(top picture © A.Lumsden)

If it’s February it must be… Snow.
By Cally Phillips

I had promised to write about Bothies this month – but then the snow came… It’s been hard to get away from snow this past couple of weeks (even if like me you’re in the one part of Scotland that resolutely refuses to keep the white stuff on the ground!) All over social and national media there are pictures and footage of it and frankly, I’m just plain jealous.
This year (thus far) despite all the amber weather warnings in the world, we only have hard ice and a ‘dusting’ of the white stuff, so I have had to indulge my passion for the it by drooling over the pictures and by reading Crockett.
Please forgive my indulgence. I have to work on the basis that for at least as many readers as are now cursing me because they want rid of the white stuff, there are others who can’t get enough of it.

1 a 1 a cally snow ann todd pic 3[picture 1 © A.Todd]

I know of no writer who writes better about snow that S.R.Crockett. Not just the beauty of the stuff but the harsh reality of it as well. How about this for a taster:
Through the matted covering which formed a door I thrust my naked hand, and so close and fierce was the storm driving, that it seemed to me as if I had thrust my arm into a solid wreath of snow.
‘Is there no other way of it?’ I said, for indeed I had had enough.
‘No,’ said Silver Sand; ‘the morning will be ower late. She’s no wi’ guid or provident folk, an’ the Lord’s arm reaches far.’
Which seemed to me at the time an inadequate way of putting the character of the inhabitants of the House of Craignairny.
In a moment we were out facing it. In a step we had lost one another. We were blinded, deafened, blown away. I stood and shouted my loudest. When I got my eyes open I saw a fearsome sight. The darkness was white—above, around, beneath—all was a livid, solid, white darkness. So fierce were the flakes, driven by the wind, that neither the black of the earth nor the dun of the sky shone through. I shouted my best, standing with outstretched arms. My cry was shut in my mouth. It never reached my own ears. So standing, I was neither able to go back or forward. A hand came across me out of the white smother. Stooping low, Silver Sand and I went down the hill, Quharrie no doubt in front, though it was all impossible to see him. I heard afterwards that as soon as Silver Sand had stepped out he had fallen headlong into a great drift of snow which had risen like magic before the door in a few minutes.
We went blindly forward through the storm—yet with judgment, for after descending into the valley we saw, as through a partial break, the eastern end of Loch Enoch with the snowdrift hurtling across it. The black ice, swept clean by the fierce wind, showed dark in bars and streaks. We came to sleeked hollows which we crawled over on our faces, for we knew not how far down they went. We stumbled blindly into great wreaths, and rolled through them. In a little we were breasting the ridge of Craignairny.
This is from ‘The Raiders.’ I just counted and there are 67 references to snow in the novel – including a whole episode where the central characters get snowbound in a hill cave known as the ‘Sixteen Drifty Days.’

1 a 1 a cally snow donny wilcox pic 2[picture 2 © D.Wilcox]

Of course ‘The Raiders’ isn’t the only Crockett book where snow features. ‘Rose of the Wilderness’, ‘Kit Kennedy’ and ‘A Galloway Herd’ are among my favourites.
These have been mentioned (and some excerpts included) in ‘A Cameronian Christmas and other Winters tales’ which was published just before Christmas but is still a good read if you’re snowbound or wish you were.
Crockett records snow in Galloway as early as October and as late as March. I think he may have as many ways of describing snow as the Inuit! Here’s a few examples:
The snow flew thicker but in a curious, uncertain way, as though little breezes were blowing it back from the ground. A flake would fall softly down till it neared the earth, then suddenly reel and swirl, rising again with a tossing motion as when a child blows a feather into’the air.(The Raiders)…

1 a 1 a cally snow snow white laggan ann todd pic 1[picture 3 © A.Todd]

‘In Rose of the Wilderness’ we have: the swirls of bleak November snow, on the hills by the Back Hill o’ Bush, while ‘on the mountains the snow raged onward like sea-billows,’ and high up ‘the snow fled every way at once.
My favourite remains Kit Kennedy’s experience of snow which has strong biographical overtones of Crockett’s own childhood sleeping in the ‘laft’ at Little Duchrae.
The moon, getting old, and yawning in the middle as if tired of being out so late set a crumbly horn past the edge of his little skylight. Her straggling, pallid rays fell on something white on Kit’s bed. He put out his hand, and it went into a cold wreath of snow up to the wrist.
‘Ouch!’ said Kit Kennedy.
‘I’m comin’ to ye,’ repeated his mistress, ‘ye lazy, pampered, guid-for-naething! Dinna think I canna hear ye grumblin’ and speakin’ ill words against your betters!’
Yet all he had said was ‘Ouch!’—in the circumstances, a somewhat natural remark.
Kit took the corner of the scanty coverlet, and, with a well-accustomed arm-sweep, sent the whole swirl of snow over the end of his bed, getting across the side at the same time himself. He did not complain. All he said, as he blew upon his hands and slapped them against the sides, was, ‘Michty, it’ll be cauld at the turnip pits this mornin’!’
It had been snowing in the night since Kit lay down, and the snow had sifted in through the open tiles of the farmhouse of Loch Spellanderie. That was nothing. It often did that, but sometimes it rained, and that was worse. Yet Kit Kennedy did not much mind even that. He had a cunning arrangement in old umbrellas and corn-sacks that could beat the rain any day. Snow, in his own words, he did not give a ‘buckie’ for.
Does that not remind us how easy we have it these days? If you want to know more about Crockett and the snow, why not join The Galloway Raiders which is the free online hub for all things Crockett. www.gallowayraiders.co.uk There’s a more extensive feature on Crockett and snow fresh up there this month. And you can buy Crockett books directly from the online store (member discounts available!)

1 a 1 a cally snow donny wilcox pic 4[picture 4 © D.Wilcox]

And by the way, in relation to last month’s post: Glenhead of Trool is now up for sale. Because the best time for putting a remote rural property up for sale is the moment the snow falls isn’t it? Have a look HERE If you’ve got the money or the inclination to follow this up. There is a lot of interest in it though most of the people interested don’t seem to have the money (myself included). And those with money don’t seem to have the vision. My ‘dream’ option for Glentrool would be to link it with other Galloway Bothies – especially Back Hill o’ Bush – in a small network of managed rural cultural retreats/places to learn about Galloway long gone. The Galloway of the ordinary folk. Like I said vision is not in short supply, except amongst those who can afford to do something about it. Watch this space. Next month I’ll definitely be writing about Bothies and what are losing and have lost.
In the meantime, if you want to find out more about S.R.Crockett why not head over to the Galloway Raiders site

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