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Raiderland, All about Grey Galloway
Chapter 5


KIRKBEAN SHORE

 

CHAPTER V

 

DOUGLAS HALL

 

  THERE are many and charming ups and downs, "heighs and howes" on the shore road–that which follows the windings of the Solway out of Kirkbean into Colvend. At the village of Kirkbean itself, dainty, white, clambered over with Virginia creeper and the small white Ayrshire rose, you can turn sharp down to Carsethom–a hamlet on a somewhat unkindly shore, where, as is probable, you must hail the sea afar off, and take your meals–such as you have brought with you–in an uncomfortable boarded shelter. But Carsethorn is saved from the utterly commonplace by the presence of an old-fashioned coastguards' station, recalling the ancient days when, on every such little whitewashed watch tower along the coast, there was a man on the look-out, his spyglass directed towards the dim haze which was the Isle of Man, out of which he expected to see emerge the dark hull and huge sail of Captain Yawkins' famous lugger.

 

Leaving Kirkbean and going westward, you have Southerness or in common speech "Satterness" to the left-just a white cottage or two and a little fairy lighthouse, gleaming tremulous through the moisture which the sun is raising from the wet sands.

 

So by a road abhorred of charioteers, but a Paradise for artists, camera-folk, and blackberry-questing bairns, you now approach the true Solway, and the cliffs and beaches of Douglas Hall. There are villas and houses about, which doubtless I should like well enough if I lived in any of them. But they look out of keeping, somehow-a little Englishy and pretentious, to one who can never think of Douglas Hall save as one or two thatched cottages, mixed with casual stables and cowsheds, and all arranged as if sprinkled from a pepper-caster.

 

Isle Rathan. 

  But now is the time and here is the place for a confession. Those who have seen Isle Rathan know well enough that, though there is a cave upon it, there is not room in that actual cavern for all the wonderful things which happened to Patrick Heron and his May Mischief. But then a romancer has powers. He can contract a coastline. He can enable a herd of "nowt beasts" to march thirty or forty rough miles in a couple of days. He can even regulate astronomy and have two new moons in one month–if he only disguises the facts somewhat, spices them with adventure, and, above all, sugar-coats them with a little lovemaking.

 

So then–confess it–there is part of the coast of Douglas Hall in the Isle Rathan of "The Raiders"; while as the Dry Cave and its double entrance, the author went

to Ireland for that, and wrote those chapters in a cove a little to the left of the Giant's Causeway, where the Dry Cave opens

 

 

out to the Sea Cave in the exact manner told in the book. So let those who go to Isle Rathan not expect too much exactitude of description.

They will not, however, be disappointed in Douglas Hall.

 

Here, plain to see, are the Needle's E'e and the Piper's Cove. While in the main Patrick Heron's description holds good to-day–that is, when the lapse of two hundred years is taken into consideration, together with the fact that the writer was under no particular obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing hut the truth.

 

"The cliffs rise so high above that, seen from beneath, they hold up the sky as on pillars. As we steered our way carefully into the mouth of the cave, we passed through floating balls of sea-spume so large that the prow of the boat was whitened with them. I have often taken them in my hands, chasing them, as puppies do, along the shore when the wind comes in off the sea.1

 

  "The rock is infinitely worn all about into myriad holes and crevices, in which are sea-pinks with dry, flaky heads. I saw tansy also far above, yellow like fire, and on the sheltered crannies, where a little earth collects and the birds leave castings, there was some parched sea-grass, and I think that I caught the pale-blue glint of the sea-holly–a favourite plant of mine. Then out of the depths of the great cave burst a clamorous cloud of rock pigeons. As we entered we could hear their voices peep-peeing and chunnering to their young, some of the old cock-birds meanwhile roo-hooing on the higher ledges with a sound wonderfully varied and pleasant. There were also at the entrance a few solitary maids and bachelors sitting in the clefts sunning themselves with drooping wings, like bam-door hens in the dust. Some were preening their feathers, the sheen on their necks being the redder because at that moment the sun was rising.

 


The Needle's  E'e.

  "The arched cliff that is called the Needle's E'e is within fifty feet of it, and the reverse suction of the sea pouring past Rathan sets through the Needle's E'e in a jumping jabble at every turn of the tide. It is thus easily found. The only caution is that it must not be mistaken for the Caloman Cave, or Pit of Pigeons (as the word means in the Pictish speech of ancient Galloway), which has its entrance high among the lacks and allows no opportunity for the breaching of the sea waves. So by going to the place it is easy to prove the exact truth of this history. This I say at length, lest any should think that the cave is some wonderful thing. For the glosing of the common people has raised a great number of legends in the countryside–as that, when we were besieged in this cave by the Black Smugglers, we escaped inland by the space of three or four miles, and came out by an under-ground passage at the Old Pict's Tower of Orchardton, with other stories that have no truth in them. Indeed, the whole cavern, as it was known to us, did not extend more than two hundred yards in all its turns and windings, entrances and passages"

 

1. The Ralders," p. 103 - (T. Fisher Unwin.)


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