Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Eagle Has Landed.

Donald and Neil had enjoyed their night at Taigh a' Gaireachas (House of Joy), but fearful of their reputation throughout the island, and especially back home in Dalmore, I don't believe they sought comfort from the ladies of Newton after that, but I can't be sure. Lewis in 1745 was almost entirely Protestant, in the grip of a dour unforgiving Calvanism, It is a recorded fact that in the year 1590 there was only one person of the old Catholic faith in the whole of the Island of Lewis. Why this person had stayed on in Lewis is not known. It would seem that at the time of the Reformation, the people of the island had fairly quickly abandoned their old religious practices for the 'certainties' of the new Protestant faith. Some of the 'missionaries' may have been local, but I think outside church people were invited to Lewis to preach the new faith, at the behest of clan chiefs or the lairds. There had to be a powerful catalyst to bring about such a change in half a century. It goes without saying that the Dalmore Lads were Protestant, but they were not strong adherents to religion just like their father. Their mother, from Ness, had been schooled in the most extreme, unforgiving form of Calvanism, whose dictats were as uncompromising as the Catholicism it had supplanted. When their mother enquired about life in town, Donald and Neil found it difficult to be truthful, preferring to relate and expand on the soirees and dances which they had attended and the young ladies to whom they had been introduced. Their mother's strict Calvinism was compromised by her sons' empty pleasures, but mercifully she was spared the realities of the Seaforth Vaults and the House of Joy. As usual their father would want to know whom they had seen during their time in Stornoway, as he himself was acquainted with a number of farmers and merchants there. Father and sons would seek out the privacy of the barn where they might have a few drams, after which their father would fill their sporrans with German Geordie's sovereigns. Even in the farmhouse, a distance from the barn, "Nighean gras Dhe" could smell the whisky and hear the sound of money. "Nighean gras Dhe" (daughter of divine grace) was what Old Macleod called his wife when he had an audience, but never in her presence! Donald and Neil enjoyed the mix of people they found in Stornoway, and endeavoured to seek their company. Some of them were from the Scottish mainland (fishermen,coopers and traders) and a few from further afield. The lads, in conversations with such people, learned a lot, made future contacts and had their horizons greatly expanded. In the company of two men from Inverness, who were ships' chandlers, they repaired to the "Anchor Tavern" on the west end of town. It was a pleasant evening towards the end of July, and it being market day,the shops and hostleries were busy. Neil and John with their friends from Inverness, found a small neuk within the tavern next to an open window through which a cool breeze entered. The Anchor was not that busy, which was a pleasant change from the usual hubbub in the Seaforth. Our Dalmore Lads were interested in what the Inverness men told them about their jobs as ships' chandlers, and the places their jobs had taken them. If Neil and Donald had reason to visit Inverness, they were told to get in touch with their new found companions. Across from them, there was this tall man leaning heavily against the bar rail, with his back hunched and his head only inches from some spillage on the bar. There were two large glasses of whisky lying untouched beside him, which were unlikely to whet his whistle further. The man was very drunk but mumbled something from time to time. At times his voice was loud enough for the Dalmore lads to realise he was repeatng the same words, as mangled as they were. Raising his head enough to catch the boys gaze, the man, in a clear voice now, uttered these words " The Eagle Has Landed", which he repeated a few times. Finally he stood tall and erect and in a very loud voice he addressed the entire clientele of the Anchor Tavern, "Gentlemen, be advised that the Eagle Has Landed."

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