This book by Norman Matheson follows on as a companion volume to his highly regarded A Speyside Odyssey (Matador 2019). It is a compilation of eleven autobiographical short stories. These stories begin with the author’s childhood wartime experiences of life on a small farm in upper Speyside. The description of the rather harsh existence, with utilities limited to a trickle of cold water, is relieved by pervading humour, brought to life by the author’s numerous cartoons, which enliven and enrich the visual attraction of the whole book.
Several stories from later life reflect the author’s extensive experience of salmon fishing, especially on Spey. The topography of the river, several pools of which are illustrated by attractive watercolour sketches, is brought to life with delight in their inviting characteristics. One specific Spey pool on the Tulchan water that enchanted the author unforgettably is mentioned more than once with emotive memory. Encounters with salmon, that were remarkable in one way or another, form the basis of a few stories that should entrance fishermen of a sensitive disposition. Memorable men, who once enlivened the riverside life of Speyside with their flights of imagination and inspired humour, are brought to life in two illustrated stories. Their memories now promise to be enshrined in print.
Elsewhere, the author’s love of the Isle of Skye, with which he has familial connections, is fondly expressed. His grandfather’s unusual lifestyle, including his funeral, which included a remarkable night-time journey by horse and sledge, in star-lit darkness, along a tree-lined, snow-bound road, is etched in the author’s memory.
Finally, there is a story about the acquisition of a freshwater pearl that, in the author’s romantic mind, became priceless. The envisaged future homecoming of the pearl, mounted in a gold ring, promises to be enchanting.