The sun was just starting its slow and laborious climb into the Heavens on that cold
early November day. It was particularly cold for that time of year in the Highlands of
Scotland, where the Gulf Stream ran parallel with the mainland, and autumn stayed
The mountain was his first delivery of the day, and the one he liked the best.
James Fergus, known to all and sundry as Fergus, snuggled further into his coat and
shivered slightly as he changed down a gear of his Post Office van persuading it to
take the steep hill on its slow and tortuous journey to the cottage of Andy and Janet
McCrae, high on the slopes of Ben McCrue. He had often laughed to himself at the
address; McCrae, High Slopes, Ben McCrue, Tan Bray, Western Highlands,
Scotland. It sounded like an unfinished sonnet. The old van struggled and spluttered
reluctantly up the remaining few yards of what was in fact only a track, not really a
Fergus got out of his van and looked around him. The view was magnificent. He felt
like an Eagle in its eerie, surveying its terrain. As far as the eye could see there were
Mountain ranges, but Ben McCrue was decidedly the highest. He stood at that moment only a fraction of the way up its tremendous side, but even then he was a long
way up, and the very last place it was possible to build anything.
From where he stood the Mountain climbed steeply, great rock formations climbing
ever upwards. Its peaks lost in.the only clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky, giving
the appearance of the mountain being on fire and smoking. He knew though that the
tops would be white with snow. They always were, summer and winter alike.
He looked to the East, away over the water to the islands of the Hebrides. It may have
been cold, but it was extremely clear.
He could see far into the distance the purple blue of the peaks of the nearer mountain
ranges, vast amounts of green, and small white dots which were the dwellings of the
islanders, and further afield just the rugged rise of pale mountains silhouetted against
In the vast expanse of water, coloured several shades of blue, between the mainland
and the islands he could see small vessels, fishermen obviously, and the larger boat, a
steamer, on its way with passengers and mail to the inner and outer Hebrides. Where it
would disgorge its cargo and take on return passengers, mail and cargo for the round trip journey to the mainland.
The steamer was the islands lifeline and was welcomed by most of the villagers at the
quayside. It would be beautiful on the steamer today, he thought, the water as smooth
as glass and passing by the most wonderful scenery, high mountains all around. He
breathed a sigh. A trip on the steamer was the highlight of his life. He sighed with
The bothy where the McCraes lived was small, painted white and beautifully kept.
Janet McCrae had even planted window boxes all around the front. The ground being
much to hard to even contemplate digging, let alone planting.
As Fergus walked toward the door of the bothy, letters in hand, he heard a low moan
of pain. Alarmed he knocked on the door and shouted ‘Anyone there?’ His natural soft
gutteral highland brogue gruff with emotion and concern.
Another groan. Fergus made a decision. He opened the door and looked in. Janet
McCrae was laid half on a chair and half over a table moaning. Fergus rushed to her
side ‘Lassie, what’s the matter?’ he reached over and touched her face. It was wet with
’It’s the baby Fergus. It’s coming. It’s more than a month early. It isn’t due until
Christmas day. Please help me Fergus, Andy is away on the islands collecting the
tweeds.’ her voice was little more than a whisper.
Fergus knew Andy McCrae went frequently to the islands collecting the Harris tweed
and transporting it to Edinburgh.
The McCraes had lived in the bothy for about three years, ever since they had married.
Janet came from the village but Andy had come from Edinburgh. Fergus had known
she was pregnant, everyone in the village knew, but it wasn’t something he had
thought a lot about.
‘Come away lassie. Let’s be havin ya. Into the van wi ya, I’ll take ya to the hospital
down in Tan Bray. Never worry, ya’ll be fine.’
Janet smiled at him gratefully ‘Thank you Fergus. Ma things are just in the bedroom,
will ya get them?’
Fergus crossed the small living room and collected her bag from the tiny, beautifully
decorated and furnished bedroom where it lay, packed and ready fortunately.
Fergus drove as carefully as he could down the rocky track leading to the village, and
the cottage hospital. He made soothing noises when Janet moaned from time to time.
Fergus was 50 years old and had never married. He had lived with his old mum for all
of his life, and had no knowledge of babies whatsoever. Instinctively he knew he had
to keep her, and himself, calm. He remembered when his old bitch had whelped, he
had stroked her and made soothing noises and all had gone well. Four lovely puppies
she had had, and everyone of the now grown dogs lived in the village.Unlike a lot of
postmen Fergus had heard about, he was never bitten by dogs, in fact they rushed to
meet him and be patted.
On arrival at the hospital, Fergus ran in and gabbled out that he had a lady in the van
who was having a baby. Hospital staff took over and Fergus knew now she was safe,
he breathed a sigh of relief. Janet passed on a trolley and reached for his hand. ’Don’t
leave me Fergus, please’. She beseeched. ’I’m rare afraid’.
He held tightly to her hand and almost ran along beside the trolley, continuing his
soothing noises. Suddenly he was grabbed by a ferocious looking woman who literally
pushed him into a green, round the wrong way, garment. Fastened a mask on his face
and pushed a green cap onto his head. ‘Get in there and see to her. Poor wee lass, she’s naught but a bairn herself.’ she commanded, pushing Fergus through the doors of the
delivery room. She must be new to the village, he thought, he hadn’t seen her before
and wasn’t sure he wanted to again.
He went to the top of the trolley and took Janet’s hand again. She smiled at him
bravely. ‘Thank you Fergus. I cannot do this without you.’ she managed before another
wave of pain hit her.
‘Shush now. Ya’ll be fine lassie. Just fine’. He wasn’t sure about himself, but he just
knew she would be fine.
At the bottom of the trolley a lot of activity was going on. Fergus couldn’t see what. A
large sheet covered Janet’s bent knees and from time to time a Doctor’s head appeared
over the top and made encouraging noises, like ‘Push now’.
‘Push’ shouted the Doctor and Janet’s face went purple with the effort she made. Janet
gripped Fergus’s hand so tightly, digging her fingernails into his palm, he thought he
himself might cry out with the pain. Then, there was an almighty scream of sheer fury
from a tiny lump which the Doctor held in his hands. ’You’ve got a boy’ the Doctor
told Janet and Fergus.The baby was wrapped up in a cloth and handed to Fergus. He was dumbfounded. He
held the small bundle and looked into the bluest eyes he had ever seen. It had stopped
screaming and was looking at him as if getting his measure. Fergus didn’t know what
to think, but he knew for certain that he had fallen in love, for the first time in his life,
with this small piece of humanity.
He reluctantly handed the baby over to Janet. She smiled when she saw the tears in
Fergus’s eyes. ’We’re going to call him Fergus after the most wonderful man in the
World’ she said, her eyes also bright with tears.
‘Will you leave now while we get your wife cleaned up.’ demanded the ferocious
‘Ach, she’s not me wife……’ he started to say but was frozen into silence by the most
withering of looks he could have imagined.
’A’ll go now’ he said. Janet looked up at him ‘Try and find Andy will ya Fergus’ she
pleaded. Fergus bent his head and kissed Janet’s cheek through the mask. ‘You did
grand, lassie. I’ll go and try and get them to locate your man and get him here’ he
patted her hand. Avoiding looking at the nurse he hurried from the room.
After being divested of his greens, Fergus rushed from the hospital to the Police
Station, where the Sergeant promised to get word to the islands and get Andy back as
soon as possible.At the Police Station they wanted all the details. Fergus knew that in
a very short while the news would be all over the village and the whole of the glen.
There was no need for a newspaper or a radio for that matter here in the Highlands, he
As Fergus got back into his van, a self-satisfied grin spread over his face. ‘The mail
will be rare and late today a’m thinking.’