Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ How weird is that!

Anyone who’s read A Long Run in Short Shorts, my recently self-published book, will know that synchronicities of all kinds are one of my interests. How do they come about? What do they mean?  Wowee! Thinking about two comments that arrived this week on two different postings I’d written, one last year, one this, produced a connection that made my mind go ping!

Two Comments: No. 1

The first comment to arrive was about the haunting poem, The Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig, which I’d put into my blog of August 20th, 2016.  I’d seen the poem in a frame on a wall in Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland and, a number of times thereafter, had made it the centre of storytelling sessions with older children. Written by Roy Ferguson, the poem refers to the turbulent time of the Highland Clearances when crofters were cleared off the land by land-owners. Evidently, one of the local families that were evacuated by boat from Arisaig accidentally left behind a favourite collie dog. Afterwards, it was often said in the area that, at dusk on certain evenings, the grey ghost of the dog would appear, searching the shoreline for the family that had left it behind.

Well, the comment came from Graham who must somehow have come across my posting from August 2016.  He said: ‘I’m just back from my annual trip to Arisaig. Each year we visit the Arisaig Hotel where I’m always drawn to the Grey Dog Story framed on the wall. It always makes me sad. When I’m on the old Rhu road I always will the Grey Dog to make an appearance. The Highland Clearances must have been sad, sad times.’

It feels good to know when someone else has been deeply moved by the same thing as you. Responding to Graham, I noted that my own Scottish grandfather must have been very aware of the sadness brought about by the Highland Clearances. One of his very first jobs before becoming a journalist was making a shorthand record of the Highland Clearances Commission’s proceedings on two islands off the west coast of Scotland.

Two Comments: No. 2

The second comment to arrive came from Meg from Brisbane and it related to the story of The Tiger and the Mouse that I put into last week’s blog. Meg made the point that what she delightfully referred to as mouses (mice isn’t nearly so nice) are creatures with very small voices. You have to listen carefully to them to know what path to follow.

Yes. Meg’s comment immediately prompted me to remember a set of stories I once wrote which were very much to do with listening to the unspoken story. Intended for children, the stories were about three characters who, quite literally, had appeared to me in a dream. One was the Blue Flamingo (odd, I’d thought, aren’t flamingos pink?) Another was the Sea-Ling, a talkative creature who tended to drown out the other two’s stories (and odd, I’d thought, that there should be a bird called a sea-ling when we all know what ceilings normally are.) The third creature was the Tiger-Mouse. He was the most engaging. Able to become a tiger when needed, he could then revert to being a mouse and it was immediately obvious he had many stories to tell. (And how wonderful, I’d thought, that two such apparently opposite creatures could be united in the one being.)

Now I had to ask myself why my Tiger-Mouse tales had not even come into my mind when making The Tiger and the Mouse the subject of last week’s blog. Then I think it was Meg’s perception of how we must listen to mouses’ voices that stirred me to perceive a most strange connection between the beautiful poem, The Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig, and my own stories, The Tiger-Mouse Tales. The connection centres on my Scottish grandfather.

My Scottish grandfather:

My Scottish grandfather, John Higgins, grew up in Oban on the West Coast of Scotland, son of a family of newspaper people who produced the local Oban paper. Early on, evidently, he learned to do shorthand, becoming known for his excellence at it. Later, he became a journalist. How I found out about his career was after my mother died. Going through a box of papers she’d kept, I came across a fat wadge of testimonials from all the jobs her father had done up to the time he arrived in Pembrokeshire to work on a Pembrokeshire paper. The first testimonial was about his job for the Highland Clearances Commission concerning those two islands off the West Coast of Scotland. It gave their names:  Seil (which is said as Seal) and Luing (which is pronounced as Ling). 

So is that testimonial where I’d got the name for the Sea-Ling, one of the three characters in my Tiger-Mouse Tales? As always, lots of things remain unexplained. Perhaps I’d seen my grandfather’s testimonials sometime earlier in my life? Perhaps the names of those two islands (beautiful islands as I’ve since discovered) had sunk into my subconscious, only to come out much later in my dream? I don’t know. I’ll never know. All I can say is Wowee! How strange. How strange that the Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig is now connected for ever in my mind with my Tiger-Mouse Tales. Maybe the connection will prompt me to look out those stories once more and see what I make of them now.

PS: Top photo is of lovely Arisaig. Bottom photo is of the very live and lively dog that haunts one of my Pembrokeshire beaches, Abermawr. He’s called Storm. May he still always be there.

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