An Gaidheal Ur. "De tha sin, a ghraidh?" On the telly, Celtic and Liverpool. On the radio, Rangers and Strasbourg. We have come a long way.
In Stornoway, my mother lies dying: a seann Ghaidheal to the last. Her mother died when she was four; her stepmother when she was twelve. Her first child died, aged fifteen months; her second, aged twenty-eight. She cleared away all his photos and never looked at his likeness again. In childhood, she had potatoes and salt for dinner, and was belted at school for speaking Gaelic. Her father took the King's Shilling and served as a soldier in Egypt. In the Great War, he was a Seaman, RNR. "'M bidh muir a'cur ort?" he asked me once. "Bithidh," I said. "Bha sin a's na daoine," he said, "Bha mis aig an iasgach fad mo bheath's bha 'm muir a'cur orm a h-uile la." I remember it every time I board the ferry. A seann Ghaidheal, pulling nets, sea-sick, day after day, year after year, from Stornoway to Yarmouth and Scrabster to Lowestoft.