Hudson loves his grandad Mac, a brave Scottish hunter (or so grannie said).
He loves to hear the stories of his life back in Scotland especially the adventures he and his brother Kenzie had as children over a hundred years ago. (Maybe not that long really – but a long time ago)
Papa Mac tells of the time he stumbled across a wise old man hiding on the hill at the back of their croft. The old man was sitting quietly looking out over the gorse bushes bright with the yellow flowers of spring.
“Aye lads, it’s going to be a good year for the wild haggis, and this will be a great place to find them”
Papa Mac and Kenzie had never heard of wild haggis, but the old man was about to share secrets he never told before…………….
So, the old man began.
Wild Haggis unlike today’s farm haggis are exceedingly rare, found only on the remotest Scottish hillsides in the summer, making their way up to the top of the mountains just in time for autumn where they then disappear.
A long, long time ago wild haggis were very common, found nearly on every mountain sharing the hillside with the wildcats, red deer and of course the unicorns.
Hudson was always transfixed when Papa Mac told stories of
the olden days especially now as he began to describe the story of the wild haggis.
The wild haggis, or to give them their real name Haggis Scotticus are tiny but excessively big if you were small, about the same size as Grannies lazy cat. Some people say small and fat! ( also like Grannie) They have the softest brindle hair like the long wavy coats of the best Highland cattle, amazing hearing thanks to their bat like ears, ( again like Grannie) a fantastic sense of smell with their twitchy nose of the field mouse and the brightest big round eyes you have ever seen. Some say they are like a hedgehog only much much bigger, but you get the idea.
However, the two most striking features of the wild haggis are their unicorn like horn and their legs.
Legs of the Haggis Scotticus are legendary, two long (for their size) on the left and two short on the right! This makes them the best and fastest
climbers of the Scottish hills but for one thing – they must always travel in a clockwise direction.
Unlike today’s farmed haggis the Haggis Scotticus still have a small unicorn horn which makes them incredibly special indeed. No one really knows why they have a horn, but they use it each and every day to dig around the hard, rocky hillsides in search of the freshest midge for their dinner!
The steep hillsides on the Scottish mountains are no problem for the wild haggis (provided they travel always in a clockwise direction remember), which they always do.
Climbing higher and higher and round and round until they reach the autumn grazing of the unicorns high up the mountain far from all but the bravest and determined Scottish hunter.
These secret magical grazing fields have been known to be there since the beginning of time but very few people know how to find them.
Some say in a long-forgotten time the wild cats and red deer were one and the same. The real kings of the Scottish mountains. From them the wild haggis and unicorns were born over millions of years.
The old man did say he never knew if this was true, but it sounded right to him.
“How do you find the Unicorn’s fields?” Hudson asked excitedly.
You need to follow the young haggis of course! That is how you can find the Unicorn Fields.
The story Papa Mac was about to tell was just that – how t
he old man found the unicorn fields and became one of the best brave Scottish haggis hunters.
So, the old man started.
I was not very brave when I was young boy always watching but never really getting involved. I would watch as my brothers, Alexander, Malcolm, and Makenzie would get into so many scraps on the shinty field, always in trouble and causing many arguments and quarrels, but they really did love to be at the heart of everything! Oh, the fun they have.
The great haggis hunt day had arrived.
Everyone gets up early on the 1st Tuesday after the 2nd Thursday in June to the sound of the bagpipes. As the sound passes your Croft you join into the line of marching until you have the longest marching band and army you have ever seen. You march together as the line gets bigger and bigger to the village square. The gathering has begun.
From the village cross all the way down to the castle by the loch. It may only be around three miles but when you are wee it is the longest walk you could imagine. What a spectacle this outlandish occurrence is.
Normally when you went on a walk you might drink some water, today whisky is the order of the day. The march becomes dancing, then the singing begins then, well, let us just say this is the day a years’ worth of arguments with your neighbours come to the surface. Groups fall off to the side of the march and things are “sorted out” the w
ay my brothers only know how.
At last we all trundle over the castle bridge and into the courtyard. Singing dancing, drinking, and making merry by now the order off the day. Everyone telling tales of great haggis hunts from years gone by.
SCREAK, SCREAK, SCREAM, SHRIEK, SHRILL, SQUAWK, SQUEAK, SQUEAL, YABBER, YAMMER.
From high up on the castle walls the unmistakable sound bellowed down into the courtyard.
The lone piper is calling the haggis hunters.
SCREAK, SCREAM, SHRIEK, SHRILL, SQUAWK, SQUEAK, SQUEAL, YABBER, YAMMER. Then “Scotland the Brave”
It was time.
The call had been made. All haggis hunters must gather before their laird.
Clearly my brothers were first in line, clambering over every
one and each other just to get to the front. All I could think was, the fools we all know haggis hunting is extremely dangerous and not to be taken lightly at all.
Each year only three hunters are chosen, and it is a great honour to be picked.
The present laird has been sending three men up the hill behind the village for over 20 years now and not once had any returned with a haggis. When they do return all, they bring are tails, barefaced fibs, and tall stories!
So, this year the laird decided (to everyone’s surprise as they were incredibly young to be chosen) to let my brothers Alexander, Malcolm, and Makenzie do their worst and gave them the distinction of being this year’s Haggis hunters.
As I said before, I was never very brave when I was a wee laddie and I wanted nothing to do with the haggis hunt, but my brothers had a hugely different idea.
And so, it was that this year there were now four haggis hunters.
Their oath of obligation to the laird now complete the brothers were off, jumping for joy, heading upwards higher and higher, the cheers from the crowd falling silent the further round the hillside they travelled.
When far from the village I was told my job was to catch the haggis. It really is the easy part insisted my brothers.
I was to take off my kilt and throw it over all haggis they would chase down the hill! Simple.
I was not so sure, but my brothers were insistent. Describing what was required.
I was to sit behind a gorse bush and when the haggis passed by, I was to jump out. BOO! the haggis would be startled, stop, and I would have lots of time to throw my kilt over them. We would catch some haggis and we would be brave haggis hunters.
With three hunters and now one catcher no haggis was getting away.
So, I was left near the bottom of the hill while my mad brothers headed off up to the Craig.
And so, it was, I was left on a nice sunny Scottish hillside while all this time they were clambering over the heather, the rocks, and the peat. My brothers
were making so much noise that even I could hear them from the bottom of the hill, and I was sure they would never find a haggis making all that noise.
I decided to make the most of the sunshine decided to relax and quickly fell asleep (well we were all up exceedingly early that morning).
As I opened my eyes, exactly right beside me the most gorgeous wee baby haggis you have ever seen.
There was no way I was going to let my brothers know. I could not have them catch this wee haggis, and I wanted to help him. Where were his mum and dad?
So, I quietly just picked him up, no fuss and straight into my pocket he went.
Then it happened, woooooosh, two amazingly fast haggis.
Straight passed they rushed, followed by my three brothers tumbling down the mountain behind them.
As my brothers rushed to catch the haggis I just watched in amazement as the haggis twisted and turned their way down the hillside. It look to me like they were just as quick going down the hill as up!
Just as I had suspected, my brothers never caught up with the haggis and like every year since the laird had been sending hunters up the hill they were back in the castle empty handed.
I was told wild haggis stay on the mountain but the wee haggis in my pocket somehow made sure I knew exactly where I was to take him (or her) so I could set him free.
It was a long walk away, but I was heading directly to Schiehallion. The big pointy mountain stands closest to the centre of Scotland. Something also told me tha
t the haggis was incredibly happy because he knew he was going home.
I was guided to a small mound on the north, in the shadow of this great mountain. Towards a small clump of trees which clung on for dear life to the craig. They were surrounded by a circle of ancient standing stones and I could hear a strange buzzing. I just knew it was the right place.
As I let the wee haggis down on the ground, he just looked up, I am sure he smiled and then just vanished.
Through the stones!
Today, the standing stones are incredibly famous but back then very few people made the trail to this magical place. Most were very frightened of what they may find as they had heard so many wild stories of missing people and strange goings on.
But if you go, you will surely find the Unicorn fields.
You just need to follow the haggis.
The old man made it sound so simple.
So that’s how Papa Mac tells the story of the old haggis hunting man.
Mac and Kenzie spent the rest of that summer looking for the haggis but never found any.
Hudson now thinks he knows how to find the unicorn fields and become a great Scottish haggis hunter and he hopes to be much more successful than his Papa Mac.