Wednesday 21 October 2015

An Old Tale from Loch Ness

Nothing to do with Nessie, but an amusing tale of life on the loch from "Angling and Art in Scotland: some fishing experiences related and illustrated" by Ernest Edward Briggs, published in 1908.

But the morning train from Perth was quite an express, and, if I remember rightly, only took four hours to accomplish the distance, arriving at Inverness about eleven o'clock. That gave one ample time to look around the cleanly little Highland town, and to pay a visit to the fishing-tackle shop ; for the steamer up Loch Ness did not leave until three in the afternoon. This afternoon boat, which went no farther than Fort Augustus, was also of the most leisurely ; you could, however, get a decent tea on board, with fish and cold meat. A peaceful calm pervaded the whole establishment. It was impossible to instil any great amount of energy into any of the employees; the utmost excitement on the part of a passenger brought no answering light of enthusiasm to the eye of the deck-hand. It was on this boat that a portly, well-to-do, though irascible Highlander, bound for the Temple Pier at Glenurquhart, found as he neared his destination that his portmanteau had been mislaid.

The luggage for the various ports had been put under tarpaulins, each in a separate pile, for it was a wet afternoon, and the pile destined for Glenurquhart, when examined, did not furnish the missing article. This fact, when demonstrated, produced a perfect ferment in the mind of the owner, who charged about the deck accusing the captain and sailors, jointly and severally, of having made away with his luggage. One of the sailors particularly, whom he vowed had brought the precious case on board, fell under his severest displeasure. But the company, from the captain downwards, were in no wise to be ruffled. This dignitary, in fact, remained perfectly unmoved by the most forcible language and threats, merely affirming that if the portmanteau had been properly labelled for the Temple Pier, it would have been found amongst the articles destined for that port, and therefore there was no doubt that it had never been brought aboard.

Ultimately, when Glenurquhart was reached, the excitable gentleman had to go ashore minus his luggage, muttering half-articulated threats into his beard, evidently having himself now some doubts as to whether the bone of contention had been properly labelled or no. But the climax came when one of the deck-hands — perhaps more conscientious than his fellows — actually found the missing article amongst the Fort Augustus luggage, and literally hurled it on to the pier just as the moorings were being cast off. The owner immediately pounced upon his property, growling over it as a dog would growl over a bone. He rapidly examined the label, and found it to be correctly addressed.

I Ah! you should have seen him then, that irate Highlander, alternately thumping with his fist the label which he had hastily torn from off the portmanteau — and which he was holding up for the captain's edification, as he ran along the pier keeping pace with the now moving boat or vigorously shaking that same fist at the imperturbable despot, bawling out as he did so, "Ye're condemned, Sir! Ye're condemned!" It was a mercy, in his excitement, that he did not tumble into the water on coming to the end of the pier, where for several minutes we could see him dancing like a bear on hot iron, gesticulating wildly, while his curses were wafted ever more faintly over the waves as the steamer forged ahead.

I note the observation "the utmost excitement on the part of a passenger brought no answering light of enthusiasm to the eye of the deck-hand" and wonder if even a raising of the eyebrow would be elicited if any passenger had seen the "huge fish" spoken of in former times gambolling nearby? Imagine the scene.

Gladys: Look! Look! What are those three humps and long neck in the water?!

Claude (looking at zombie crewmen): Clearly nothing to get excited about, Darling. It must be a bow wave generated by a sturgeon pursuing a cormorant. Another sandwich, Dear?

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