Thursday, 5 December 2013

How Much Land Does Hector Lindsey Need?

Todays's tale comes from Ross Ahlfeld...

Hector Lindsey was born in 1725 in the parish of Innerkip. Hector was a farmer who lived in a row of four cottages all joined together called Bridgend. Hector lived next door to his older brother Archibald Lindsey, who in turn lived next door to his even older brother Alistair Lindsey who in turn lived next door the oldest brother Abraham Lindsey.    

Now, Hector was not a poor man, but neither was he a rich man. Most days Hector yearned to leave farm life behind and become a rich landlord. He often thought to himself ,'if I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear Auld Nick himself!'. Unbeknownst to him, Satan was sitting behind the stove and listening. And so the De'il quickly accepted Hector’s challenge.

So, a week later the oldest brother Abraham Lindsey took ill with the cold and died and Hector himself purchased the house and the land, and by working off the extra land he was able to repay his debts and live a more comfortable life. Then, the following week, Alistair Lindsey also took ill and died, and again Hector bought the house and the land and became even richer. Still unhappy, Hector yearned for even more land, and having become so greedy he even hoped for his last remaining brother Archie to get a fever so that he could get this land too. Sure enough, a few weeks later Archie Lindsey became sick and died suddenly and so Hector now owned all four cottages and all the surrounding land.

Hector then became very possessive of his land, and this caused arguments with his neighbors in Innerkip. And so, Hector moved to a larger area of land nearer Greenock. Here, he grew even more crops and amassed a small fortune, but Hector still had to grow his crops on land rented from the Shaw Stewart family, which irritated him. Finally, after buying and selling a lot of fertile and good land, he travelled to Gourock and across the Clyde to Dunoon then up into Argyll looking to swindle some 'daft teuchtar' or some 'uneducated Heilan Chieftain'.

Eventually, Hector heard of a once great Chieftain called Old McPhunn who was both childless and penniless. After the defeat at Culloden most Chieftains had left for France or married into the English Gentry. But not McPhunn, no Old McPhunn now sat in his draughty, crumbling castle, with his last few clansmen, all decked out in well worn, faded, raggedy plaid. Yes, McPhunn had nothing left. No sheep, crofters, no clan, nothing but…land. Lots of useless land, in fact some say he owned forests, fields and lochs stretching from the top of the great glen all the way down to the western isles.

So, Hector turned his attention to these simple-minded people who owned a huge amount of land. Hector planned to take as much of the Clansmen’s land for as low a price as he could negotiate. But the Cheiftan’s offer was very unusual; for a sum of just one pound, Hector was permitted to walk around as large an area as he wanted and take as much land as he could cover on foot. It was agreed that Hector could start at Castle McPhunn on the shore at daybreak (and marking his route with a spade along the way) he could have all the land he marked out. If he reached his starting point by sunset that day, then the entire area of land his route enclosed would be his, but if he did not reach his starting point by dusk, then he would lose his money and receive no land at all.

Hector was delighted for he believed that he could cover a great distance and had chanced upon the bargain of a lifetime. But that night, Hector experienced a terrible nightmare in which he saw himself lying dead by the feet of the Devil, who was laughing at his corpse.

Regardless, the next morning he set out early, at first light from Castle McPhunn and stayed out as late as possible, marking out the land until just before sunset. Towards the end of the day, he realized that he was far from the starting point and so he ran back as fast as he could to the waiting Chieftain and the clansmen. He finally arrived at the starting point just as the winter sun was setting. The Clansmen cheered his good fortune, but exhausted from the run, Hector dropped to the feet of Chieftain McPhunn, gasping for breath.

As he lay on the cold stone floor Hector spotted a bright red pointed tail sticking out the bottom of the Chieftain’s great Kilt. The Chieftan looked down and smiled. It is thought that Hector died on the spot of exhaustion, fright (or even shame) and so his servant buried him in an ordinary grave in the forest near castle McPhunn only six feet long, thus ironically answering the question posed in the title of this story…how much land does Hector Lindsey need? 

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