Saturday, 22 February 2014
Air Tir Mor ( On the Mainland )
Neil and Donald were now eager to get to the mainland, but with two large horses accompanying them, this posed a real problem, which they had to address. They walked the length of the inner harbour, and examined the piers and quays of South Beach and North Beach to see if there was a vessel which might serve their purpose. The sgoth (Nordic skiff) and the regular fishing boats were incapable of transporting two horses across the Minch. They would require a large cargo boat, and at that time there were none in Stornoway harbour. Later, as they stood on the pier at the head of South Beach, they were amazed to see this large three masted barque preparing to tie up along side the pier. This was a substantial cargo vessel called the Wild Rose, which could easily ship two horses to the mainland, assuming the captain was in agreement. This vessel carried general cargo along the length of the British west coast. The lads sought out the captain, a Mr. Cardew, and intimated that they might have business for him, which would pay well. They invited him to dinner at Mrs.Sinclair's and later to the Anchorage for some whisky and claret. They hoped that the captain would be sympathetic to their business proposal as outlined by Donald. " Captain Pardew, we must get ourselves and our two bay horses to the mainland as soon as possible, and your ship is the only one in harbour which is capable of that. If you agree, you will be well rewarded for your trouble." The captain answered the lads as follows. " With the general cargo I am contracted to carry, I fear that it would be difficult, if not nigh impossible, to transport these large horses across the Minch". " Captain, what if we contracted you to carry us and our horses to the mainland, and then you could return to Stornoway to deal with your normal cargo obligations. It would take only one, perhaps two days and we would ensure that you were well rewarded," said Neil. The thought of all these gold sovereigns was to Cardew like a strong wind in the billowing sails. Their contract was by word of mouth, but a little purse of gold sealed the bargain, the rest to follow at journey's end. " I'll give it some thought, boys, but in any case you have your horses here on Pier No.2 at 7am tomorrow when we have the next high tide", said Captain Cardew. The next morning the lads turned up as instructed with their horses and baggage to see the gunwhales of the Wild Rose up against the top of the pier. The high tide must have raised the barque a good ten feet. Cardew next asked Neil and Donald to follow him over to where lay a large gangway with high sides, obviously used to load cattle and sheep. With the gangway straddling the side of the Wild Rose, it was easy for the boys to lead their horses on board. The captain suggested that for their time on the ship, the horses be tethered midships, accompanied by their riders lying on a bale of fresh hay (dual purpose hay !). They had asked the captain to steer a course for the port of Gairloch, if weather and tides permitted. Fortunately it was a calm crossing and before long they were approaching the small pier at the Gairloch, very slowly and very carefully. When they came to rest, the horses began to whinney gently, as if it were a prayer of safe deliverance. The horses and the Dalmore boys came safely ashore at the Gairloch, and it was good to reach terra firma here on the Scottish mainland. The boys expressed their gratitude to Captain Cardew and his crew and a purse of sovereigns handed over as agreed. The horses were watered and allowed to eat the green grass at a nearby meadow. At last the boys mounted their fine chestnut bays and trotted off in the direction of Inverness, where they hoped their great adventure would begin. It was the 2nd of August, 1745.