So Algy turned to the north, and flew slowly back up towards the head of the great sea loch. The mist was coming down and the light was failing, so he felt that it would be prudent to stop for the night. Turning inland very slightly, he soon found himself at the foot of the most famous glen in all of Scotland, the great Glen of Weeping. There was no weeping now, of course, but somehow it still had a mournful air about it, and Algy always felt slightly ill at ease when he passed through this place. In the true spirit of the glen, he found himself a perch in a dark, prickly hawthorn bush which overlooked the isles of the dead. He took particular care to conceal himself from the well-worn path which ran behind the bush, just in case there were any stray landscape photographers about who might resent the presence of a fluffy bird among the grandeur of such scenery. As Algy gazed up the glen towards the higher peaks, which were currently shrouded in summer mists rather than winter snow, he remembered a poem by Sheena Blackhalll. Massacres are fortunately out of fashion in Scotland nowadays, but these mountains still care “not a whit” for the fate of mortals, and each year there are some who climb these slopes, never to return to the land of the living:

          Mountains, snow-swept mountains of Arctic grandeur
          Where no sweet bird finds rest in Winter’s thrall
          Your streams should run with blood for a thousand aeons
          You watched and did not hinder Clan Donald’s fall

          Glenlyon’s Argyll men, to the glen came trekking
          Like red-backed hounds to seek MacIain’s lair
          Where were your blizzards then, that could have saved him?
          Your corries turned a hiding place to a bier

          Buachaille Etive Mor of the Glen of Weeping
          Were you deaf to your dying children’s cries?
          Why could you not have blocked the Devil’s staircase
          Or opened the Sgur-mam-Fiann where Fingal lies?

          Mountains, snow swept mountains of Arctic grandeur
          Where ghostly wraiths of the murdered families flit
          The wail of the caoineag still keens out a warning
          You care for the fate of mortals not a whit.

[Algy is quoting the poem Glencoe Ghosts by the contemporary Scottish poet Sheena Blackhall.]


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