Auchindrain Inventory: Village Museum

Neile Graham

  ragweed   yellowish
  bramble   yellow & grey

these are the dyes & the colours they make

  meadowsweet   bright yellow   brown
  alder   dark brown

for the handspun wool hand-woven into herringbone tweed

  iris   green & light brown
  tormentil   whitish
  bog myrtle   mud brown   orangish yellow
  heather   dark orangish yellow   medium brown

warm & weatherproof here in the gray damp

  nettle   yellowish cream   brownish grey   greyish medium-to-dark brown
  lichens   white   pink   rich orangish brown   reddish brown   bluish grey

the old breed of sheep smaller   more delicate
the wool fine had to be housed in winter
not commercially successful
now extinct

Auchindrain = Achadh an Droughinn = The Field of the Thorntree

its name first written in the 1470s   its use much older
settled by Scots from Ireland:
in whose language great poetry is still given voice

cluster of cottages lost in the hills
a Brigadoon empty of lives but remnants
pictures   mementos   scraps of knowledge   fragments of tales

Eddie MaCallum was the last   farmed here until 1962
Eddie MaCallum was the last alone
once six families here decided by lot the arable land–

Eddie MaCallum the last   alone and last
Eddie MaCallum gone

a town standing witness to itself

constant work to keep the village self-reliant
governed by seasons
seed-time & harvest   movement of stock on & off the hill

planting bere & oats for their grain & straw
stacked on stone with a base of brushwood
matured then dismantled & the grain thrashed
to a drying kiln when threshed
to a hand quern to grind

keeping the sheep lambing and milking (mix
tar & ewe’s butter   rub into the sheep’s skin
to keep parasites at bay)

drovers took to market:
cattle   sheep   cockerel   hens & other fowl   pigs

dogs & cats

daily work: sorting the beasts
redding up = maintaining buildings   dykes   drains

house   cottage   byre   barn
one house with stone walls whitewashed
a chimney thatch strapped down
chicks & hens a-scratch in the yard
cobbles by doors to keep out the mud

then the cottar’s cottage:   walls   roof   smoke hole:
smoke eventually found its way out
common entry to house & byre
the cottar given house & kailyard for a time in return for work
grass thickens its loose thatch

the cottar smelling of smoke and damp
a season of work   sweat and sleep   dusted with harvest
chaff part of the weave of his clothes   wonders
what roof will cover him in the next winter’s rains

does he have parents?
is he too poor   for wife and child?
does he bring them   leave them   where?
does anyone know the cottar’s tale?
if the cottar had a daughter
would he name her Isabella?

dry stone pointed with clay mortar
all houses altered & rebuilt

buried in the walls are stumps for cruck frames to hold the roofs
later replaced by wall-head couples & rafters
old doorways for people & beasts blocked
then new ones broken out of the stone

byres changed to stables   peat stoves to cart sheds

loft or part lofts   some with attics   floors a recent thing
older places closet   kitchen   byre under one roof
closet for butter & cheese making   removed from byre
a kitchen to cook & eat in   & where most slept

Dan MacDonald   apprenticed as mason
to Stoner Munro   Dan MacDonald (Dangerous Dan?
Dastardly Dan? Dan Dead-Shot?)
could sit in bed at one end of the loft
& shoot rats around the meal kists at the other

That’s all we’re told of Dan (Stoner Dan?
Dan the Mason? Rat-Killer Dan?)

houses built end on to the wind
dark   smoky: clarty but cosy

women spun by the fire   the most social place
kitchens first open hearths
then fireplaces with back-stone
added hood to carry smoke up
finally internal stone gable & flue at “best” end of house

barns built across the prevailing wind:
2 doors set opposite
for the through draft to blow away chaff while winnowing

over the whole site flowers & herbs once bound in gardens spread freely

water carried from springs
cattle in the byre end
barrel sunk outside door for liquid manure
to fertilize kailyard or mordant for dying wool
a “knee of timber” helped to keep a barrow-load or 2 of turnips by the door
salt tub for pickling meat

heather thatch on a layer of rushes with layer of turf beneath
lying on a birch frame

peat store   pigsty   hen house   cart storage

kailyard walled to keep out beasts:
kail   parsley for broth   turnips   a few potatoes
red currants   blackcurrants   gooseberries   mint   tansy   a Pyrennena lily

too boggy around the burn for sown crops
but here some grazing   some meadow hay
2 kinds of rushes:
the jointed which cattle will eat
the common rush which they won’t
used for thatching & pith for wick for burning oil in cruisies

meadowsweet   valerian   red clover   flag iris
willow planted for baskets & rope

rowan trees–berries for jelly
but as much encouraged for protection from witches

a ferryman at Inverary used to visit an old lady who lived in Auchindrain
now a ruin   her house was black–nothing but a cruisie–
and the scones were black, and she was black, too
children thought she was a witch

in her garden: selfheal   feverfew
sneezewort   woundwort
yarrow = Luschosgadh na fola = herb of the staunching of the blood

in the smoke of her house   herbs hang   drying in smoke
scones on the griddle poised above the fire
she was black, too

proteins:   milk   cheese   fish   oatmeal   potatoes   occasionally salt meat
carbs:   oatmeal   barley   meal   potatoes
fats (never enough): butter   the little meat
vitamins & minerals from these & vegetables
honey ale & soft fruits were the sweets
eggs only in spring–poultry eaten only on special occasions

coalfish & pollack caught off rocks in summer by the young
split   salted  dried

flounders speared in shallows
cod & haddock caught in long-lines in deepest water
herring in Loch Fyne famous
several men would work at it in summer
trout from burns & hill lochs: river trout   sea-trout   salmon

a sheepskin buoy atop the nets

Light = often just firelight
cruisies burned fish oil
a rush dip for special reading   writing letters
(a stalk of common rush   soaked in melted tallow
after being peeled   lasted 8–10 minutes)
The well-off houses would make tallow candles
and later own a paraffin lamp

Soap homemade from ashes & tallow
Washing outside

Inside the house until 1760–1860
just a chest & some stools
after that dresser commonplace
1800s decorative chinaware
wall-clocks a status symbol

willow creel   elderwood netting needle
hazel crook   heather rope
heather twigs gathered with twine for potscourer
birch besom

baking stone for oatcakes & barley bannocks

Usually the only iron ware in house was a 3-legged pot
after 1750 cast iron   before riveted metal plates
(and often the only cooking vessel)
then later a kettle & girdle
spoons of horn
masher from wood   horn mug

riddle with groats for grinings
quern–handmill for oat & barley meal

bellows for peat fire
heather whisk for ashes

the kind of industry   few of us know
small routines of the daily beasts
larger cycles of planting, reaping, birthing

long summer days to manage the crops to shore up
the walls before the long wet winter darkness

a child learns to feed the beasts   to milk to plant
to harvest   to love   to marry   to bury

willow for
wattling   creels   baskets   bindings   medicine
rushes for
thatch   lamp wicks   beasts’ bedding   occasionally grazing
ash for
plough   tools   carts   boats   machinery
eldge (now scarce) for
netting needles   shuttles   musical instruments
toys   small tools   wines   medicines

birch twigs make superb brooms
stain-resistant wood for dairy utensils
bark for tanning leather

hazel for
shepherds’ crooks   fishing   thatching rods
creel   basket frames

heather for
thatch   strong rope   dye   basket & creel
brooms   pot-scourers   hard-weather grazing

oak for
fuel for iron smelting   shipbuilding   heavy construction

piper & singers   then fiddler
most every house had a trump (mouth harp)
or later a “mootheir” (mouth organ)
“Box melodeon”

tunes & songs reeling out   into long nights

in the traditional long-house = byre dwelling:
Bridal chest plain
2 boxbeds   linen chest   drawer in bottom
hand-embroidery with Celtic designs
feathers in jar   family pictures
cradle   humble china cupboard
iron bed   chest   2 prints
rug   rocker   chair   good fireplace

caschrom = foot plough
operator works backwards    efficient & effortless
1 acre = 70 hours

Isabella    Bell Pol    Muddy Bell
at the end of her life
came back to live out her days with kinfolk
because giving her a house
exempted the town from paying the parish poor rate

Isabella    Bell Pol    Muddy Bell
unmarried daughter of a cottar
kept house for her father till he died
then laboured in the lead mines
till she had to retire

Isabella    Bell Pol    Muddy Bell
her tidy house a stack of peat a fireplace to cook in
boxbed walled & curtained to keep night’s warmth in old bones
a kettle    a pot    a griddle    a cruisie
a rush basket    a wool throw
a table    a bench    a chair    a stool   a dresser
a horn spoon    some china    a mirror

who left the eggs on the dresser for you
Isabella    Bell Pol    Muddy Bell

a weaver was one of the few who lived by practicing a trade

  bracken    soft/light/medium brown

  clover    soft light medium brown
  poppy leaves    soft grey
  dandelion    soft light orange
  onion skin    soft light brown
  blueberry    dark brown
  thistle    soft grey
  St. John’s wort    light light beige
  foxglove    dark cream
  wild daisies    soft brown

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANeile Graham is Canadian by birth and inclination, but currently lives in Seattle, where her life is full of writing and writers. She is a graduate of Clarion West Writers Workshop and currently serves as its workshop director. Her poetry and fiction have been published in the U.S, the U.K., and Canada. She has three full-length poetry collections, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken word CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New.