Out lately, from Scottish publishing house Saraband, is a hugely engaging volume – A Book of Death and Fish – in which Ian Stephen tells a tale of a lad from Stornoway, his life and loves. We end with the reading of Peter MacAulay’s will, and by then we know the man and his family, and the important things in his life.
It may help if you’ve a wee smattering of the Doric somewhere in your past, but if not you’ll soon get the gist of it. If you don’t know your loons fae your quines, or as Peter puts it, the coves fae the blones, worry not.
From Stornoway and his father’s folks, we go to The Broch, – that’ll be Fraserburgh to you and I – way over on the east coast, where his mother hailed from, and even down to wild places on the mainland, to Sauchie and Coalsnaughton, amongst others.
And what links them all is the fishing, from the herring fleets to the klondykers, from the fly cast in the wind, to a weighted line and something illicit for the table. You might even learn how best to serve some of our finest, from razors to gurnards, and of course the trout and the salmon, and the herring.
We journey through life, family traumas, learning as we go, following our instincts, being responsible and at times irresponsible. From his father’s weaving shed and the tweeds, to tinkering with engines, raising sailes and hauling in pots, we cover much of life on Lewis, and beyond.
There are tragedies in the past, rescues and deaths, and they weave through our life though we know not at the time. And there are hopes and aspirations as Peter raises his daughter and sees her on her way.
This book is one of those reads that grows on you as progress through 500 pages, through the decades. And it might just leave you with a big hairy worm roon yer herrt, as I’ve been know to hear from time to time from The Northern Wastes. A Good Read.