I’m whizzing past Loch Ness at 5.30am in the pitch blackness down to Inverness through the bowing tree tunnels of the highlands. The taxi driver has a whiskyness of voice and is ruddy cheeked and bushy eyebrowed.
He knows of my Scottish childhood connection and as we cut through the night he tells me of the Canadian woman searching with her two daughters for the place of William Chisholm said to be her long and distant Scottish ancestor – her fathers father. Sometimes I think the term ancestor seperates us from our “ancestors”. How about calling it, family. She wanted to se were her family was from.
But it was a last ditch attempt. She had come back to Scotland for the first time in her
life and to be here amongst the “scottishness” discovering more of her clan and their ways was enough spirit to warm her. But the day before leaving she splurts this out to him, and happens upon the name “William Chisholm”.He tells them there are many chisholms and its too wide a net. But there is a graveyard where the chisolms were buried. She wants to go. So he takes her and her daughters to the graveyard and there is a “William Chisholm” buried with his son valentino chisolm then it says a house name on the grave stone of Yellowbrook. She knows the name Valentino chisolm – this is them.
It’s an unusual name for a house and he knows where it is so he takes here. Let’s go. Says his eager searcher. And so we go he says and she goes in and she meets a cousin. For the first time. Did she cry I asks him. Aye she crys he says. She was 80 years old and she said her brother was dying and she came for him. But the taxi driver tells me that he thinks she came for herself. Aye she cried.
After a ten hour train journey I arrive in Bradford at 8.15pm. The reading is late by an hour at least. It’s black history month. The event is a success. I return to my hotel at 1pm absolutely shattered. That’s Saturday done then. Got to write introduction to JB Priestleys An English Journey. Note to Self. Last time I was here I was making a documentary on The JB Priestley Book An English Journey.