lines in winter, with snow on the ground, and
I hope that Wat is now as snug in his "bit hut" in Argyll as we were on
that September night beside him in his hollow below the rock on the shore
of Loch Moidart.