It was my Lewis uncle, Ruaraidh who arranged any killing
to be done, out on the croft. I must have been very young
because they didn’t want me in there at the time. He always
had a mate to help him. I could catch some of my grannie’s
yarns for a change.
But I remember being proud when my uncle gave me my
share to take back to town. ‘You earned it ,’ he said, ‘You’ve
hardly missed a fank.’ And the olaid was proud of me too,
not just because there was a whole pile of chops and a
gigot, shoulder and everything. Maybe my sister was
scowling. It wasn’t fair. I got to go driving about in the van
and take part in all these things while she had to help my
mother in the kitchen.
Ruaraidh was at the hospital when I saw him for the last
time. I wasn’t so good at reading the signs – he didn’t give a
lot away anyway, asking after everybody. He had cancer of
the stomach. They say that’s one of the most painful. But I
was there in uniform, on the way home after the day-shift.
Her Majesty’s Coastguard, he said. That was maybe enough.
He knew I was in a job that needed doing. That’s all he
would say about his own years in the war. Stopping the
fascists – a job that had to be done. One new year’s visit, my
uncle and my olman came close to telling me more.
‘Aye, we were there when they were needing them. Not
when they were feeding them.’