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Novel


In the Sceptre Prize winning novel Manadh, a reluctant wartime sea-captain longs to return to his native Hebrides. Sixty years later his visions, or second-sight, link him to a midwife on the trail of a vanished twin brother.


 

“The belief in portents of death is deeply seated in the mind of the Highlander. There are very few who have not had a manadh of some sort during their life.”

R.C. Maclagan (1897) Ghost Lights of the West Highlands, The Folklore Society of Great Britain, London.



Three short excerpts from Manadh © John Jennett 2009
 
#1
It is an unusual kind of day. A day when you might say the sea is so calm that a midge could take a drink from it. Even the tide seems lazy, tugging the Atlantic through the loch; sawing at the sound which keeps the two townships standing a shallow mile apart. The late summer sea is puckered with seams of mackerel, and gannets are plundering the shoals. It’s the rare sort of day when a crofter doesn’t look behind him and his wife might prop open the single west-facing window, at least whilst it’s light.
 
 
 
 
 
#2
I followed the silver hearse out of Harrogate in our cortege of two, the snowflakes of bandage still stuck to fingertips of my left hand where I’d worn the skin with playing my ‘cello. We drove west to Preston, swung onto the motorway and followed the bold arrows that were headlined “The North”. Scotland unfurled ahead of us like an old rug that I’d found in the loft and finally kicked open. I filled the car with my favourite Callas recording of Tosca, fumbling for the button to keep repeating the side that had the sneer of Scarpia’s fat trombones.
 
 
 
 
 
 
#3
They say that the men of the Hebrides have the sea in their blood. They also say that if you are born there, then your first and your last journey will be on the sea. By the time Donald MacIsaac was fifteen, in 1923, he’d heard this said in so many ceilidh stories that he knew it to be true and could retell most of the tales himself. Donald also thought he understood the shadow that gusted over his mother’s face when the sea was mentioned. But as the stern of the great black liner loomed over him for the first time, he could hardly remember whether it was the sea or something else that his mother had told him to fear almost as much as God.