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CELTIC MEMORIES 

CELTIC MEMORIES

Alison Pollock has had several overseas holidays that have included Scotland in the itineraries enlivening Alison’s lifelong interest in metaphysics. She experienced many memories in Scotland of past lives, familiar faces, places and situations that can only be described as from the Twilight Zone or another dimension.

‘Celtic Memories’ is a collection of short stories inspired by and resulting from these experiences. Although the stories are fictional, each has a factual basis.

In Store Price: $AU20.00 
Online Price:   $AU19.00

ISBN: 1-9208-8452-1
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 153
Genre: Fiction

 

 

 

 

 


 


Author: Alison Pollock 
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published: 2004
Language: English

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About the author 

Alison Pollock’s many years of writing as a hobby resulted in her first published book ‘Cast a Long Shadow’ in 1999.

In 2003  a re-edited version of Cast a Long Shadow was published by Zeus Publications. 

Always having an avid interest in metaphysical subjects, Alison for many years read tea cups, making predictions for the interested with extreme accuracy. 

Several overseas holidays during her life have included Scotland in the itineraries enlivening Alison’s interest even more in metaphysics. She experienced many memories in Scotland of past lives, familiar faces and places and situations that can only be described as from the Twilight Zone or another dimension. 

 ‘Celtic Memories’ is a collection of short stories resulting from these experiences and although fictional, each story has a factual basis. 

Alison has recently married her second husband, British artist Derrick Clarke and prior to the publication of Celtic Memories the couple visited Scotland once more. No doubt this visit will inspire more writing from Alison.

Alison has lived in many parts of Australia, has worked throughout her life for several different charities and raised her now adult son. The illustrations throughout the book are the work of Alison’s son Tony Pollock.

In her retirement, she has lived in Buderim for the past 10 years where she and Derrick now enjoy their life together. 

The verses featured at the start of each story are by the legendary Scot, Robert Burns.

Read a sample:

MAGNELLIA 

“The chield wha boasts o’ warld’s walth

Is aften laird o’ meikle care…” 

The year, 1693 

Chapter 1. The Orphan.

 

Early spring sunshine filtered through the tall oriel windows. It haloed the red gold hair of the girl sitting sewing in the winged chair.

It also shed its benevolence on the older woman who sat beside her. A length of pale ribbon drifted from her slender fingers, pooling on her lap. She was fashioning a mobcap, with skill.

The woman looked up from her sewing and smiled at her young companion. “Nellia, I’d like you to tell Dwayne to move those two rose bushes to the end of the arbour. It will soon be too late in the season if it is not done immediately.”

The girl stirred in her chair, a shadowed expression on her face. She rose, laying down her sewing and crossed to the window. She stared down into the courtyard. A man and a boy of perhaps fourteen years were there, digging in the border garden. 

“Magnellia!” The older woman’s voice was a shade sharper.

“Yes, my lady.”  The girl turned quickly at the sound of her full name, used only when Lady Agnes was not quite pleased with her.

“Why do you hesitate child? It’s a simple request!”

The slight frown on the delicate features of Lady Agnes Morton, stirred the girl, who would never intentionally displease her guardian.

“I’m sorry, my lady – it’s just…” 

Again she cast a strained glance through the window.  “I’m afraid of him.”

“Afraid, Nellia? Afraid of Dwayne Gilbert? Why?”

Lady Agnes joined Magnellia at the window and looked down into the garden where her gardener, Dwayne Gilbert and his off-sider Billy, worked together.

“Dwayne is a diligent worker and seems honest enough. Has he harmed you, child?”

“No,” replied Magnellia, doubtfully, “ it’s just… the way… he looks at me.”

Lady Agnes smiled indulgently. “Come now dear, you are a pretty young lass. Of course he would look at you!”

She laid her hand on her ward’s arm. “Surely you realise you are under Sir Oliver’s and my protection, Nellia?” she said gently.

“Oh yes, my lady and I’m ever grateful.”  The girl smiled into the grey eyes of the woman she had grown to love and respect, this woman who had rescued her from poverty and ignorance, given her a home, clothed and educated her. The woman to whom Magnellia owed her life and well being.

“I’ll go at once. At the end of the arbour, you said, for the two rose bushes?”

“That’s right; off you go then, we’ll have negus and iced cakes when you return.” 

The gardener did not see her until she stood beside him. He and Billy straightened simultaneously and stared at Magnellia. A sly grin spread over Dwayne’s face.

“Ah, the crofter’s lass!”  

He greeted her with a thinly veiled sneer. He never spoke to her without a barbed reference to her humble beginnings.

The girl stared in distaste at the heavy, blocky figure, with the squarish, ruddy face, topped by crinkly mouse coloured hair. Pale blue eyes, with the whites too visible around the iris, stared at the girl with frank lust.

Bedside him, Billy stood, self consciously kicking a clod of earth, his eyes downcast, confused and dumbfounded, before the girl’s red and golden beauty. Her eyes, when he dared to look at her, were a clear, sea green. 

“Her ladyship wishes the two roses here to be transplanted to the end of the arbour.”

Magnellia delivered her message quickly and turned to leave.

Dwayne barred her path and laid a grimy paw on her arm. “How about a kiss, first?”

Without waiting for her startled refusal, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to him, planting a smacking kiss on her mouth.

Shocked and revolted, she pulled free from him and dealt him a stinging slap across the face.

With an oath, Dwayne stepped back, angry colour flooding his face, the outline of Magnellia’s hand, clearly visible. “You’ll pay for that, bitch!” he hissed at her.

The girl was already out of hearing, her feet flying across the courtyard and into the house.

Billy, eyes like saucers, stared in consternation at the older man. “Yer shouldna, done that, Dwayne – what if ‘er ladyship…”

“A pox on ‘er ladyship!” snarled the gardener. He stared at the hastily retreating girl, his scowling face bitter.  “Who do she think she is – upstart, crofter’s brat!”

 

Dwayne had been the head gardener on the Morton estate for five years, when Lady Agnes had brought the forlorn, twelve year old orphan to ‘Craigspur.’ Took her in, as if she were her own child, he thought, resentfully; and her father nothing but a simple crofter with a few sheep and a humble cottage.

Widower Ben Byrne had died of some chest complaint, leaving his twelve-year-old daughter alone in that miserable hut. As it was part of the wealthy, Sir Oliver Morton’s estate, the childless Lady Agnes felt responsible for the young orphan and had made her a ward. She treated the child as her own, bestowing the treasures of her learning and grace on the pretty, responsive girl, who blossomed like a flower under Agnes’s tender tutelage.

Dwayne had watched this from his humble gardener’s position and had coveted the girl from the moment he had laid eyes on her, a skinny, undernourished, twelve year old.

He had watched her blossoming and his lust had grown with it. A lust easily slaked with various kitchen and tavern wenches. But always, burning behind his eyes was the vision of Magnellia’s golden beauty, apparently removed from his reach, by the love and privileges of her guardians.

 

Dwayne was twenty when Magnellia came to Craigspur. Now at twenty-five, he was still a gardener and his fortunes showed no sign of improvement. He was quite well treated, but kept in his place, a place he regarded with increasing resentment.

Dwayne was the second son of a Glasgow innkeeper. His older brother, Barney, had remained at the inn to follow in his father’s footsteps. Dwayne decided to strike out on his own, here in the Scottish highlands. No other work had been available except this post as gardener on Sir Oliver Morton’s estate. He had accepted it until something more lucrative turned up. Five years later he was still here, resenting his servitude and hard work, resenting also, the way Magnellia Byrne had been accepted so effortlessly into the family fold.

Mingled with his resentment was his desire for her. He put a hand to his cheek which still smarted from her slap. He silently cursed her.

 

                                                ****

 

Magnellia caught her breath and struggled for composure before she faced Lady Agnes.

That brute! Her dislike of him reached new dimensions of revulsion as the memory of that brief contact with him smote her. She scrubbed at her mouth to remove the memory.

She hesitated to tell Lady Agnes of this encounter, remembering her guardian’s praise of the gardener’s industry and honesty. Much as she disliked him, she had no desire to be the cause of his dismissal. Besides, the strange fear of him persisted in her mind. She would carefully avoid him in the future.

 

When she entered the drawing room where they had been sewing, the serving girl, Nancy, was attending Lady Agnes with refreshments for the afternoon, small cakes and the negus.  Magnellia gratefully accepted the heated wine as the afternoon had grown chill.

Spring was still struggling with the winter thaw and the highlands were slow to feel the seasonal change.

There were happier thoughts for Magnellia that afternoon in spite of the unpleasant encounter with the gardener.

James MacLaughlin!  Magnellia’s mind lingered lovingly on the name. Dear Jamie…. almost her betrothed. It would be official in three weeks when the banns were read and posted in the kirk.

Lady Agnes and Sir Oliver were delighted about the match, as James, being the eldest, would inherit from the fierce old laird of that forbidding castle on the edge of the loch. James would eventually be laird and she, Magnellia would be his lady.

Looking back on her sorrowful childhood with its loneliness and endless deprivation, her present circumstances seemed almost too good to be true. Her gratitude to her benefactors welled anew in her heart as it always did when she contemplated her status in this family.

James had not been to visit her for a week for the MacLaughlin stronghold was half a day’s ride from the glen and village of Craigwellon.

 

Craigspur, British born Sir Oliver’s home, had been inherited from a Scots cousin. It was also the name of the village as it was situated on a spur of land, edged to the west with a copse of larch and pones. It was fragrant in spring with daffodils and primroses and it was now Magnellia’s delight to wander there and gather spring blossoms for the house. Later in May there would be heather, white and purple, marred only by the clouds of midges, which threatened mouth, nose and eyes whenever one walked abroad. These did not deter the girl who loved the heather, especially the white heather. She would gather large bunches of it whenever possible.

 

Lady Agnes set her negus on the small table beside her. She looked at her ward’s pensive face. “Will James be visiting this weekend, Nellia?”

“No, my lady. He will not be able to come until the weekend of the fair.”

Agnes sipped her wine. “Do you think you can spare enough time from your sweetheart to serve as usual at our stall?”

“But of course, my lady! Shall I be alone or will someone help with the cordial?”

“My dear, we can’t let you handle produce and drinks all by yourself! Meg Bailey will assist you.”

Magnellia hid her displeasure carefully. Meg Bailey was a buxom, black haired wench with a marked dislike and jealousy of Magnellia. As with so many under privileged in the village, Magnellia’s transition from humble crofter’s daughter to cherished darling of Lady Agnes and Sir Oliver was a cause of much jealousy and snide speculation.

Aware that she was the butt of this jealousy did not unduly worry Magnellia except when circumstances placed her in close contact with the villagers. She shrugged her shoulders and decided that nothing could mar her joy in her coming betrothal or the prospect of seeing her beloved in a just a few weeks’ time.

It was well that, in her innocence, Magnellia was not gifted with far sight.

 

                                                      ****

 

The following morning was cold but the mist around Cairgsur was evaporating beneath the strengthening beams of spring sunshine. The sky was a faint, eggshell blue.

Magnellia at herb window hugged herself in a moment of burgeoning, spring rapture. Such a day! I’ll go to the copse in early noon, she promised herself. The primroses will surely be out. As far as she could see, over the copse to the tall hedge behind, the bare trees were stirring with life and showing a tender mantle of green.

‘I must take Jamie for a walk in the copse,’ she mused. She had a vision of herself; hand fasted with her love, walking through a sea of daffodils and primroses.

 

James, tall and darkly handsome, was a somewhat gentler version of his formidable sire. He would, she knew; respond to the beauty of the woods in their wakening splendour.

She hoped Lady Agnes would not object to her unchaperoned walk with James. Magnellia knew of her guardian’s insistence on modesty and maidenly behaviour.

Standing there staring into the courtyard with its leafy arbour beyond, the girl marvelled anew at the strange destiny that had plucked her from the lowly poverty of her birth.

 

At that moment she saw Dwayne Gilbert and Billy walking through the courtyard to the arbour carrying the two rose bushes and spades. No doubt they were obeying the order to transplant. With an unpleasant jolt, Magnellia remembered yesterday’s incident and drew back behind the curtain.

She shivered. Somehow the morning’s radiance had disappeared. She dressed quickly in a simple morning gown, braided her long red gold hair and descended the stairs to start the day.

Her morning was spent assisting Nancy, the serving girl and Beddows, the cook, setting preserves. At Lady Agnes’s insistence Magnellia was being trained in house wifely duties, to take her place as the wife of James MacLaughlin and all it would entail as Lady of the future laird. The five years she had spent under Lady Agnes’s influence had shaped an ignorant child of uncouth speech into a gently spoken young lady. She had bloomed like a small green plant in the sunshine and unreservedly adored her guardian, replacing her as the mother she had lost when she was three years old.

With only the rough but kindly crofter father to care for her, she grew up a shy, half wild, little creature, sadly lacking civilized graces. It was thus that Lady Agnes found her and with all her gentle charm and skill, she had moulded the girl to become a suitable consort for someone like James MacLaughlin.

Hearing of his son’s attachment to the Morton ward, the stiff-necked and proud old laird had objected, knowing Magnellia’s background. However on meeting her, when James had brought her to the castle to meet his family, the old man was charmed with her modest demeanour and beauty.

He relented and gave them his blessing.

 

                                              ****

 

It was after the noon meal, that Magnellia asked her guardian if she might go to the woods to gather some primroses. Lady Agnes agreed, but cautioned her not to be too long.

“The evenings are still drawing in quite early, Nellia. I want you home, well before darkness falls.”

“Oh, I shan’t be more than an hour, my lady and I’ll have fresh primroses for the house and perhaps some daffodils.”

Lady Agnes smiled at the girl as she skipped lightly from the room. “What a blessing she has become,” she mused fondly.

 

Nellia appeared shortly after, dressed for her walk.

Lady Agnes looked up from her needlework and exclaimed in astonishment, “ Such splendour! Just for a ramble in the woods?”

“I’ve been longing to wear it my lady. It’s so new … and pretty!”

 

The girl smiled and twirled around to show off the new gown. It had been hanging in her closet, awaiting warmth of the sun for its first wearing.

Indeed it was pretty. A green muslin that matched her eyes, it had sprigs of white lilac on the bodice and a flowing skirt. Cream lace flounced the sleeves and the low cut bodice. The skirt was wide and long and gathered into her slim waist.

Lady Agnes frowned slightly and eyed the spreading green skirt.

“Do be careful of your gown, Nellia. The ground is sure to be damp and you could soil the hem.”

“Oh I’ll be very careful and I won’t go far into the woods, I promise,” said Nellia quickly.

She looked down at herself fleetingly, aware of the unsuitability of her attire. It was silly of her, she realised, wearing her lovely new dress to go flower picking. Spring must have made her reckless. She shrugged and decided it was too late to change and anyhow, she would be home in an hour.

She smiled, pressed a shy kiss on Lady Agnes’s cheek and left the room.

 

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