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Auld Pennygown

Scottish American Society

Tales of Pennygown

notes by J.A. Frost

How quickly lives can change. One day long ago as memory serves, Furnace Run flowed calmly within its accustomed banks gently seeking the deep cleft in the Braeghn cliffs and on into the sea. But after a number of days of incessant rain, the river became an overwhelming torrent of water that crested squarely in our small community of Pennygown. First a few, then many of the centuries-old cliffs to the east yielded their faces to the unrelenting forces of tumbling waters as the water fell at an alarming rate becoming waterfalls all along the cliffs. Little could stand up to the forces.
All of this started from a gentle rain that we all had welcomed. Then the extreme winds taken in stride became extra fierce as the river was gaining strength. But the most frightening thing was the sky. It was black. And the sounds,they were as if the otherworld had declared vengeance on our world. All that I saw around me was so very threatening and the sounds were equally terrifying. That is the main thing I remember,admitted Auld Annie who was an inhabitant of the original Pennygown settlement.In an instant our land was taken from us as it was washed away becoming part of the Great Loch. Most of our cattle drowned and therein lay the saddest of all outcomes.

Escaping with our lives, we became vagabonds just as our ancestors had become as they wandered west after Culloden. There was nowhere else to turn but to follow the course of Furnace Run to its mountainous source. We traveled as a homeless tribe, eventually finding what looked like arable land for farming plus there was some pastureland for the cattle we had salvaged and drove along with us. We called our new land Pudhall, but we were not happy. The land was difficult to work. So little grew in the saturated ground. We consumed all that could grow and the grasses could just nourish the cattle but there was nothing they could graze upon in the winter months. There was little that kept the cows alive and some were bled nearly to death in order to obtain blood pudding for our own sustenance. This plus the fact that this land was becoming clan country, and we were forced into living as members of a larger community of people in this part of Scotland. This meant a life as tenants on the land. We were told that we must live by clan rules under a tacksman who enforced clan rules in a manner totally foreign to our customs. We began to understand that the land belonged to a clan chief for whom the tacksman administered rules over tenants who shared the land cooperatively if that were possible,so sayeth Auld Annie.

However, Pudhall was located on Furnace Run and this fact took on importance as a few of the men folk found it useful to abandon the land for a day or two and to cast for fish along the banks of the river. This in turn led to the building of small crafts that allowed access to the loch into which Furnace Run flowed. The loch in turn yielded an abundance of fish, oysters and other shellfish.

It was on one of these forays to points along the loch that Artair made a miraculous sighting. He returned home in such a state that we all thought that he had seen ghosts. we have found the ghost of Pennygown. It is the land resurrected! The sea gave it back to us. It is there I swear. he yelled to all of us who had gathered at the house belonging to Anna for devotions.

What is all the skirling? There is no Pennygown since that terrible storm fifty years ago. The whole place was washed away, claimed by the sea. You remember how Pum claimed that our evil ways was responsible,exclaimed young Ian.

I saw it. It is there! Artair continued to yell hysterically.

Well that was the start of folk returning to a home on that small spit of land off the coast of the Great Loch that folk lovingly knew from their grannies and other ancient kinfolk as a place called Pennygown. Most folk of course never lived there, but all the tales that the auldsters would tell by the fireside related to Pennygown and life on the shielings (summer pastureland) which lay a short distance away. I guess thatis why they all wanted to be known as Pennygowners.

They had left Pudhall behind. It was terrible land really--beyond mere saturation. Most edible plants were pulled from the ground by their roots. That is not how to feed the next generation--destroying living plants that could germinate offsprings. A new Pennygown was the promised land. They knew the land returned by the sea would be fertile and the waters off a point of land along the Great Loch would be abundant with fish. After all, these were the same waters they had encountered upstream in Pudhall. Farmers and herders turned fishermen could be more secure in this new life. Fishing augmenting farming and herding assured survivability, but there was more to come.

Questions and comments to: jfrost1934@gmail.com