This is another one for my notebook and compost heap. This is the rough outline of a historical fiction novel I started, but have decided not to proceed with. I love historical fiction, and the ones that I respect and admire typically are written by an author who has spent many many years researching the history. Traveling this path for awhile (I’ve poured many many hours into this project) I’ve learned something about myself, I’m not really an aspiring historical fiction writer. The thing that speaks the to me are moral and ethical issues. This is one reason I am so drawn to historical fiction, but developing my skills as a historical fiction writer is not the direction I want to go.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to make public all my notes and story outline that I’ve created so far about this story I wanted to write. You can find them all under the category “James MacAvoy.” I hope that someone will write an inspiring historical fiction novel about the Highland Clearance. There’s some out there, I haven’t read any of them yet.

This is a historical fiction story about James MacAvoy that I am working on. It takes place in Scotland during the Highland Clearances. I’ve decided to follow the pattern of the first publication of Alexandre Dumas’ notable book, The Count of Monte Cristo, which was released a few chapters at a time over the span of two years, and share with you each chapter as I finish them. If you scroll down to the bottom of this blog, you’ll see a list of Categories. If you click on the “Jame MacAvoy” category, it will take you to all the chapters for this book.

Chapter One – James MacAvoy 1814

How could the water both terrify me and bring me peace? (opening sentence needs to be something about water and how it brings life and death) Water is the gift of life and the source of death. We worship it’s life giving miracle, but do you see her angry vengeance that robs unjustly life? How is that something so full of life and beauty can also betray and become like the oppressors of the Highlands? Humans are also like water. They can create life, the most beautiful life, but humans can betray and create ugly storms that oppress the innocent drowning life in the depth of their darkness.

I was sacred of the rain’s awful noise on the roof trying to claw it’s way in. My mind was too young comprehend the other elements that were far more powerful and where already destroying more than my protective roof.

Undeterred by the storm, mama remained on top of our house, carefully removing the boards of the roof leaving me all alone during the storm while inviting to the rain and wind into my sanctuary. I pulled the wool blanket closer to me trying to keep the cold away, but still the rain pelted my face mixing among my tears.

Most of the time I felt lucky to be young. I was little enough to sit on Dadaidh lap when he returned from the heath pastures resting my head on his chest, close enough to smell the grass and cattle and sweat on his clothes. Because I was the youngest, I got to stay with Mama when my brothers had to tirelessly work the land of our croft and race against the seasons to store up enough fodder for the cattle until spring when they could feast upon the pastures. I was lucky to be the youngest because I got to stay by Mama’s side and listen to her sing the Gaelic songs about the mountain as she worked. Her singing had the power to protect me and to make the seeds we buried in the fertile soil grown into plants.

Oh, I see, I see the great mountains, Oh, I see, I see the lofty mountains, Oh, I see, I see the corries, I see the peaks beneath the mist. High mountains with lovely slopes
Folk there who are always kind, Light is my step when I go bounding to see them, And I will willingly remain there for a long while.

I have never been able to figure out if it was her singing that made our land come alive or our land that made her songs come alive.

But my luck was running out. I noticed my mama’s tummy was becoming more and more swollen. I had seen this happen each year with our cattle and knew that soon I wouldn’t be the youngest anymore. The time was quickly approaching when I would have to the noble status I enjoyed to another.

Shortly after the new calves were born, they burned our heath pastures because they want us to leave. Dadaidh said that they had no more right to make us leave our land than a king has to expel his people from his country. If we don’t leave they might arrest Dadaidh like they did to Alexander Mackenzie. The people making us leave called in the soldiers from Fort George and put a lot of men in jail. I couldn’t figure out why they were putting us in jail when they were the ones stealing our lands. Why were they putting our men in jail for staying on their lands? Wasn’t it wrong for them to tell us to leave and right for us to stay and protect our fathers’ lands?

They’re telling everyone to leave. In Farr, the parish next to our, they pushed out families and their cattle off their crofts to smaller patches of lifeless land among on moors and the bogs. Dadaidh and my brothers had taken the horses up to Farr to help William Chisholm carry the timbers he had pulled down from his house to use to build his house again in the moors far away from his gardens.

It is more work for Dadaidh now that the pastures are burned. The cattle roam the mountains looking for food and he doesn’t come home at night as often because of the distance the cattle travel to find food. Most night it’s just Mama, me, and her songs.

Dadaidh said it was time to leave, that’s why Mama was on the roof during the storm taking down the timbers.

I huddle near the fireplace trying to stay warm, staring blankly at the dancing flames finially becoming oblivious to rain. And then I heard it. That awful sound that still haunts my dreams at night. As awful as that sound was, the silence that followed was even more terrifying. The sound awoke me from the calming lullaby of the flames into a nightmare. There on the floor behind me lay my Mama who had fallen through the roof.

I don’t what happened after that. Maybe one of Mama’s songs carried us away to the place where the mist kisses the peaks of the mountains and kept us safe until Dadaidh came home. Dadaidh later told me that he had found me huddle next to Mama with the blanket draped over us. The embers of the fire had grown cold and wet. I don’t know how I got there. I don’t remember anything else from that night except for that awful sound of wood breaking and my Mama’s body hitting the floor. The baby in my mama’s tummy died that night they say. My mamma died a week later.

Historical Notes

  • John Mackay’s wife, Ravigill, in attempting to pull down her house, in the absence of her husband, to preserve the timber, fell through the roof. She was in consequence taken in premature labour, and in that state was exposed to the open air and to the view of all the by-standers. (Stories of the Highland Clearances, Alexander Mackenzie, p.18)
  • Dadaidh is daddy in Gaelic
  • In the month of March, 1841, a large proportion of the Highalnders of Farr and Kildonan, two parishes in Sutherland, were summoned to quit their farms in the following May. IN a few days after, the surrounding heath on which they pastured their cattle…were set on fire and burned up. (Stories of the Highland Clearances, Alexander Mackenzie, p.39)

February 20, 2020

Chapter -False Gods and the widow

He meant to comfort, but the words felt like the cold bitter wind, that crept into our dugout shelter. He urged Papa to submit. It would be easier if we would just move off our land and give it to the factor. Misfortunes are fore-ordained of God, and have meaning and purpose in our life. Who are we to tell God that His plan for us is wrong? Are we religious cowards, unwilling to walk the path that God created for us to pass through. Are we not to follow Jesus in drinking the bitter cup that even He did not want to drink, but knew he must. We too must drink this bitter cup.

Aren’t we all worshiping a false God? Do we really know who God is?

Alexander’s widow, who nearly spent her life sitting in her rocking chair for the pain was to great for her to move from it’s spot. She often spent the night sleeping. When the came to relocate her she…

I thought I knew her, but as I sat by her side after she had moved, it seemed I saw her for the first time. She knew this was the end for her and she seemed to welcome it as though she had been waiting for it long enough. The peace that overcame her lossed her tounge and shaprened her mind.

“Did you know that my husband fought in the war? During that time I was left to tend to the cattle on my own. [Insert some good story her about her]

Did I really know the widow of Alexander? [find the real names]

Did I really know who God was? We all worship a false God. We all have an imperfect, incomplete perception of who God is. How often we blame God for something he did not do.

The factors saw us as lazy. They had an imperfect understanding of us.

We have an imperfect understanding of God’s character. Our view of God is completely accurate. We don’t have a perfect knowledge of who God is and of His true character, it’s a growing understanding and we should make space for the growing of that understanding of who God really is and is not.

Chapter – On The William Brown

The rocking of the ship