Fort William

Caron and I had travelled to Fort William mainly to paint the majestic highland landscapes and when not painting to walk without planning in this most beautiful of areas

However this came to sudden halt on Tuesday when I slipped on a rock and tore my ankle ligaments which meant a lengthy visit to a hospital and promise of more treatment when I returned home

We were based in the Premier Inn Hotel which overlooked Loch Linnhe and planned to go to Glen Coe and visit Ben Nevis when we were not walking

Our trusty car waited for these adventures in the car park

However  due to my injury I found it very painful to move even more than a few yards and I was quite lost with the help of my crutches

The local GP prescribed me stronger painkillers and to too some extent they helped and I began to move around more freely but not without pain

We planned our visits for the following week when I hoped my ankle would be slowly repairing itself

On Saturday August the Ninth there was a great deal of excitement in the town as the Scottish Cup Shinty Semi-Final was being held at the An Aird Park which as luck would have it could be seen directly from our hotel windows

Resisting the urge to watch the match from the window, I slowly made my way to the ground to watch the game which was between Fort William and Kingussie

My wife did not care for shinty as she considered it too violent and decided to retire to the shores of the loch to catch up on some painting

At half time after a fragmented first half the score was

Fort William 2 Kingussie 2

Although I was interested in the game what was attracting me more and more was the special light which illuminated everything. That is not to say that there were no clouds but due to the nature of the stiff wind they did not hide the sun for long

Without looking at her work I knew that Caron would be producing special watercolours as the ever changing light did not lack suggestion

The second half of the game was very much like the first and was if anything more fragmented. Fort William hit the post midway through the half but although Kingussie were most probably the better side this was the closest that either side came to scoring

From my vantage I could see Caron changing her position when painting. For a while she spoke to what seemed to be an elderly gentleman who appeared to give her something which she placed in her pocket

The game went into extra time and apart from the sending off of a Fort William player and a couple of goalmouth skirmishes not much else happened

The game went to penalties

As the referee was organising the shoot-out I saw the old gentleman again this time he was considerable nearer. His features seemed familiar but I could not place him. He was speaking to a young boy of about nine

The penalties were as tight as the game had been with KIngussie holding an advantage until the final penalty which if it had not been missed would have won the game for Fort William

When I looked up again the old gentleman had gone and the little boy was heading towards me

After Fort William missed their next penalty Kingussie scored theirs and won the game in great celebration

The little boy eventually found me and said that the old gentleman had just said one thing to him

“I knew that she would return from Jamaica”

“ Is that all he said ?” I enquired


I gave the child two pounds for his effort in finding me and with considerable difficulty walked out of the ground in search of my wife

An official of the club came up to me and gave me a yellow Fort William shirt and a programme signed by all the players. When I enquired why I was being given such a gift the man modestly replied

“We all knew that she would return”

I thanked the club official again and hopped painfully on my crutches towards my wife who was facing the loch with her water colour pad on an easel which she had weighted down with stones to stop it blowing away

“It has been difficult to paint today due to the breeze but I have finished five watercolours which I think are most fine” she said handing me her work

Each of the watercolours had caught the part of the afternoon when they had been created and I said that we would frame her work as soon as we had a chance unless a passer-by offered a good price for them

“But I did sell one” Caron said

“To whom”

“To the gentleman who was here about an hour ago. He only took one, probably one of my weakest but insisted that I signed it”

“Which you did?”

“ Yes and that was the odd part, he asked that I sign it Mary Campbell, I thought this funny but did so as I considered the gentleman just a little eccentric and he kept saying to me that he knew that I would always return to this area”

I then told Caron of what the little boy had said to me and of my gift from the Fort William club official

“He did not pay me for the watercolour, not that I would accepted purchase but gave me this coin, a silver sixpence which he said he found on the slopes of Ben Nevis. He said that I must keep it with me on all future travels and when I looked at it I should think of him. And that was that he just left me without a word and headed towards the sports ground where you were watching your match”

For the first time in the day the clouds threatened and Caron and I decided to make our way towards our hotel

What was noticeable was that complete strangers were smiling not at me but at Caron and one even noted a good return

We ate well that evening and as we lay sleepily in each others arms we both heard although slightly obscured by the wind outside what we made out to be poetry

Caron looked from the window but there was nothing to be seen and she returned to our sheets

As we retired to our dreams we could still hear on the wind

Ye banks and braes and streams around
The castle of Montgomerie,
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie!
There simmer first unfauld her robes,
And there the longest tarry!
For there I took the last fareweel
O’ my Sweet Highland Mary.