Life at the end of the road

September 3, 2010

Over the purple moor

Filed under: animals, daily doings, pigs — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:58 pm

Another peachy day here on Raasay which began in the dark at 5:00am when Molly started the demented barking that makes many ‘wee dugs’ so annoying. Fortunately she does not do it often, but that’s perhaps because we are blessed with little other than the sound of the wind in our remote haven. Perhaps if we had cars passing by and regular callers at the door it would be a different story. The noise that set her off was that of a stag bellowing or at least trying to, for he had not yet got all his vocal chords functioning, or whatever it is that enables them to make this din for a few weeks of the year. A stag in full flow on a still frosty night will send shivers down the spine of anyone who knows not what it is,



imagine that din outside your bedroom window in the middle of the night, it’s happened to me 🙂 The one we were treated to could only manage a coarse bark but that will soon change and get worse as they start doing it to each other across our little valley here.

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I’m guessing it was this chap who I spotted at Tarbet last week, he was trying hard but no noise was coming out 🙂

Anyway that was me up, or at least awake so after unsuccessfully trying to spot him I went back to lounge in my bed until daybreak and feeding the herd.

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Rocky, Ed and Eddy were patiently waiting at the end of the road whilst George and Mildred where squealing like, well, pigs.

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And once their food was put out she proceeded to ‘hog’ her bucket in true domineering female style 🙂


George And Mildred - Series 2 cover art       George & Mildred. Image shows from L to R: Mildred Roper 
(Yootha Joyce), George Roper (Brian Murphy). Image credit: Thames 

With everyone fed and the boy made ready for school it was off down the road to Raasay primary, and what a journey it was, the low autumn sun highlighting the purple heather and dying bracken.

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The road may not have been the ‘ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor’ as described in Alfred Noyes poem ‘The highwayman’, but it did spring to mind.


And in my book there is no finer way to listen to this than Loreena McKennitt’s rendition off her 1997 album ‘Book of Secrets’. I’m not a great reader of poetry but I remember learning this poem at secondary school and the imagery still stays with me over 40 years on. A story of love, jealousy and treachery I can still see the highwayman’s blood amongst the cobbles of the old inn yard, as I did in my teenage mind. When I first heard this song ten years ago and twenty five since I’d last heard the poem it sent a shiver down my spine, AWESOME. In fact the whole CD is like a horse ride through Europe and the near east so I’m just going to buy a copy right now to replace my worn out tape  🙂

Read the full version here which includes the treacherous verse about Tim the ostler

“Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened–his face was white and peaked–
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter–
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:”

The loch of the one night shieling

After dropping of my only child I loaded up some more pipe and headed home,

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I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this 2” duct but the words hydro scheme or water supply spring to mind so after spending a few hours cutting bedding and cleaning out all the pigs I went to look at a possible water source.


Map picture


Loch Airigh na h-Aon Oidhche nestles high above Torran in a bowl of Lewisian Gniess, it’s small, dark and very deep. I don’t know how it got its name but there’s a lovely story here from the Angus Macleod archives of a similar loch at South Lochs on Lewis. Anyway it’s been a while since I was up there so I thought I’d go and check it out as a possible water source. OK, I know it’s almost a mile away and probably rather ambitious but I do have a lot of pipe and it was a lovely day for a swim 🙂

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The first stop was ‘Pipers rock’ above Torran, though I’ve still never seen the piper, perhaps I should start picking magic mushrooms instead of edible ones 🙂

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Then it was past Loch Malaichte at 200m and on to my destination

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past a pile of stones that must have been put there generations ago.

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Unlike the other three lochs in this area this one is deep and free of silt at the edges and I can see how it got its sinister name and story, if indeed it is a similar tale to Angus’s. On a day like today however it looked anything but eerie so I stripped off and leapt in. Actually I took my clothes off and gingerly lowered myself in an inch at a time 🙂 After a brief but pleasant swim Molly and I went to look for the remains of a shieling

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If there was indeed one, then this is where it would have been but we could find no trace, but then it was only occupied for one night 🙂

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Home looked deceptively close through the telephoto lens but in all honesty it’s too far for even a dafty like me to lay a pipe 🙂


  1. Thank you Paul,
    For introducing me to Loreena Mckennitt’s version of ‘The Highwayman.’ Very atmospheric and a good instrumental arrangement. Like most folk singers, she does have a tendency to ‘swallow’ her words, so I didn’t catch them all, glad the poem is one of my favourite ballads. I may get the CD. Fabulous pics in these last two blogs. Great stuff!

    Comment by carolyn — September 4, 2010 @ 10:25 am

    • Good morning Carolyn,

      glad you enjoyed Loreena, that’s how I felt when I was introduced to her music, the rest of the CD is just as good.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 5, 2010 @ 6:22 am

  2. Again lovely pictures Paul.
    Are you really sure that it’s too far to lay the pipe from the lochan?(smiley)
    Did you walk up the hill or go on the quad?

    Comment by Rienza — September 4, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

    • Morning Rienza,

      A bit of both 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 5, 2010 @ 6:32 am

  3. Ah Mannie, you’re forgetting how a pigmy eats an elephant, one bite at a time! 🙂
    I’m sure Callum’s Road looked the same, and just think what that lot could do for you, you could build a ram-pump for storage, using the overspill to power the stream machine for starters …. ?

    Comment by Mike — September 5, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    • Good morning Mike,

      where there’s a will there’s a way 🙂 The possibility’s are endless 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 7, 2010 @ 5:50 am

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