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Elphinstone Kist   Stories for Bairns

The Legend of the One-Eyed, Red-Haired Man     by: Wheeler, Les

John Grant, the ae-ee’d, reid-heided man, was as orra a five-fit chiel as ever ye’ve seen on a lang simmer’s day. He’d a warty snoot, stuck atween bleed-reid, bap chicks, ae ee that wis bricht blue wi a reid rim an anither een that ye couldna see for it wis covert by a snorl o fite skin. He’d a crop o hair like a whun bush and fuskers that stuck oot in aa directions an wir bricht reid like his heid. He wisna a bonnie sicht! He wis only five fit high but hid a broad chest an legs an airms that micht hae come fae an aul oak tree – nae Samson, Goliath, Gog or Magog hid ony better. An for aa that he wis bow leggit he could rin fester than ony chiel that ever ye saa; it’s said in the hills that he could oot-rin a stag ony time he likit. Ae ee he micht hae but he could spy a midgie on a stane at twinty paces an there wis nae better han wi a bow an arra than John Grant.

John bade in Glen Cluny, near the Spittal o Glenshee an if there wis ae thing that really got him roused it wis mention o The Cleansers. The Cleansers wir sodgers o the Duke o Argyle fa burned an pillaged aa roon Aiberdeenshire an the heilands back in 1644. They wid steal fowks beasts an, fan they thocht it wis safe for them, burn doon the peer fowks’ wee hoosies. They made mony a raid intae Glenshee an Glenisla. Because o this John Grant hated the Cleansers an faniver he saa a puckle o them gyan aboot he wid shoot them doon wi his bow an arra. Shoot them doon like hoodie craas wis the wye he pit it an he shot doon that mony o them that the corries an glens o Deeside smelt o deid bodies an mony an eagle, haak an craw dined weel on the remains o the Cleansers shot by the ae- ee’d, reid- heided man. Even John got sick o seein bodies lying on the braes an ae day he swore an oath tae himsel that for a hale day he widna lift a haun aginst the Cleansers except in self defence.

Weel, jist as ye micht think, that verrra nicht the Cleansers raided intae Glenshee an Glenisla an cleaned the glens o hoof an horn. The men o the glens were determined on revenge an decided tae attack the Cleansers fae opposite directions, surroond them an destroy the enemy. Weel, things didna gyan tae plan. They hid nae leader an pucklies cam fae aa different directions sae the Cleansers jist picked them aff in their wee groups. The Glenshee men tried tae get at the Cleansers but the Glen Isla chiels jist stood on the brae on Maol-Odhar an waatched. They thocht it best tae sleep wi a hale skin an didna help their neebors fae Glenshee. The Glenshee men pit up a gweed fecht an the arrival o the miller an his sivven sons gave them hairt, but still the Glen Isla fowk bade on the hill. John Grant wis there as weel.

John wis sair upset aboot the oath he’d taen an keepit lookin at the sun tae see fu lang he hid tae go afore he could set his bow in action but for the meenit he could jist waatch as the miller an his sons focht tae get their beasts back an drive oot the Cleansers. But een efter anither the sivven sons fell, the Glen Isla men still waited an John Grant got mair an mair frustrated. The miller wis seen on his ain for his sons wir aa deid, but fecht the day an greet the morn wis his cry, till even he wis doon on his hunkers. He lookit roon an saa a movement in a bush an saa a bricht blue ee wi a reid rim roon it. He struggled tae his feet tae be met by a muckle great Cleanser fa wis jist aboot tae cleave him in twa wi his sword. A fite streak flashed afore his een an the Cleanser yelled oot. The miller grabbit the Cleanser an rammed his knife intae him jist as the Cleanser did the same tae him. They drappit tae the grun an their bleed flowed through een anithers as the licht wint oot o their een.

The rest o the Cleansers were seen worried as weel for arra efter arra fell on then an nae een missed its mark. They couldna see far the arras were comin fae until a blast o win taen John Grant’s plaid an raised it intae the air. The Cleansers spied their prey an leavin echteen o their comrades deid on the grun set aff tae catch the ae-ee’d man. John hid only ae arra left an he fired it, chucked awa his bow an set aff acroos the heather. He wis loupin ower burns, trippin through the heather, skippin ower the bogs, an jinkin by the boulders as swack as a roe deer. He wis leavin the Cleansers ahin an een o then, realisin that they widna catch him, stoppit, armed his bow an fired. His arra caught John in the back, but it didna slow the cyard doon. He kept loupin on, speedin like the win taewards his hame. As he ran he shouted oot tae the Glenshee men an they answered wi cheers. The Cleansers didna come back an they’d left ahin the beasts that they’d rieved. The Glen Isla men left the hill at last an met up wi the Glenshee fowk. They made aa kind o excuses for nae jinin the fecht, but were tellt tae tak fit wis theirs an get oot. For mony a lang year efter that the brave chiels o Glenshee an Braemar widna even spik tae the men o Glen Isla. The McKenzies o Braemar set aff efter the Cleansers an it’s said in that airt that efter they caught up wi them thirty-echt widdas came tae cairry aff their husband's bodies.

But fit o the ae-ee’d wonder? Weel, he got hame an tellt his wife tae get the arra oot o his back. She’d an affa job an couldna get it oot. “Hud on,” says John, “I’ll lie on the fleer an you staun on my back an pull.”
That’s fit they did an, efter a lot o pullin on the wifie’s pairt, the arra cam oot an a gey lump o John Grant as weel. “Gie’t a wipe wi a cloot, Gweed Wife,” said John an syne sat doon tae a gweed supper o venison.

But the Cleansers wirna feenished wi John. They wintit tae lay hauns on the chiel fa hid killt sae mony o their freens. Ae misty, grey day John wis herdin his sheep an kye wi an aul blanket tied roon his shooders tae haud aff the weet fan aboot a dizzen Cleansers cam ower the hill. John’s reid ee wis blazin, but he’d nae bow or onything else tae defend himsel wi.
“You there,” spiert their leader, “can ye tell us far John Grant bides?”
John jist sat an said nithin. “Dinna bother wi him,” said een o the Cleansers, “he’s jist a feel.”
“Weel,” said the captain, “can ye help us?”
“Weel, I micht,” said John an syne he stood up an began tae look at their bows an arras an lauch awa tae himsel as he did it. The Cleansers began tae lauch at John an the Captain gaed a bow tae him. John pretended tae use it as a waakin stick an the men lauched mair nor ever.
“I’ll tell ye fit,” says the Captain, “I’ll gie ye een o them sticks if ye show me far John Grant bides.”
“Fit een?” spiers John.
“Ony een ye like,” says the Captain, “ an a quiver fu o arras as weel!”
“But, fit dae ye use them for?” spiers John in a crafty wye.
“I’ll show ye fu tae use it,” says the leader.
The Captain taen a bow, taen aim an fired an arra across the burn an it landit aside a big steen. “Try that, noo.” said the Captain.
John pretended he couldna get it richt an at first held the tow an pulled back the widden bit o the bow, The Cleansers aa lauched an made a bigger feel o John. John wis shown again an fan he’d gotten it richt began tae fire aa the arras ower the burn tae land aside the big steen. Jist afore John fired the hinmaist arra a bird landit on the steen. John took aim an the bird fell deid.
“A great shot!” cried John.
“A lucky shot, ye muckle gype!” said the Cleanser Captain.
John set aff taewards the burn. “Far ye gyan?” spiert the Captain.
“Tae get my arras back!” says John an again the Cleansers lauched at him.
John wis through the burn an on the bank aside the big steen an the Cleansers were still lauchin at him an cryin him names, but they seen stoppit. John picked up aa the arras syne steppit ahin the big steen. He loaded the bow an pintit it at the Captain. “I’m John Grant o the ae ee!” cries John, “an ye lot hid better be movin oot o my country. Awa wi ye or I’ll kill ilk een o ye steen deid!”

The Cleansers realised they’d bin swicked an began tae gyan back the wye they hid come. John followed them richt across the country till they were weel oot o the boundaries o Braemar.

“The great muckle gypes! The muckle feels!” John kept cryin oot an aa the time giein the bow tow a twang. “They were richt feels! The tow wis weet fae hivin bin in the burn. It wis made o dried skin an nae eese for firin efter getting weet! I couldna hae fired on them even if I winted tae!”

An sae John wint back tae his beasts an the Cleansers wint awa, gled tae hae escaped the wrath o the chiel wi ae ee an the wild reid heid.

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