The Piggy Back & Other Tales of Strathspey: At Avielochan
First published in 1984, The Piggy Back & Other Tales of Strathspey was written by Ronald’s father, James Grant. Story-telling was an integral part of the traditional way of life in the Scottish Highlands, and, lucky for us, James wrote down quite a few of his stories. Here we share a section of At Avielochan as a starter-for-six.
The Grants came to Avielochan in 1906. William, my father, had farmed a fairly large farm in Glenlivet, Hillhead of Mornish, a high and sheep farm, for which he was not really suited. When, through the machination of a relative, one Donald Grant, Dalraddy, of whom we will hear more later, he had to leave Hillhead and came to Avielochan. William Grant was forced to take a job as a surfaceman on the railway, at a wage of 16 shillings a week. This small wage at least kept the family from starving, but the times were very hard indeed.
There was a sort of cellar under the floorboards of the kitchen at No 3. This was a very useful place for storing potatoes, during the winter months, which at that time were very cold and stormy. On one occasion, Old Granny was down in the cellar getting potatoes for the dinner when the pig, who had got out of his sty, somehow strolled into the kitchen and promptly fell into the whole on top of Old Granny.
She was probably hurt by the pig falling on her, but was a tough old lady and at once ‘fell out’ on the pig with the iron basin which she had taken down for the potatoes. The screams of the frightened pig and enraged Old Granny made quite a commotion, and considerable difficulty was involved in getting the pig up and out of the cellar. Fortunately, no damage was done to either party, but the pig never again crossed the threshold.
John, the eldest son, joined the Highland Railway in 1912 as an engine cleaner at Aviemore, There he progressed by various stages from fireman to driver, and when he died in 1958 he was a locomotive inspector at Corker Hill, near Glasgow. He was highly thought of by his workmates and superiors on the railway,
Today, No 3 that is referred to in the story is what we call The Croft. The hatch to the cellar, although not used, is still visible under the carpet in the kitchen.