My lovely Gen,
I sit this morn by the cairn at Grumbeg, looking out over the loch as if the words I need should arrive by sail. The sun has just breached the cleft in the hills and it’s beams alight on a day full of so many promises, both the best and worst. These are promises I feel God intends to keep by nightfall.
I see us everywhere I look; ghosts of memories with disregard to time. We both frolic and labor upon the heath as little ones and as grown man and woman. Together we walk behind the next rise as we also sneak into the line of trees after our eyes first caught each other with a look unexpected. There we stand by our families as children even as we stand by our own wee ones at the dawn of our own family. Hide and seek in the burial grounds, tending the sheep while sharing a staff so our hands might meet, stealing affection when the world falls dark between field of stars and field of heather. You and I are written upon this land; an inscription that may fade from local knowledge but will never be erased as long as love exists in this world.
This tract stands in your stead today. While it has been several months since we faced each other, I swear the verdant slopes opposing me at this moment are the same shade as your eyes; the scattered rocks upon it the flecks within. This provides some strange comfort but I wish this eye closed upon the events I feel destined to transpire this day. I now feel justified in ensuring you and the boys were on that ship destined for a land it seems I shall not see. Lady Stafford has been clearing Sutherlandshire, her Black Watch sweeping from South to North as if the shadows of dark clouds, and the storm is at our valley’s door.
When they do ride into view they will see a line of men born within sight of the Strathnaver, old and young, dressed in the tartans of our forebears and ready to rebuff any notice of eviction. I do not hold lofty dreams of us turning back this tide and fully expect it to crash through us on it’s continuance to the sea. Hope still resides within me but knowing the sheer numbers of Sellar’s men contains it within a small corner of my soul. At this time, I think the best we can do is to make proud this soil and our ancestors contained within. We make our last charge over their bones and it seems ours are soon to join them.
I hear the horns rebound down the narrows even now; their drums just audible. May your days eventually find you back in the valley of our youth, and despite your age may you still remember every detail of what transpired here. Let the boys know that their father never surrendered the dream that they would have what is rightfully theirs. See to Donegal that he does not find his way over the railing on your journey. Where alcohol does not sway his step, his age is sure to.
Forever yours my love,
NOTE: I spent only about 30 minutes learning about 18th century Scotland and an equal amount of time writing this, but I think all the names, places and ideas here are historically accurate with the exception of the fictional last charge. This takes place a while after the battle of Culloden during the Scottish highland clearances. I
want to eventually translate roughly translated this into Scots using Robert Burns for inspiration, but to start writing it that way was too much for me.
Rough Scots translation:
My jo Gen,
A sit this morn aneist the cairn at Grumbeg, leukin oou o’er the loch sae an the wirds A need shall win asail. The sun haes just tappit the clift in the fells an it’s sunblink alicht on a day fou a’hect, baith the best an werst. Thir be hect A feel God ettles tae haud afore dayligaun.
A see us awwhaur A leuk; bogle o mynds wi nae regarid tae time. We baith daff an laubour upon the muir sae bairns an sae man an wummen-growen. thegither we daunder aback the neist brae sae an aw sneak intae the treen efter oor keekers first caucht ilk ither wi a leuk unexpectit. Thare we staund aneist oor faimilies sae bairns e’en sae we staund aneist oor ain wee anes at the daw o oor ain faimily. Hide an seek in the buiryin-grund, hird’n sheep while we hauf a staff sic oor haunds might forgaither, stealin amour in the gloamin atween field o starn an field o heather. You sae A are scrieved upon this glebe; an cairv’n that mey dowe frae local kennin but will ne’er be gane while luve bides in this yird.
This tract staunds in room o you today. While it haes been a speal sin A saw your face, A hect the emerant brae anent me e’en nou alike sae your keekers; the allevolie rocks upon it sae within. This provides some fremd comfort but A will this close’d upon thir events A feel ordeen’d tae befaw the day. The nou A feel correct in mak’n siccar you an the lads war on that ship weird’n for a kintra it kythes A shall nae see. Leddy Stafford hae cleart maistlins Sutherlandshire, her Black Watch soop’n frae Sooth tae North sae the shaidaes o merk cloods, an the storm be at oor ee.
Whan thay dae ride intae eesicht thay will see a line o men born ‘ithin eesicht o the Strathnaver, auld an young, dossie’d in the tartans o oor forebeirs an red tae keep again ony notice o garred awa aff. A daenna hauld laftie dreams o us repel’n this tide an fully expect it tae rattle throu us tae the sea. Howp yet bides in me but kennin evendoun amoont o Sellar’s men conteen it in a peerie neuk o my saul. Nou, A ween the best we can dae is tae gar prood this syle an oor forebeirs within. We mak oor feenal forri o’er thair banes an it seems oors bedeen hing-tae thaim.
A hear the tauters echa daun the glen e’en nau; A hearken thair drums. Mey your life bedeen find you back-come in the wham o oor youth, an maugre your eild mey you aye mynd e’ery detail o whit happent here. Lat the lads ken that thair dad neer surrender’d the dream that thay wad hae whit is thairs. See tae Donegal that he dis’na find his wey intae the ocean on your carrant. Whan alcohol dis’na hyter him, his eild is certaint tae.
Aye yours m’luvie,