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Stories from Hector McNeill
A visit to The Chief


For Thomas McIntyre and Gassen O'Neill, the little girl across the way, summers were idyllic. After supper their parents would allow them to go out and play in the warm golden light of the evenings. During this gift of summer, they would play chase, look for shrews, watch birds and insects and sometimes paddle in the bec at the bottom of Mors field. One evening, when they were returning from the bec, they saw three men walking towards the homesteads.

One of the men noticed them and called them over. "Young ones, maybe you can help us, we are looking for The McNeill." Thomas looked perplexed, "There are many McNeills here, which one do you want?" The man responded, "We are from the Isle of Gigha and our craft capsized, and so, since we are here, we need to pay our respects to The Chief". "The Chief!" an animated Gassen cried out. "Oh Thomas, they have come to say hallo to The Chief!". There was no disguising Gassen's sheer delight, there could be no mistaking the look on her face for anything other than happiness. Thomas stood scratching his head. "Please you nice men just follow me!" shouted Gassen running ahead, "I'll take you to The Chief".

The men had some difficulty maintaining a dignified gait as they struggled to keep up with the running, no, dancing Gassen. They followed her past some cottages and then into a yard backed by a low building constructed of wood. Gassen did not knock, call a servant or anything, she just ran straight through the large doorway. They followed Gassen in to the building. As they entered, Gassen announced, "Chief, these are three men from gagi who want to pay their repucts to you!" The men awaited, nervously, trying to get their breath back as their eyes adjusted to the dim light. Gradually they perceived that they were in front of a pen in which there was one very large roundback pig. Gassen turned and proudly announced to the assembled company, "This is The Chief, he is the best pig on the whole island!" Gassen took some oat cake from a wooden box fixed to the wall and threw it carefully in front of The Chief, he responded with a very loud "Oink! Oink*!" Gassen smiled, "Now there, you see, he is so happy to meet you!"

* Gaelic for "Oink! Oink!"


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