Horse Pics, LongRun, and 'Ian MacDougall'!
This story was written as an assignment during a creative writing course.
We were asked to create a character and then challenged with writing a short story featuring the character. I dreamt up 'Ian MacDougall'. I don't know why he came to mind! I hope you enjoy the story.
I follow the story with a piece about the 'Readers' Corner' on LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society's website (I'm one of the writers featured); and with pictures of the two horses we part-own that I took when we visited the backstretch at Woodbine on Sunday (May 21).
Ian spotted the boat just before it disappeared into a deep valley of water. Surf spewed off the huge dark green rollers. It was a relief when the ferry docked in the small harbour of the Isle of Kirkvan.
The young man walked off and threw up on the cold, grey granite quay. Ian knew he must be Jack.
They walked towards the car in the blustery wind. There were no trees on this green island to protect them from the gusts, and Jack wasn’t dressed for the Outer Hebrides.
Ian had envisioned Jack falling in love with Kirkvan—with its bleak and rugged landscape, and its cliffs which suspend you in the elements. He’d loved it for all his adult life.
Jack clutched onto the side of the car as he made his way to the passenger door.
“You’ve nae got your land legs yet”. Ian patted Jack on the back and laughed.
Ian had recruited Jack as a summer tutor. He’d sent Jack the link to the Kirkvan website—it gave statistics such as the population of 2,200 but it couldn’t convey the smells, sounds, or emotions of the island. And Ian hadn’t told Jack about himself or why he’d reached out to him.
Ian had been orphaned and knew only the last name of his parents. He’d been raised in various foster homes. Just before his eighteenth birthday he received notification of a substantial trust fund established as a result of his parents’ deaths. The lawyer was unable to provide further information—just his parents’ full names. Ian did extensive research.
He discovered that the MacDougall clan had owned Kirkvan Castle built by Lord Jamie MacDougall. He confirmed he was a direct descendant of the Lord. The castle had been uninhabited for decades. He bought it.
Ian thrived on the way of life—shepherding, peat cutting, and fishing. His strength and dry sense of humour served him well. And his successful business ventures meant he was worth nearly two million pounds.
He and Jack reached the castle. It was grandly positioned at the island's highest point and encircled by stone walls to keep the sheep in. It had a large granite turret attached to a two-storey wing. The wing’s slate roof was pierced by three imposing chimneys that disappeared into the clouds.
Ian opened the heavy, studded oak door and led the way to the restored wing’s ground floor, where he lived. The second floor housed the interactive museum featuring the MacDougall clan’s vivid history. Ian had previously intended to establish a trust fund for the maintenance of the castle and its museum, but his vision changed once Jack was discovered.
Jack’s colour improved with the help of the blaze from the peat fire and a cup of strong, sweet tea. Ian reflected on the clan’s motto ‘Victory or Death’. MacDougall blood meant strength, passion, and bravery.
He had to believe in this. At the right moment, he would tell Jack he was his grandson, and that he’d be entrusting his life’s work to him.
Ian pulled leather walking shoes on over his thick woolen socks and retrieved his walking stick from the copper umbrella stand just inside the heavy oak door. His stick was carved out of beech, and he liked the smooth, light feel of it.
Jack had left after breakfast having arrived only the afternoon before. Ian had told his grandson about the castle, the museum, the MacDougall clan, and his plan for Jack to assume stewardship. Jack’s response had been curt. He didn’t care if he was his grandson, he didn’t even know Ian, and he wasn’t prepared to give up his life in Edinburgh. He was engaged to be married, had a good job as a teacher and didn’t care about some castle that had been built centuries before.
The replaying of Jack’s words made Ian’s head ache and his hands tremble, and the only way Ian knew how to stop the hurt was to walk it off. He whistled for his border collie, and she dutifully followed him out of the door. They were met by a heavy sea mist curling around the castle. It was as if the elements were reflecting Ian’s somber mood—validating his ill humour.
Ian regretted that Jack hadn’t met any of the island’s warm, kind, and generous people, seen the fantastic changing dramas of the sky and sea, or smelt the green grass and the dark peat, or heard the lambs bleating or watched them jumping with joy. He hadn’t even shown Jack around the castle or museum. He’d foolishly alienated his only living relative.
He stepped onto the cliff path outside the grey granite castle wall, weighed down by his thoughts. The waves smashed against the seaweed-covered rocks far below and Ian could visualize the surf exploding up the cliff face. The smell of the slimy seaweed was like rotting salty cabbage and hung in the mist. The dampness permeated his heavy tweed jacket and droplets collected on his white beard.
His beloved dog kept close to his side, often looking up at him with her shiny brown eyes. Taking comfort from her, Ian lengthened his stride. He would walk along the cliff path and then back through town, making various visits, including the lawyer’s office to get matters underway to establish the trust for the castle and museum.
By the time they got home, they were emanating pungent odours of dampness. Ian built a peat fire in the large stone fireplace and turned on his computer to check the performance of his investment portfolio and to catch up on emails. He was surprised to find something from Jack and his hand shook as he opened the message.
Ian: I’ve just chatted with Laura about yesterday. She thinks we should both come out and see you. We can’t move there, but perhaps we can help somehow to oversee things or something? Sorry I left so abruptly. Laura thinks I was incredibly rude! Can we come out next week? Best, Jack.”
Ian leaned back in his chair and reflected that perhaps it doesn’t have to be ‘Victory or Death’. Perhaps the MacDougall motto should be updated to include ‘compromise’. He gave his dog a pat and then replied.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society
LongRun is an amazing charitable organization that makes sure that racehorses get an appropriate retirement.
I am proud to support them and I dedicated the fourth book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series, Playing with Fire, to LongRun.
I've just found out that they've set up a 'Readers' Corner' on their website and I'm featured along with other relevant writers. Check it out! https://longrunretirement.com/readers-corner/
And there are beautiful horses available for adoption!
It's a Fluke was chilling when we visited the backstretch at Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday (May 21).
He's taking it easy for a while as his bones and tendons develop.
He's a big horse and puts a lot of strain on his legs when he gallops. And he's only three years old.
Patience is an important part of training a racehorse!
Admissible ran her first race on Friday, May 19!
She was up against tough competition but did well. She came fifth.
She's pleased with herself and looks in great condition.
We hope she'll race in about three weeks' time.
And perhaps she'll run on the turf!
Both of them enjoyed the carrots we brought them!
Stay tuned for more updates.