On the Blog: Hog-manay in Tobermory
We're delighted to kick 2018 off with a New Year guest post by Amelia Dalton, author of Mistress and Commander. Weary of her Yorkshire county life of grouse moors and hunt balls, Amelia Dalton threw herself instead into converting a deep sea trawler into a holiday cruiser.
It started with a box. The lads had scooped up every morsel of the tea I’d cooked for them on board: they needed fuel after the day’s dives and a base for the beer. They sauntered along the pier, a talkative glamorous bunch specially dressed for the festivities: hairy legs were encased in fishnets held up by satin suspenders. Hogmanay in Tobermory was never dull, but this year we’d be providing some of the entertainment. As they passed the doorway to the RNLI shed the insignificant card board box shuggled.
'Eh up, Lads!' Yorkshire vowels bounced around the pier, 'What’s that then!? Did ye see that there box move?'
'Get away! It never!' They huddled round the box, it shuggled again and then it squeaked. Like big babies they all jumped back.
I stretched out and pulled apart the flaps, peering inside. Twelve needle sharp little eyes caught the light: six little hedgehogs scuffled around in the bottom.
'Don’t you be touching ma’ hogs!' came bellowing out of the night as a huge black figure hurtled round the corner of the shed. 'You Keep Away! It’s taken me an age ti’ collect ‘em!' I knew exactly who it was, Tony the newly-retired ferryman.
'Hi Tony! Is it your box? When it moved and squeaked we thought we’d already had one too many! What are you doing with six little hedgehogs?' The lads walked on, keener on the pub now that there was no mystery of a living card box.
Tony shuffled from foot to foot; even in the yellow neon lights of the pier he looked shifty. He lent towards me, engulfing me in a miasma of whisky and whispered conspiratorially, 'Aye well, you’re na’ to tell a soul, but I’m away to Uist on the morning ferry. I get free tickets now I’m retired.' He added proudly.
'That’s nice, but why the secret and what about the hedgehogs? You’re not taking them with you to Outer Hebrides are you!?' I asked.
'Yup, they’ll be coming with me. Ye see, some of them naturalist types have decided the hogs are eating the wee birds’ eggs and they want to clear the island. They’re giving a reward for every hedgehog that’s caught and turned in. Ma’ pension’s na so big you know, an’ I thought I’d find a few on Mull and relocate them to Uist. I can collect the rewards for myself and they’ll never know they’re not from Uist. I’ll make a bob or two for myself, just to get the year off to a good start, you know.'