The Arran School Reunion by James Douglas
SLSC Tall Tale Competition
I had no interest in school reunions until about twenty years ago. My school was Ardrossan Academy in North Ayrshire. It’s a ferry port for Arran, and some school pupils came from the island, and that’s where the event was to be held. Arran is magical, one of my favourite places. I’d booked into the appointed hotel the day before, and the next morning, a beautiful day in September, I went for a walk. I found myself on a path that led to the highest point on Arran, Goat Fell, and feeling pretty good I sallied forth.
Two and half hours later I was on the top. I am marvelling at the magnificent view.
I soon realised that a bank of mist was approaching from the west. On the way up I had seen a few walkers, but now I was on my own. I decided to get down quickly. The first part of the descent is steep and hard work.
My legs were soon wobbly.
I was getting tired and cold. As the mist rolled over the top of the summit and down towards me, it was very threatening, and the sun had gone. I soon realised I had made a bad mistake. All the classic mistakes. No proper clothing, no food, no compass, no stick, no mobile phone of course and I hadn’t told anyone where I was going.
The lower part of the descent is across a thick heather strewn soggy moor, and the path is not clearly defined. Soon I was engulfed by the mist, totally lost. I didn’t have a clue where to go.
Have you ever felt a tremor of panic and a heavy stomach-churning feeling you get with it?
Well, I have!
I stumbled on cursing at my stupidity and stopping at times to listen for any clue as to which way I should go. But there was nothing.
Suddenly in the swirling mist, there was the figure of a man, a well-equipped walker. About my age, medium height, long tanned face, piercing blue eyes and a pronounced scar on the side of his head, a walking stick in his hand. I couldn’t believe my eyes, “Hello Jimmy; you need some help“ he said.
In Scotland Jimmy is a form of address when you don’t know someone’s name. But, by the way, he said it, he knew me. “How do you know my name,” I asked.
There was a slight grin, and he said: “I’m Robert McLaren.” He was one of my close friends at school and came from Arran.
All I could say was “I’m very glad to see you”.
I stepped forward to shake his hand, but he turned, saying “Follow me”, and strode off. I was breathless keeping up, but after about half a mile we came across a well-used path where he stopped. “Follow that path, and you’ll come to the main road, turn left and you’ll soon be at the hotel. I’m going this way, and off he went. “Will you be there tonight I shouted as he disappeared.
“I will. I’m always about,“ and he laughed.
There were about 60 people at the Reunion.
I kept looking around for Robert to thank him and to buy him a large drink.
But could not see him in the crowded room.
I asked around. Others were asking about him too. He had always been a regular at these events. In fact, he had never left Arran, having a good job with the Forestry Commission.
After dinner, there was just one speaker.
The Chairman called for a minute’s silence.
“Let’s remember absent friends, those that cannot make it tonight but in particular, I ask you to think of Robert McLaren. As some of you know, six months ago, while walking on Goat Fell, he slipped and cracked his head. Robert died instantly. What a tragedy for such an experienced walker.”
I felt a shudder run down my back, as I remembered his laugh.
South Lancaster Speakers Club