Beuy, I mind him fine.
Twa-three year ago he wandered up fae sooth,
said he was here
tae unearth the truth.
He bade doon aboot Inverness it seems.
Left his bairns and wife, went roamin near and far
wae tool-bag and Bible.
But I didna ken hid
when he cam tae Stromness that summer’s day,
hired a cairt tae tak him doon Warebeth way.
‘Along the west shore,’ I said,
‘There’s no muckle fishing nor shooting
tae be done.’ He laughed,
‘The quarry I’m hunting doesnae move fast.’
That night at the Mason’s Arms
the talk o the toon wis this uncan guest
wha’d been takkan a hammer
tae the Point o Ness.
Every day fae morn till mirk
he bashed and battered,
splitting seams and smashing stones.
He nivir missed a day, save the Lord’s wan,
when you'd see him at the Kirk
There he blew stoor aff his
coorse, calloused hands, clutched
the pew till knuckles geed white.
And when the service ended auld Hugh wid stay ahind
tae dispute wae the reverend.
Twa month he wrought at the bay,
head bowed tae stone.
One day the flint flinched -
a revelation o bone, fossil fish deep
in red sandstone.
Next day he was gone.
Now three years on, word fae sooth:
his time on earth is done.
He’d gone stone mad they say:
died by his own hand wae the muzzle o a pistol
tae his breist. The bullet skiffed his hert,
sundered ribs, split his soul apert
fae its earthly case.
Left a note in his dusty hand --
My brain burns.
A fearful dream appears, and I cannot bear the thought.
Good God have mercy on me. My brain burns as the recollection grows.
My dear wife, farewell,