The Blue Men of the Minch
by S. J. McKenzie
The next part of the tale sees MacCodrum going to visit an old priest all the way over in Huishnish, many miles from his home. He looked for the sea hood in the metal box, of course, but it was no longer in there, and after he’d thought about it for a bit, he started to wonder if he hadn’t just imagined seeing it there.
“Maybe the Blue Men are just playing a trick on me,” he thought, and he wanted to find out a bit more about it, just to be sure they were not. Luckily enough, the old priest was still there when he arrived. The old man was on death’s door, and if John had come a fortnight later he would have been cold in the ground, and so the rest might never have happened.
“Yes, I remember your father,” said the priest, who was sitting out in his garden, but on one of his best soft chairs, “to get the air,” if you can imagine that. “How could I not remember him?” he asked, but went straight on. “His was the strangest wedding service I ever performed. There was no-one else present but the two of us. A wedding without a bride! I know it’s wrong, but he offered me so much money I couldn’t resist it. A fortune, it was. Seen me right from that day to this.”
“Aye,” said MacCodrum. “I always wondered what happened to all that money.” Folks had sometimes told him that his grandfather had made a modest fortune reaving from shipwrecks, but he’d never seen a penny of it, and now he knew why. “So anyway, what happened next?”
“Well, he wasn’t the first man in these parts to have taken up with one of them, you know. A murrough, I mean. I believe they are not so different from us in many ways.”
“What of it?” said MacCodrum. “And what happened after that?”
“I mean that your father and this murrough-woman lived together for some time. Nearly a year. I understand there was no disharmony between them, but even so, there was no need to involve the Lord in their union and I would not have done it, had I known what she truly was. I felt tricked, and still do, despite the money. Such things are not mean to be.”
“Oh, get to the point, will you? What happened to her?” said MacCodrum angrily, and you must understand that all this conversation had taken quite a long while, because of all the old man’s dithering and spluttering and feeling faint, for he was very unwell.
“I cannot be certain, but I believe they rescued her. I heard from a neighbour that while your father was out one day, a few strange-looking blue fellows came into the house and ran off with her. He was most angry and upset when he came home, ranting and cursing out on the street for hours, but what was he to do? They had her safely away. And a good thing, too.”
“So what about her sea hood? Do you know what became of it?” And he explained to the old man that his father still had the strange blue skin hat somewhere in his possession.
“Ah, the cohuleen druith?” The man coughed out the old Erse words. “That is the thing which most separates their race from ours, I believe. While our own souls reside within us, the murrough seem to carry theirs outside of their bodies, and use them as a means to travel between one world and another.
“Without her cohuleen druith, a murrough will become just like a normal woman, and she will stay that way until it is returned to her, although she will never be truly happy. She cannot bear children without it, either. To steal one is a terrible crime.”
“What is to be done, Father?” said MacCodrum. “I’d like to make amends for his wrongdoing, if I can. For one thing, I don’t want the curse of the Blue Men coming on me when he’s gone!”
“I agree that you should set things right,” said the priest. “And I can only suggest that you follow him and see where he’s keeping it hidden now. If he’s got any sense, he’ll keep it in the water somewhere. He may have loved her once, but now that she’s gone, nothing is gained by him keeping it other than her continuing sorrow.”
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Copyright © 2011 by S. J. McKenzie