Highland Clearance

Short Story  – Highland Clearance
Inspired by a painting by Anne Redpath     


Ah can almost hear Archie in the next room, faffing and pacing – his disapproval reachin’ me fae the grave. The flair boards might be creaking but ah know it’s jist the hoose settling hersel’ doon fur the night.

Ah cannae believe this is ma last night in this room, ah’ve slept here fur as long. First as a child sharing wi Archie, that wis until he got too big and wis moved intae the kitchen recess. When the parents went, wan efter the ither, Archie took up residence in their room, through the wall fae me. It wis jist the two o’ us then, left tae git oan wi things. He always wis a night pacer and ah niver did get used tae the silence when he deid.

Ah expect that Edinburgh bitch ‘ll be here at the toot the morra morning; champin’ at the bit tae tear the hoose intae her way oh likin’ and ah know jist where she’ll stert.

Ah wonder wit Faither wid huv said aboot me sellin’ the croft intae a holiday home. Ah couldnae count the generations o’ MacKenzies that lived and worked this place. It wis bad enough when Help the Aged poked thir nose intae oor business a few years ago. Ah could hear Faither’ birrlin in his grave when they came in and covered up a’ the tongue and groove walls wi’ padded wallpaper tae stop the drafts. And he wis that particular aboot keeping the peat fires goan in a’ the rooms, but Help the Aged insisted they wir a fire hazard up the stair and pit in they useless electric things.

Mind, Faither widnae huv believed the interest ah’ve hud in this place. Ah even had a pop star flew up here in a helicopter fur a look, but he wisnae interested when he heard aboot the iffy internet connection.

It wis jist a shame that nice couple fae the village couldnae huv afforded mair money, they’d huv done something wi the place.

‘Anither nail in the coffin of the community’ the meenister said. He didnae say that when the pub wis revitalised by that Yorkshire wummin, did he? It’s a’ right fur him in his fancy new manse wi its fitted carpets and electric central heating. He disnae huv tae pit up wi the scuttlin’ invasion o’ field mice behind the skirtin’ the minute the temperature drops below zero ootside, and he disnae huv tae hirple ma auld bones oot tae the coal hoose every morning and freeze until the kitchen fire catches.

Well, the deed is done. This is the last night ah’ll huv tae lie in bed and look at the peeling wallpaper roond that botched job the Help the Aged plasterer made o’ the fire place. The Edinburgh bitch spotted it right away the first time she came tae view. Niver said a word; jist rubbed her hand o’er the wall. That type think we’re a’ donnert up here. Ah could see her calculating dippin’ and strippin’ the doors and scourin’ the wallpaper doon tae the tongue and groove, but it wis the promise o’ fireplaces that sold her the hoose.

Next time she came she asked if the fireplaces were boarded up.

‘Search me,’ says I, wi ma fingers crossed behind ma back.

Little dis she know ah got the plasterer tae take the fireplaces oot and ah took them tae auction tae be selt on tae folk like her in the cities. That money came in right handy tae buy a new rug and a swish marble mantelpiece fur ma nice wee, central heated flat in the toon. Ah’ll jist huv tae live wi Archie’s disapproval.

Published in Northwords Now (Summer 2010)