Sillicks and Cuevs

My name is Adele and I lived at Woo, Sourin, Rousay.

Tommy Inkster, Woo; Andrew Kirkness from Holm; Willie Flaws, Hammerfield,
Lily [Sinclair] Miller [teacher at the Wester School, 1948-60]; Adeline Inkster
[district nurse for Rousay]; and Mabel [Lily’s sister] Flaws.

Tommy Inkster ran the farm and Adeline Inkster was the district nurse. We would visit many people and as a child it seemed exciting that we would go to so many folks houses. I remember that I hated going over the Lean, still do, but to get to Willie and Mabel o Hammerfield’s house that was the quickest way.

Hammerfield was in Wasbister. There was an old smiddy and Jack o Yorsten’s cottage then up a long narrow road to Hammerfield. Behind Hammerfield it seemed a short walk to the cliffs.

It must have been winter this night we set off because it was pitch black. We went in Adeline’s red mini, up the Lean; once past it I would breathe a sigh of relief when the house of the Firth’s came into sight. On past Cougar and Wasbister school to our destination.

Getting out of the car I was hit with wind that pulled me back. Already my imagination was working overtime. It was the Finn folk come to take me away or drop me off the cliff. When I got inside however, Mabel dispelled such thoughts with her warm smile and huge hug. Willie was sitting in his chair by the fire and grinned at me when we went into the living room.

Bill, Mabel and Spotty-dog at Hammerfield

Drams, tea or coffee and pieces were served. I always got lemonade and lots of pieces. The conversation would begin and then I would be silent, usually sat at Willie’s feet next to the fire. I would look up into the rafters where all the silliks and cuevs were hanging up, drying on long strings. Their eyes would stare back at me and make me feel like they were alive. Willie might notice and then the best bit of the night, to me, began. He would tell stories of selkies and trows and magical Finn folk and how they would interact with humans.

The night would march on but inside Hammerfield, time was forgotten as Willie spun golden threads of history for me. I used to try to ignore Adeline’s soft speech saying it was time for bed. It took Willie to say there’s always more stories next time before I would move.

Then it was out into the cold darkness again and the wind that now seemed to be possessed. Up the Lean then down the brae to the turn off for Woo. The kitchen in Woo was a small one with a sink that had a space underneath it where the bucket would sit.

That space became the blackest pit for me and when I was told to wash my hands I obeyed with fear. You see, underneath the sink, inside the bucket lived the wicked witch and if I didn’t wash my hands quick enough she would drag me by the legs into her bucket and I would never be seen again.

[N.B. All spellings that are no English are phonetic]