The Emancipation of Dolores McCrumble

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I'm so afraid

Things are just going from bad to worse, Joseph has got his own set of problems which I'm sure he'll tell you about shortly, but a recent event that happened to me has shaken me to my very core.

Let me contextualise...

When I was a wee girl, Granny Elspeth (my mother's mother) used to tell me a tale about a tortoiseshell cat with a tartan collar. The legend went that if you should turn around and see this particular feline behind you you'd be faced with certain death. As I child I lapped up her spooky stories and as a young adult I'd merely dismissed this particular story as crofter's folklore. However, a few years ago I was clearing out my mother's attic (she's a terrible horder, which may come as no surprise to some). I came across a battered old suitcase. It wasn't locked so I flicked it open. Inside were just standard attic paper finds really: bank statements, carbon copies of twin tub receipts, a photo of mother in her 1950s 'fancy outfit' but then I found a thick bundle of papers held together with frayed baler twine. I saw no reason why I shouldn't have a shifty through the bundle. It soon became apparent that the bundle contained details of the demise of Duncan 'The Haggis' MacIntosh (my great grandfather - Granny Elspeth's father). The bundle contained a death certificate, coroner's report, an artist's impression of the scene of death and several newspaper clippings. I ascertained very quickly that an unfortunate and untimely accident had befallen my great grandfather. The coroner's report read simply: 'death by misadventure' though from my further investigations, how the verdict of 'misadventure' was applied to the accident I'm not sure.

It transpires...

My great grandfather was an ardent industrialist and also had a penchant for inventing. He grew up the son of a haggis maker who was the son of a haggis maker (you get the picture). Duncan 'The Haggis' however, whilst wanting to keep up the family tradition, did not envisage himself elbow deep in bovine intestines so he patented (after years of trial and experimentation) a haggis stuffing machine. This machine proved to a blessing to MacIntosh & Sons (Purveyors of Fine Haggis). Production was soaring and he was even embarking (somewhat bizarrely for those times) on haggis export to the Far East.

Now, this is where the newspaper stories cut in. I tried to scan one of the papers onto my PC, unfortunately it didn’t work as the page is so faded and crumpled. I have instead typed the story out for you to read:



The Crofter
Haggis Maker’s Tragic Accident


15 June 1899


News reached The Crofter last evening of a terrible accident at MacIntosh & Sons haggis factory on Sporran Lane. Duncan ‘The Haggis’ MacIntosh owner of the factory was minced to death in a haggis stuffing machine of his own design.
MacIntosh, 41, inherited the factory from his late father Angus MacIntosh in 1883. The manufacturing of haggis had been in the MacIntosh family for 25 generations.

An eye-witness described the accident to our reporter, Flinty McTavistock.

“Och, it was horrible. I turned aroooond after hearing a terrible noise, and there was Duncan being pulled in tae the mincer. I couldnae pull him oot, so I heed to jus watch him gat minced. “

Further investigation has revealed that immediately prior to the accident, a tortoiseshell cat with a tartan collar was seen crawling under the offal cart.

It has long been legend in these parts that if you see a tortoiseshell cat with a tartan collar your death will be imminent.

Could Duncan have seen the cat? Would such a fright have led Duncan to slip on some discarded sheep intestine?

The eye-witness went on to say that Duncan’s final words were “ahhhh, the bassa wee beastie.” This may support the notion that Duncan had indeed seen the tortoiseshell cat.

Duncan’s wife Morag and daughter Elspeth are said to be distraught and with no son to inherit the family business, they’re concerned about their livelihood.

Funeral details will be published in The Crofter tomorrow. Mrs MacIntosh asks for no flowers, donations to the Haggis Makers Benevolent Fund.


You might be wondering how this sad tale is relevant to me today, apart from allowing me to delve into my ancestry. Well, let’s just say, I’m now living in mortal fear of my own demise.

Yesterday morning I was pottering around in the office, mainly tidying Joseph’s desk (how he can work with so much clutter beggars belief). I was loading a tray with Joseph’s discarded coffee cups, mugs, plates, bowls (all Denby please note, though I hate the bloody stuff, it’s like concrete) apple cores, KitKat wrappers and grape pips. Once the tray was full I walked down to hall to the kitchen, I put the tray down on the sideboard and then walked down further to the lounge. As I crossed the lounge threshold, for some reason I felt compelled to turn around. Behind me (I still shake when regaling this) staring blankly at me was a very thin, mangy-looking yet unmistakably, a tortoiseshell cat with a tartan collar. I just froze. The cat’s yellow eyes narrowed a little and seemed to look through me. I managed to compose myself sufficiently to utter a feeble “shoo, shoo get out.” Now, in my experience of cats, if they’re doing something they’re not meant to be doing they leg it out of the way fairly sharpish if you shout at them. This cat merely clicked itself into first gear and walked very slowly through the lounge and out of the open patio door. I bounded across the lounge to shut and lock the door so as to prevent it from coming back in. My heart was thumping like hell and I then quickly darted from room to room, not sure what I was looking for, though I half expected to find some kind of lair. Having almost convinced myself that I wasn’t going to find anything, I fumbled through my handbag and located my Rescue Remedy, twisted it open, sucked up a large dose into its pipette and let the flower-infused ‘grape alcohol solution’ trickle down my throat.

Eventually, I composed myself sufficiently to make a call to the twins’ boarding school. The Matron assured me that the twins were in rude health and safely installed in lunchtime chess club. I then rang Joseph (who had to leave a meeting to take my call – I shrieked at Denise to get him immediately). I told him what happened. Naturally he said that I was ‘overreacting’ ‘being silly’ and ‘hormonal.’ I was absolutely incensed that he was so dismissive of my fear. I’m going to stand my ground on this one. I have a sixth sense (if you will) that if we leave here things will be alright, that the curse will somehow be broken, I don’t care where we go to, I’ll live in the arse-end of Hunstanton if needs be, WE MUST GO.

Hopefully I shall still be alive to update you on this saga.

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