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Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-02 > 0886724192

From: Martin Roberts <>
Date: Thu, 05 Feb 1998 18:16:32 -0600

>Resent-Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 12:54:53 -0800 (PST)
>From: "Ed Beall" <>
>To: <>
>Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 13:02:36 -0800
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>Resent-Message-ID: <"qxSLM.A.Gt.bZi20">
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> by
> Ed Beall
>We had brunch in Ft. William, a rough-hewn, sluiced-out kind of town.
>(The latitude of Ft. William is approximately the same as the center of
>Hudson Bay.) It was a bonny day, bright sunshine and a few fluffy
>clouds, and spirits were high as our bus headed north toward Inverness. The
>highway followed the chain of lochs and canals that mark the geological
>fault that nearly splits Scotland in two. We sang a few songs and enjoyed
>the wild beauty of the land, sometimes skirting the shore of a loch,
>sometimes wayfaring through beautiful woodlands or admiring a fine example
>of Scottish baronial archirecture as we passed by the manor of a local
>laird. The English tour director told some ethnic jokes about Scotsmen.
>We took the microphone away from him and told some ethnic jokes about
>Suddenly, it seemed, we descended from a winding stretch of road through a
>sort of pass and came upon a large, but narrow and steep-sided loch that
>stretched away to the north. In the space of a few seconds the mood
>changed. Here, a low-lying layer of clouds cut off the sun and the land
>lay barren and cheerless in shadow. The dull, leaden appearance of the
>loch gave no cause for cheer. The bus stopped and those of us who alighted
>found ourselves being whipped by gusts of a chill wind that blew steadily
>from south to north. Most stayed in the bus. Some wrapped themselves in
>their jackets and walked a few yards to inspect a couple of highland cattle
>that were browsing nearby; smallish dark-red animals with shaggy hair
>hanging from their bellies almost to the ground. Only two of us started
>down the path to the ruins of Castle Urquhart near the shore of the loch.
>The castle had once guarded a point of land that jutted out toward the
>water. From a distance it seemed that two of the towers were still
>standing, but up closer they were nothing but snaggle-toothed empty shells
>of gray stone. A few pieces of walls stood among thickets of brambles and
>climbing weeds. It was a gloomy place, calling to mind visions of the
>claymore cleaving neck from shoulder, the treacherous thrust of the dirk,
>drops of blood congealing on stone steps.
>Seen close up, the water was the color of weak coffee, darkened by layers
>of peat in the soil around the loch. The wind blew patches of ripples
>scudding along the surface and giving an eerie appearance of motion in the
>water. The other man had already returned to the bus. Shivering, I pulled
>my jacket close around me and strode briskly back up to join the others.
>Later, in the public room of the hotel in Inverness, I sat with three of
>the local gentlemen, sipping the incomparable locally-made Scotch whiskey
>and looking out over the River Ness. ("Inver" means "mouth of the river".)
> As an American tourist, I had to ask the obvious question and it was time
>to get on with it. "Well, then," I said. " Is there really a monster up
>in the loch?"
>One of the Scotsmen across the table took a thoughtful sip of Scotch. "I
>don't know why they call her a monster," he said, in a thick Scottish burr.
> "She's never done harm to anyone, has she?"
> ***
Martin Roberts

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