An She Died At Allawakin

She drank her lan
She sellt her sheen
An she died at Allawakin


There wis ence a castle stood heich an handsome on the lands o Lesmoir, an lang wis the lineage o its lairds. Gordons they waar fa’s forebears hid gotten a’ the broad daughs o Strathbogie fae a langsyne king o Scots. Bit dark wis the destiny o the lairds o Lesmoir, an if ye seek their castle noo, a’ ye will see is a moat roon a midden an a fyow lettered stanes in a fermhoose wa.

Bonnie an broad waar the lands o Lesmoir. Weel did its suit its name, that in the aul tongue meant ‘the great gairden’ an compared ti the Cabrach on the ither side o the Buck, wi its weather an it grun it wis the very Gairden o Eden itsel.

The Cabrach, faar simmer is a five day fairlie, his been ca’ed the riddlins o creation. Bit for them that his aeten the ripe aivrons on the Buck on a bonnie day in July, or gaithered roon Aldivalloch’s peat fire on a wild nicht in Januar, they ken better. The fowk o the Cabrach, they’re warm-hearted an far-sichted.

Lang syne, they say, there wis a lass come throu the Cabrach fae the Lesmoir direction an gid awa throu the Glacks o the Balloch, an halted aside the burn o Allawakin.

It wis Lammas Eve. The lang fite road doon by Reid-fyoord an Bogheid wis glimmerin in the simmer sun. Jock o the Buck looked up fae scythin his haye ti see foo his new fee’t loon wis getting on wi the biggin up the dyke faar the aul yows hid broken oot. Young Adam wis stannin idle, gawpin up at the road. Jock wis gyan ti roar at him ti get on wi his wirk, but syne he took til himsel that Adam wis a willin loon, so he said naething, bit hid a look up at the road himsel. There wis an unca umman bodie comin doon the road.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid. Jock stoppet the scythin an made ower ti Adam as if ti inspect the dykin. Fin he wis within distance o quert speakin he speirt if Adam kint fa the unca umman wis. No he didna. That wis a win’ner, for Adam wis a great fiddler an wis socht ti the the soirees an dances in aa the neeber parishes an kint aa the local quines. “She his reid hair like the tinker fowk. Fit an fine ti hae naething ti dae bit stravaig ben the road on this bonnie day,” he said, takin a look at his fingers that wis bruised wi the dyke stanes.

“Better tae hae an eesefu job ti tak a pride in fin the day’s deen, an a place ti lay yer heid at nicht, ” said Jock it hid lived langer.

Nell o the Kirkton wis bakin breid . Big an sonsie wis Nell. She wis a gran baker an she kint it. She liket the feel o the meal amon her fingers, the roll o the bakin pin on the roons on the bakin byoord, the precision o the knife markin the quarters afore she laid them on the girdle it wis hingin on the swey abeen the reid het peats. Aye, Nell’s bakin wis a wirk o art. The table wis in front the kitchen winda, an ilka time she lifted her heid fae her mixin an rollin, she saw her bonnie flooerin Geraniums on the sill and throu them ti the road. She saw Wullie gyan by wi the Love mare ti gie Eben a han hame wi Jane Dawns peats, her it wis reputed ti be a witch it abody wis obliging till. She saw Mary o Fitehillock gyan by wi a pailie o broth ti Aul Maggie at the Peer Hooses. An syne she saw the unca umman comin doon the road.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid, an there wis a kin o a grace an a pride aboot her gait. “Gweed be here,” thocht Nell, “fit his she ti step sae prood aboot, raikin the countryside at this time o day, the brazen hizzy, wi her lowse reid hair!” An happiness gid roon Nell’s hert like a hairy wirm as she thocht o her ain sel, the guidwife o the Kirkton wi aathing aboot her aye snod an weel-gyan, an her fine bakin comin aff o the girdle perfect every time.

Maggie at the Peer Hooses gid oot ti convoy Mary o Fitehillock ti the ine o her yard an pu’ a makin o young kale ti her anint the pailie o broth. There wis an unca umman comin roon the Manse corner.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid. An there wis a wint o shyness aboot her it made the aal wife an the quine shy, an they turned as if they waar busy in the yard an loot on they hidna seen her. Fin she wis oot o hearin aal Maggie said, “Fa ever she is, she’s nae come o fowk like his, nor yet is she ane o the tinker kin.”

Young Mary said, “She’s bonnie! An she’s aa dressed in velvet-like stuff. I wish I wis bonnie like her!”

“Fit eese wid the like o that be ti mairry young Dalriach, an milk his kye an bake his breid? Forbye yer bonnie enough.”

Mary blusht an leuch.

Sandy o the Ardwell wis biggin his peat stack, the peats in the ootside edge laid tilted, ae raw this wye, the neist raw the ither, ti rin aff the watter. His femily for generations hid taen a pride in their weel bigget peat stacks. It wis het dry wirk on this the hettest day in five year. Sandy wis crackin on at it ti get this load o peats bigget afore the loon an the garron cam back fae the moss wi anither load. He stoppet ti tak a houp fae his butter milk bottle it he hid stood in the mill-lade ti keep caal, fin he sa the unca umman comin ben the road fae the birks.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid an she hid the gait o a bodie it hid never cairriet a birn nor gaen at anither’s biddin. He wis as near the road it wid hae been uncivil nae ti hae spoken ti the stranger. “Gweed day, mistress,” he said, an withoot him thinkin aboot it his han wis liftin his bonnet.

Her een hid a farawa look in them, bit o bit she wis bonnie. “Good day,” she said in a tongue it hidna been learned in the Cabrach, “It is beautiful.” And with a gracious nod she gid on ben the road.

Charlie at Brig-ine wis loadin his grocer’s cairt for his roon ti Aldivalloch an the Guach. Doad o the Linnburn wis helpin him for he wis waitin til Jimmie at the smiddy across the brig sortet his quarry hemmer till him. Bags o floo’er they put in ower, boxes o tabacca, saat, mustart, shee polish, spunks, lard, sugar, strippet sweeties, pints for beets, aathing it fowk cwidna mak or grow themsels at the fit o the Cabrach hills. He wis jist awa ti get Dick an Dobbin fae the stable an yoke them in, fin ben the road by the Inverharrach parks cam an unca umman.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid an she hid the licht fit o the Gordons in her gait, bit she looket tired an come at.

Charlie wis a kindly man and a courteous, as weel he micht be. Peer servant quine though his mither hid been fin she fee’d til his father an granny, she wis come, throu a granddother o the Wolf o Badenoch , o the Stewart kings o Scotland. Fin the umman gid a hiter ower a roch bit in the road, Charlie steppet up an took her elba. “Mistress,” he said, “it’s a het day ti be on the road, an a lang wye ye’ve come bi the look o’t. Step inti the shop an my mither will gie ye a bite an a sup.”

“Merchant,” she replied, “I need no bite or sup, but a glass of the whisky I will take.”

“Nae a glass in this heat, mistress, but a sma nip, ence you hiv eaten.”

“Sell me a bottle, then, merchant!”

“No, lady, it is nae the time o day fin I may traffic in strong drink. Bit oatcakes and milk and a sma nip ye may hae as wir guest.”

Doad o the Linn Burn thocht it wis a shame ti refuse fusky ti onybody it hid the siller ti buy’t. It helpet ti open the gates ti the faerie knowe, an Doad made the best illicit fusky it wis made in a’ the tributaries o the Spey.

The unca umman looket lang at Charlie, an saw she couldna change his min’. She loot hersel be guided inti the thacket shoppie, an the aal wife it wis sib ti kings set breid an cheese an milk afore her an gid her a drammie o the fusky she keepit for medicinal purposes.

The heat o the day wis wearin by fin the unca umman took her leave o the aal wife o the shop. Sma booket she wis, an her reid hair glintin in the settin sun. The aal wife watched her haudin up the road by Ardluie, an felt a queer forebodin. Maybe if she hid prigget wi her, she could hae gotten her ti bide the nicht aneth her reef, till she got wird o fa she wis, an gotten her kinfolk ti come for her. Bit maybe no. Fit’s afore ye, ye canna win by.

Doad o the Linn Burn, wi his hemmer sortet, chappet awa at the stanes in the quarry at the Glacks o the Balloch. Fowk said the quarry wis haunted, an queer dwams cam ower them it bade for lang aside the fite quartz vein, an they aa cam hame sayin they hid been in the fairie knowe. The aal fowk said it happened maist at certain times o the year, Halla E’en, Candlemas, May Eve, an especially Lammas Eve. Doad looket as if he kint aa aboot the Faerie Knowe fin it wis spoken aboot, bit syne Doad wis the biggest consumer o his ain fusky.

Doad chappit awa in the warm July forenicht, brakkin up the muckle stanes for chuckies to mak the coonty roads. The heather was near oot in bloom an the birdies waar singin. He hid a bottle o his best stuff hidden aneth an aitnach bush aside the fite quartz stripe. Fin he looket up fae his wirk, there wis the unca umman bodie comin throu the Glacks.

Sma booket she wis, an her hair wis reid an she hid the gait o a bodie it hid never cairriet a birn nor gaen at anither’s biddin. Her een hid a farawa look in them, bit o bit she wis bonnie.

Doad o the Linn Burn laid doon his hemmer an stood up. “Mistress, he said, “Are ye needin a bottle o the fusky?”

“Whisky?” said the umman, an her een brichtened. “Yes, indeed, I am!”

Doad gid ower an took the bottle oot aneth the aitnach bush. “That’s half a croon,” he said.

“I do not carry money,” said the umman, an she felt at her neck an looket at her wrists as if she expec’et there ti be necklaces and bracelets there. Syne she looket at her feet. She wore green sheen sae finely crafted they waar never made in the Howe o Strathbogie.

“My shoes,” she said, “will you take my shoes?”

Doad winnered fit eese sic braw sheen wid be ti him, bit syne he looket at her bonnie face an her farawa een, an he thocht she maun be affa sair needin the fusky. He held oot the bottle an she took aff her sheen an gid them till him, syne took the bottle fae him. She took oot the cork an took a lang, lang houp. Syne she wheeled aboot an set off awa doon the road inti the settin sun.

The eeriness o the Glack wis creepin in aboot. Doad laid by his hemmer an heided ower the hill for the Linn Burn. The umman in the green velvet goon gid barfit and silent doon the side o the Allawakin.

Maybe she got the road intil the faerie hillock. Maybe she bade dancin there in her bare feet for ever, though it wis only ae nicht in this warl.

Next day fin Charlie o Brig-ine wis deein his roon ti Glenfiddich, he saw a sma booket umman wi lang reid hair lyin on the hillock on the far side o the Allawakin. Bein a courteous man he gid ti see if she needet help.

Bit she wis beyond help, caul as the fit quartz stanes on the Balloch.

Some say she wis Jean Gordon, the heiress o Lesmoir that sellt her broad and bonnie lands. There wis a sang aboot her, bit it’s been tint langsyne, aa but the three lines. Bit ithers that studies history will tell ye that the castle o Lesmoir wis a rickle o stanes an the estate selt bi a male heir centuries afore the lass wi the reid hair wis gotten deid at Allawakin.

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