Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The Tiger-Mouse Tales etc.

Quite a lot of years ago, I wrote a set of children’s stories. I called them The Tiger-Mouse Tales. Each of three main characters had its own story. The tiger-mouse was an enchanting creature that could turn itself into a tiger when it wanted or needed to do so or, equally, turn back to a mouse. The blue flamingo was a beautiful bird, tall, quiet and very serene. The sea-ling was an academic busy-body of a bird, very talkative and with plenty to say. He looked like he wore a black gown as my headmaster father used to do in school.

These three creatures, the tiger-mouse, the blue flamingo and the sea-ling, had literally appeared to me in a dream. It was because I was so fascinated by them that I wrote that set of stories about them, printed them out and gave copies to various children I knew. But I never did anything else with them.

This week, the stories have returned to my mind. They did so because, the other day, my cousin on my mother’s side of the family asked me about the grandfather we have in common. Neither of us had consciously ever met him. But I was delighted to tell her what I knew of him from my mother for he always sounded to me like a delightful man. He was Scottish, he grew up in Oban on the West coast of Scotland and, like his father before him, he became a journalist renowned for the speed and clarity of his shorthand. The long latter part of his working life was spent working on the Pembrokeshire newspaper, the Western Telegraph.

Hence the fact that I grew up in Pembrokeshire: he’d married a Pembrokeshire girl. But, evidently, he always retained his Scottishness. He invariably wore trews and a tweed cap and he always loved his porridge which he ate with a lot of salt.

What links The Tiger-Mouse Tales and my Scottish grandfather is two islands off the West coast of Scotland, the isles of Seil and Luing. Maybe as a young person I’d spotted the names of these islands in a CV of my grandfather’s which – I see it now in my mind’s eye! – sat in a cardboard box in a cupboard in my parents’ bedroom. The CV listed the fact that, as a young man, my grandfather had worked as a shorthand note-taker on the Highland Clearances Commission for the islands of Seil and Luing.

Paul and I took the ferry across to the isles of Seil and Luing some years ago on a holiday where a main intention was to visit the island of Iona. Back on the mainland, during the few days we spent in Oban, we also looked out the grave of my Scottish great-grandfather. How many connections and links there can be in our lives! In a minute when I finish writing this piece, I shall get up from my chair, turn round to the bookshelf behind me and pull out the red file that holds my printed-out copy of The Tiger-Mouse Tales.

PS: My top photo was taken on the ferry on the way to Luing. My second is of one of the famous Luing breed of cattle. The third is Staffa,  the lovely, long-haired cat that used to climb through the window into our room when we were staying on Iona.

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