Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Balaich Shoudie. Murchadh am Phost.
On the morning after our arrival in Dalmore,our first visit was always to our Maclennan uncles whose house nestled underneath the "beinn"(hill) on the other side of the valley,where in years past(you'll remember),a lady had been miraculously cured by midges.Murchadh and Iain Shoudie(Murdo and John) were my father Alasdair's two brothers,who lived happily in their blackhouse on No.4 Dalmore.Murdo was the eldest(b.1900),John(b.1902)and my father Alexander(Gael.Alasdair)(b.1904) - nicely spaced,don't you think? Alexander is a common Christian name found among Maclennans as far back as 1704 when the first of them arrived in Lewis to settle the tack of Little Bernera. My two uncles were bachelors,and were known far and wide as "Balaich Shoudie" (The Shoudie Boys). They took things very easy and work was only entered into when absolutely necessary. They did what they thought had to be done,and no more. They certainly were not ambitious,nor smitten with avarice, and in a way,were content to live as their people had in the past.They made no concessions to modernity,with the exception of the electric light. They had no power points in their home, and to be frank,there would never be any need for any electrical appliances or those shiny new white goods that others were so keen to have. They did cut their peats and so the fire was always there for a cup of tea or some fried bacon.When they got a radio(which they loved),it was powered by batteries. No need for "electricity" you see. When mains water finally arrived in the village,the workmen brought the water pipe all the way up to just outside their house and even fitted a tap. The "Boys" never used it, and continued to use the old spring well above the house,and which was by general consent the coldest,sweetest water you ever would taste. Murdo was employed for many years as the postman for Dalmore and its neighbour,Dalbeg. Each morning(Sunday except)Murdo would don his PO uniform and cap,and leaving the house about 7.00am,he would walk the mile out the Dalmore road to its end,where he'd be picked up by the Royal Mail van,travelling north through the various villages. In the 10 minutes it took to reach Dalbeg road end,Murdo would sort the mail for both villages and safely entrust these to his copious mail sack. Murdo had around 5 or 6 deliveries in Dalbeg,and leaving there, he skirted the beautiful little loch,full of water lilies and trout,before climbing the "Cleit" to reach the top of the hill. A thirty minute walk would see Murdo pass through very familiar territory. These were the hills,lochs and moors far behind his family home,which he knew and loved so well,where they kept their sheep and tended their cows.Murdo knew the name of every hill and lochan as old friends. He often would sit with his cattle by the side of Loch Dubh na Cleit of a summer's evening, smoking a Senior Service cigarette. About 8.45 am you would see Murchaid am Phost descend the hill into Dalmore. It must be remembered that Murdo didn't just deliver letters and parcels. Murdo passed on the news and gossip he had gleaned from the mail van driver(world news and weather!) but also from his "clients" in both villages.They would hear that one of their sheep was being held for its collection in a village on the other side of the island.Notice of births,deaths and marriages never needed an insertion in the newspaper. Murdo had a great memory and was up to speed on all the local news,and was rightly proud of his reputation. However,one morning when he entered our house,my mother,his sister-in law, asked if he had any news. Apart from giving the weather for that day,he said that he had no news. My mother who enjoyed a laugh,said "Well,Murdo,I have some news for you.Did you hear that the "Brandy" died last night in Shawbost?" Murdo dwelt on the information for a moment before replying "No,Annie,I didn't hear that,but didn't he have such a sweet,sweet name".