It was a pleasant evening when the four men set out. Sandy, Bill, Jack and Davie intended to go fishing but because a strong wind had sprung up on their last trip, their boat had to be put ashore at Tarrel Bothy. It meant a walk of several miles below the cliffs before they could put to sea but they didn’t mind that. In those pre-war days most of the boats used for pleasure were rowing boats. It was only the slightly bigger craft used for the fishing that were engine driven. Outboard engines and high-powered speed boats did not appear until much later. Tonight the young men hoped to take their boat back to Hilton pier where it was usually moored. As they went through the village they were in good spirits, until one of them spotted old Lexy coming along the road. Fishermen were rather superstitious and Lexy was one of the old crones they did not like to encounter on an outward trip. Quickly Sandy, Bill and Jack decided to slip through the nearest vennel and walk behind the houses. Davie said he would carry on along the street and see what happened. When he came up to Lexy he hailed her with “It’s a fine evening.”

“Yes it is,” she replied, and added “Your friends have gone along the back way.”

“Aye,” said Davie, “they wanted to walk on the grass.”

“They’ll be going fishing,” continued Lexy, “But they needn’t bother. They won’t catch anything.” Then almost as an afterthought “And they won’t take the boat home tonight.”

Davie muttered something in reply and hastily went on to catch up with the others. He passed on Lexy’s message but Sandy, Bill and Jack just laughed. They wouldn’t be put off by a crazy old woman.

Leaving the village they went, at a brisk pace, along the grassy path by Post Culag, the summer house and the Wirican. Soon they were below Tarrel and lost no time in untying the boat. It was pushed and pulled to the water’s edge and when all were safely aboard a course was set for one of the favourite fishing spots. Rowing hard they went out and east to where they knew the fish were more plentiful and usually pretty big. They often got great whoppers of cod out there, luck however, was not with them. Davie caught a small cod but none of the others got a bite. There was nothing for it but to move further afield to where they could try their luck again, it was no better further out either! Again Davie got a cod but Sandy, Bill and Jack drew a blank. Feeling rather disconsolate, yet determined not to give up they moved on until they were nearly at the Cheemalers. Usually fishermen liked to have company of another boat when fishing so far out and so far from home but the four men had no such company. The men were fit and strong however, and thought they could cope alright. Determined to catch something they paid little heed to the breeze which was definitely strengthening. Try as they would, the fish would not bite and their luck didn’t change. Soon there was quite a jabble in the water, a warning sign which couldn’t be ignored. Lines were hauled up and the homeward sail began. All four knew they had stayed out too long, gone further than they first intended and were now going to have a stiff pull against the wind. As it grew stronger they rowed harder but the shore seemed very far away. When the men eventually came upon Tarrel all hope of getting to Hilton was abandoned. It just would not be worth the risk and the water was now rather choppy. They were glad to reach the safety of the small port where they tied the boat to its former mooring place.

Sitting on the bank for a short breather before wending their way homeward there was time for reflection. They were no better off after an evening’s work, they‘d had a long outward walk, a hard row, and now had to face the long walk home. They had no fish other than the two Davie had caught and the boat was still at Tarrel. Could it be that old Lexy’s prediction was the cause of it all? How she would laugh if she could see them now. Nut there was maybe something to be thankful for, she could have wished an even worse fate for them and at least they were home on terra firma. The feeling that she might have even stronger powers was sobering and the decision to give her no cause for offence in the future was unanimous. Secretly each hoped he wouldn’t meet her on the way home.



Katie Ross