Stroy: Mackay the Gamekeeper


Mackay the Gamekeeper

A story by Edith Petrie and Pat Dunn about Mackay the Gamekeeper of Clova

He was a character, Andrew. He was a very good keeper and good at his work but he was just the keeper.

A great Laird’s man like, he used to work with my grandfather long ago – my grandfather was head keeper

up there and Mackay came in his place when he retired. He stayed at ??? down there. After he retired he

went down there and then he came up and got himself a house in Lumdsen.

I used to see him and he’d be away for his lunch and I’d say “What are you getting” and it would be

“Oh,tea, loaf and margarine.” He just got fed tea, loaf and margarine. A cup of tea with a slice of bread and

margarine – no butter.

But he was a character. They’d no family, his wife and him, but they were very fond of children. Just sad

they didn’t have any family but he worked in Clova for a long, long time.

Come from Dunbeith down to Clova – my mother knew them up there – she came from there. ??? was the

keeper there. They wore the overalls that you wore long ago – you put your hands in – old, old-fashioned

[like a tabbard?] – like a dress with short sleeves. Wore them till they wore out. We went to the Cabrach

some time and they didn’t wash them – just grew grimy and then they threw them away.

I remember once I was at the pub up there and Mackay was there and he’d had a good drink.

“You know this Pat”, he says, “I’ve come away without my bloody pipe” he says. “You go up to Alice for me”.

And I was away up the street to see Alice. “What’s the bugger needing now?”, she says. So I was away

down the street with the pipe. He liked his pipe.

“What’s the story about the cranberry picking?”

When we went up for cranberries if he saw them or he was up in the hill and they were there he’d empty

them out. He wouldn’t want them carrying them off the hill. He wouldn’t say “Don’t pick them or don’t come

back”, he’d just empty them out on the hill. Very strict

And he was strict about dogs. He was blamed for putting eggs down for stray dogs – strychnine. Poison.

Because I remember my husband – when we were new married – was shepherd at Clova. He had sheep

dogs – Collies – and one of them wasn’t well one night and he says to me “I think that dog’s got poison” and

I said “Surely not,” but it died. But it wasn’t poisoned it turned out. But my husband he went to the Laird

and said ‘You’ve poisoned my dog”. But they did used to carry … “I’ve hear d that myself – but there were a

lot of keepers mistakes made.

“Was it that they didn’t want the dogs to bother the game?”

Aye, a lot of that – grouse and the shooting and that. Awful particular when the shooting comes. But Willie’s

dogs were never touching birds. They were sheep dogs and they wouldn’t bother birds.