In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

Highland HospitalityAlistair Elliot
Close
Close
Vol. 14 No. 15 · 6 August 1992
Poem

Highland Hospitality

Alistair Elliot

222 words

When the two youngest Elliots,
not yet in their teens,
were sent to school at Stoer,
they lodged, like the unmarried minister,
near the kirk, with old Mrs Mackenzie
and her daughters
in a house called ‘The Rage of Cats’.

Mrs Mackenzie fed them porridge
and milk; potatoes and milk
and oatcakes; perhaps a bite
of potatoes and herring ...
This powered them through four hours of Gaelic
on Sundays; but even the man in black
must have prayed for colour in the diet.

At kirk, strangers would shake their hands,
thank them, and recall their father’s house.
These dark-clothed men were herring-fishers
who in the Eighties, even the Seventies,
had followed the shoals from the Minch
through the narrows at Kylesku
and on, up the dark loch, Glendhu.

There they would spread their nets at dusk
and a sail among the rocks:
opposite, the boys’ future father
left his house open, the table set
with land meat and a fire lit,
and sometimes didn’t wait up. What an idea!
To be his guests and not see him!

The boys could not explain the Rage of Cats,
but now we understand
the name on the map where the path is lost
among boulders, Carn Sgadan:
Cairn of Herrings, monument
to the fish, the shy dark men,
the bounty of the past.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences