Mungo filled the big, metal
tank up with water. He was excited. Tonight when the bairns got there,
they were going to have a boat race. He’d run to the store and picked up
some wooden and plastic boats for them to race across the tank of water.
Some had sails, others didn’t, but they all could bob on top of the water
as well as the others. He stuck his hand in, "Brrr. That’s cold water.
We’ll have to be careful and not let the bairns get too wet," Mungo said
to his cat Ginger. When it was filled to the brim, he went back into the
house. All the boats were set out on the table. As the bairns arrived,
he’d let them pick whichever boat they wanted; first come, first served.
Snacks were placed in the living room. He carried through trays of
crackers and cheese; chocolate bars, raisins and currants, and assorted
nuts that he’d carefully shelled earlier in the day. Mungo always went to
a lot of effort to make sure the bairns had a wonderful night when they
came for storytelling night.
DING DONG! "They’re here,
girl," Mungo said. "You don’t have to go into the bedroom, but stay out of
the way," he warned Ginger. She meowed and ran through to the kitchen.
"Hello Morag. You’re the first one here. Tonight we’re having a boat race.
Go over to the table and pick out whichever boat you’d like."
"Thanks, Mr. McGee," she
said and ran to the boats.
DING DONG! "Hello, Andy and
Gregor. How nice to see you. Go on over and join Morag. Pick out a boat.
We’re having races tonight in the back garden. I’ve set up a tank of water
"Wow, Mr. McGee. Cool!"
smiled Gregor. He and Andy ran over to the boats.
DING DONG! Mungo opened the
door. "Hello wee Fiona, Gavin and wee Hamish. Come on inside." He shut the
door behind them.
"What are those boats?"
asked wee Hamish.
"We’re having races tonight
in Mr. McGee’s back garden," said Andy, excitedly.
"Races? With boats? That
sounds like fun," wee Fiona giggled.
Gavin stood next to Morag,
selecting his boat. "Gavin, that’s a nice boat you picked. I think mine
will be faster though," Morag bragged.
"I’ll beat you, Morag. You
wait and see," Gavin assured her.
"We’ll see soon enough,"
she winked and walked away.
"All right, bairns. Has
everyone picked a boat?" Mungo asked.
"Yes!" they all screamed.
"Put them down for now and
come and eat some snacks. I’ve got a lot of good things for you tonight."
"I love raisins and
currants," wee Fiona said, seeing them on the tray. "I could eat them
The bairns feasted on
goodies, picked up their boats and went out to the tank. "Each of you has
to name your boat," Mungo said.
"I’ll name mine, ‘Queen
Morag’," said Morag.
"I’ll call mine ‘Boat’,"
said wee Hamish.
"You can’t call your boat
that?" said Gregor, laughing.
"Why not?" asked wee
"Because that’s a silly
"He can name his boat
anything he wants," Mungo said. Wee Hamish stuck his tongue out at Gregor.
"What will you call your boat?"
"I want to call it, ‘The
Great Gregor’," he said.
"Good name. What about you
wee Fiona?" Mungo asked.
"I think I’ll call my boat,
‘Butterfly Lights," wee Fiona said.
"Why, Fiona, that is
beautiful. Isn’t it lovely?" Mungo asked the others.
"I want to call mine,
‘Tiger Tail’," said Andy. "It has stripes on it, like a tiger."
"Good name, Andy. Gavin?
What about you?"
"Mine with be called,
‘Windjammer’," he said.
"You’ve all named your
boats. You all need to get used to your boats though so play with them in
the water, but be careful, it’s very cold. I’ll tell you a bit about
another boat," Mungo said. The bairns floated their boats and listened.
"There was a king of Scotland named James IV. He wanted to have the
greatest navy in the world and have the biggest ships in the world. He
found a good place to build ships, where the water was deep enough.
Newhaven was selected. It’s part of Edinburgh now, but in 1511, it was
just a quiet little village. King James had trees cut down for wood to
build it. Nearly all of the woods in Fife were cut down."
"He cut down all the trees
by himself?" wee Hamish asked.
"No, wee Hamish. He had men
go and cut them down. They had to bring them from Fife, all the way over
to Newhaven. Men came from Flanders to work and from many other places in
the world," Mungo continued.
"Where’s Flanders?" asked
"It isn’t called Flanders
any longer, but its where the Netherlands is and Belgium. The people who
lived there were good with making fabrics and they came to work on the
"What was the ship’s name?"
"It was called, ‘The Great
Michael’, just like your ship, Gregor." Gregor smiled. "It was the largest
ship ever built in that time. It had 27 cannons and was going to have 300
men working on it. Can you imagine that?" Mungo asked.
"That’s a big ship," wee
"What happened to the
ship?" asked Gavin.
"There were a few things
that happened. First of all the ship was too big. It was a beautiful ship.
They had a huge celebration when it was complete but it was just too big.
It couldn’t really sail well and never worked too good. Then there was the
war, the Battle of Flodden. King James IV and many other Scottish men were
killed there. It was a horrible time for Scotland. Nobody knows what
happened to the Great Michael, but the shipbuilding times for Newhaven
were over. Most of the people who had come to work on it, stayed and
Newhaven became a nice fishing village."
"That’s sad. After all that
work and all the trees that were cut down, the ship didn’t work," Morag
"It’s sadder that there was
that big battle where so many Scottish men died," Gavin added.
"It was a sad time, but
now, let’s think of better things. Let’s have our boat races!" Mungo said.
The bairns spent another
hour or two floating their boats across the tank. It was decided that ‘The
Great Gregor’ was the fastest boat and Gregor took home the blue ribbon
for first place winner.
DING DONG! "Time to go
now," Mungo said. "You can take your boats, or ships, with you. You can
play with them in your bathtubs if you’d like or the kitchen sink."
"Thank you," the bairns
After they’d all gone home,
Mungo drained the water out of the huge tank. It ran all over his back
garden. It watered his flowers and his grass. He rolled the tank against
the back of the house and went inside. His feet were soaking wet and his
hands were icy cold. As he sat in his chair, petting Ginger, he thought
about his ancestors, who happened to have come across from Flanders to
work on the Great Michael. He was proud of them and as he dozed off to
sleep, thoughts of the mighty ship sailing down the Firth of Forth floated
through his mind.