Bygone Days At Torgoyle

From Moriston Matters Issue 4, December 1977

Bygone days in Glenmoriston

"Many a time and oft", as an old poet wrote one recalls with happy memories the days of long ago, when Glenmoriston was the home of contented and kindly families who lived in what might be called "do it yourself" environments and circumstances. Take for example the case of an elderly couple, who resided near Torgoyle over 60 years ago.

In those days, and for many years after-wards, my work entailed journeys up and down the glen, except in the dead of winter. Occasionally I was asked by the couple referred to above, if I could pop into their house to "do a letter for them", as their knowledge of the English language was nothing like as good as it was of their own - the Gaelic. My first experience in carrying out the business of letter-writing for the couple concerned was an unforgettable one. As I entered the house along with the lady herself, she opened the kitchen door and ushered me in with a charming and courteous gesture.

The scene that met my eyes was staggering. The fireplace was actually on the flagstone floor, two lengths of a birch tree lying in the fire, and extending fully six feet over the floor towards the entrance door to the room itself. It was certainly a lovely fire. But that was not all. Perched quite unconcerned on those logs were five hens - two on one "log" and three on the other. What a picture! The good lady's husband was comfortably seated close by, and puffed away at his pipe. He asked me to sit at the table, which I did, and lying on it was notepaper and an envelope. It was then, and only then, that I saw at the farther end of the table a small pile of newly-prepared scones, all ready, as I thought, to be popped into the oven, and I naturally wondered where on earth the oven could be. I did not have long to wait, as the lady appeared carrying a huge cast-iron frying pan, complete with a handle which could only be suspended from something and hung over the fire. Then another miracle - she picked up the poker, which wan over three feet long, thrust it up the chimney end begun manipulating it from side to side. Then, after a couple of seconds, down come an iron chain with a hook-like end, and then I realised what was to follow. She slipped the handle of the frying pan on to the hook, and there was the so-called oven. Then she put a large lump of greasy fat into the frying pan, and in no time it was bubbling merrily. Next she flipped four large "raw" scones into the pan. They seemed paper-thin to my inexperienced eyes, then lo and behold, they began to swell, and in seconds, it seemed to me, she flipped them upside-down, and in no time they had doubled in size and were golden brown. What a gorgeous sight they were, and the smell of them, after she had lifted them out of the fat and placed them on the table, was out of this world. Next she split them open with a knife and buttered them. We had them later with a cup of tea. and finer scones I had never eaten. Happy memories indeed.

A. M.C. Fort Augustus.