Hootlander - Part 9

  Bean Goose Moor & Slamannan

At 5.30PM the Hootlander Tour bus leaves Callendar Park and heads out of Falkirk towards the M9 Motorway. As the bus approaches the motorway junction and slip road, MacMeanie sees two police cars blocking the road ahead. MacMeanie stops the bus and a policeman approaches.


“Bad news, I'm afraid sir,” the policeman says. “There’s been a serious accident on the motorway involving a bus and a petrol tanker—and it looks like the road may be closed for the rest of the day. If you are heading to Glasgow you could try the road over to Bonnybridge and Dennyloanhead, or go to Polmont and head for the M8.”

MacMeanie grew up in Falkirk and knows this area very well. He remembers that there is a wee road, high up over the Bean Goose Moor to Slamannan, and then on to Airdrie and Glasgow. He turns the bus around and heads back to Falkirk, then negotiates the back streets to get onto the narrow road that runs over the high ground to Slamannan.

“Is there a problem?” asks Angus. “We don't want to be late for our flight home.”

“Oh!, dinna fash yersell,” replies MacMeanie. “It's just a wee blockage on the motorway. I ken a guid way tae get tae Glesgae. Dinna fear, we'll get ye tae the airport in plenty o' time.

Taiga Bean Goose of Slamannan

Taiga Bean Goose of Slamannan

As the bus strains up the hill over the twisty narrow road through the peat bog, it takes up most of the road. Without warning, a metallic pearlised purple VW Golf GTI looms up from a dip in the road. Its horn blares and lights flash. MacMeanie pulls hard left on the steering to give the VW room to pass, but the bus bites into the soft verge and the steering wheel is wrenched from Hamish's grasp. The Outlanders are thrown about and luggage goes flying. Airbags explode, saving MacMeanie from hitting the windscreen. The bus careens into the peat bog and lurches into the soft black quicksand.

“Is anyone hurt?' calls out Hamish, quite shaken. From his view, his dazed passengers still seem to be held down by their seatbelts.

“No, I think we are all OK,” stammer Skye and Ethel.

“Thank the Lord,” squeals Gladys

Then Hamish realises that the bus is still moving, but in a downwards direction.

“Quick, everyone, ye have tae git aff the bus, we're sinkin’ intae the bog! Open the rear emergency door, Angus! Leave yer damn luggage—the bus is sinkin’ intae the bog! Jump oot ontae the hard grund as quick as ye can!”

The Outlanders scramble and struggle and help each other off the bus and onto the roadside. They huddle together in a group to watch the bus and their belongings and treasured souvenirs sink slowly out of sight into the black gloopy mire of the bog. The group, attired in their 18th Century garb, stand by the roadside in shock and disbelief.

MacMeanie dials 999 on his mobile but the signal up on the moor is poor and the call keeps dropping.

“I'll hae tae gae up the road tae that hoose tae call fir help”, Hamish says while pointing to a distant farmhouse about a mile away on the ridge.

“You people jist stay here an' I'll be back as soon as I can.”

However, Hamish MacMeanie has no intention of returning to help his passengers. He has their money and their gratuities and besides, the bus is only hired and he does not have liability insurance for an accident like this caused by his own bad driving. He strides quickly away towards the farmhouse and when he gets near he calls for a taxi to come and pick him up and take him back to Falkirk. He callously abandons the Outlanders to their fate on the lonely moor. He laughs to himself when he remembers that the ancient Celts believed that lakes and bogs were the portals between worlds, and that they often made sacrifices of valuable items to the gods of the underworld.

An hour or so later the Outlanders are still huddled at the roadside waiting for MacMeanie’s return. Meanwhile Hamish is boarding a train at Falkirk Station to take him back home to Glasgow. The sun is going down and the Outlanders are getting very agitated and worried.

“Where is that driver?' wonders Angus, “He's taking a long time to get help.”

“How are we going to get to the airport in time for our flight?'

“I think we need thoughts and prayers, and more prayers at at time like this,” offers Gladys.

“I'm getting cold, complains Ethel.

“I'm getting hungry.” adds Skye.“ Wait? What's that? I just heard something coming up the road. Maybe it's our rescue?”

Typical ‘Chavmobile’

Typical ‘Chavmobile’

Then out of the pale evening light emerges the VW Golf, GTI 230HP with its massive spoiler, blue LED road lighting, Bass Thud stereo and that “schools out – no class whatsoever “ Pearlescent purple sparkle” paint job. The blaring 90's trance music almost drowns out the rasping, deafening roar from the dustbin-sized exhaust. It screeches to a halt beside the Outlanders, sending gravel and dust flying. The tinted window winds down and a young man sticks his head out. (Chav mobile)

“Hi there, ya wallies. Whit happened tae yees? Why are ye wearin aw that auld teuchter gear? Are yees in a filum?”

The Americans stand dumbfounded, unable to understand one word above the roar of the engine and the pop music.

Skye shouts over the noise. “Our bus crashed and sank into the bog. Our driver went for help— over an hour ago.”

The driver of the 'Chavmobile' switches off the engine and turns down the music.

“Aye, there is nae much traffic on this road an nae tourists come up here. Slamannan isnae that far; aboot a couple o' miles. We'll gang an see if we can find yer driver an get help fir yees. By the way my name is Jamie and this is ma girlfriend Claire.”

Ethel shrieks, “It's a sign from the Lord. We are saved.”

“Our prayers have been answered. Praise the Lord.” yells Gladys.

Skye's jaw drops. “Are you a Fraser?”

“Aye, an' Claire is a MacKenzie. We better gang noo.” And the VW Golf GTI roars back into life and the door panels begin to throb as the Bass Boom Box kicks in. Cool as ice, the VW takes off like shit off a shovel.

An hour later the Outlanders are getting very worried, very cold and very hungry, and there is no sign of Hamish MacMeanie. But out of the dusk, the purple VW reappears followed by a van and a pick-up truck. The three vehicles pull up beside the Outlanders. Jamie rolls down his window.

“Ma mates will tak ye tae Slamannan and get ye somewhere warm tae bide and somethin tae eat an drink. They're a bunch o' Billies, but they're guid folks, ye ken.”

“How can we get to Glasgow airport. We have a flight to catch tonight,” asks Angus.

“There's nae buses up here, or ony wey o' getting yees tae Glesgae the nicht,” replies Jamie.

“That means we'll miss our flight and lose our money,” wails Gladys. “And we've already lost all our luggage, souvenirs and 21st century clothes!”

“When we get tae the village, ye can phone the airport an see what the score is.” replies Jamie.

'What's a Billie?” asks Skye'

”Ye'll find oot soon eneuch!” yells Jamie as he guns the VW and takes off amid a cloud of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber..

The Outlander ladies get into the van and the men clamber into the pick-up. Soon they are driving into the small former coal mining village of Slamannan—named after the legendary “Mannan” tribe who were feared by the Romans, the Normans and everyone else ever since.

The van and pick-up pull up outside the Masonic Arms Public House, a stark, bleak, dreary establishment smelling of fried food, beer and stale tobacco.

“Please get out and go intae the pub. It's warm in there, an ye can get a pie and a pint or a wee nippy sweetie. We'll leave yees here the noo. Dae yees hae ony dosh?”

“What is dosh?” asks a bewildered Mrs Finklestein. “And what's a nippie sweetie...it sounds good, like a chocolate chip muffin?”

“Aw sorry, ye dinnae speak Scots. Dosh is money hen, an a nippie sweetie is a whisky an lemonade.”

“I have a few pounds in my sporran ,” says Skye.

“Weel git yersells a cup o tea or somethin stranger, an I'll gang an git ma Da. He's the big man aroond here, ye ken. His moniker is Chairlie.”

“Is he like the Bonnie Prince?” asks Ethel.

“Naw, naw, he's the King aroond here an he's definitely nae Bonnie.”

As the Outlanders enter the public bar the locals cannot not believe their eyes.

“Whit in Gawds name dae we hae here?” exclaims Billy the barman. “Why are ye a' wearin that auld clobber?'

“We are Americans, who were on a ten-day all-inclusive Outlander Tour, until our bus crashed into the bog. We have lost our modern clothes and luggage. Could we get some tea for the ladies and some whisky for the men.?” asks Angus. “We are miserable and cold.”

“Aw nae bother, I'll jist be a meenit,” says Billy as he disappears into a rear area.

The TV is playing behind the bar underneath the array of optics. A news flash comes on.

“Due to a major volcanic eruption in Iceland, all flights are being cancelled to and from UK airports. The ash cloud from the volcano is a hazard to the aircraft engines, and for safety reasons all flights are cancelled until further notice.”

“Did you hear that news broadcast, Angus? All flights are cancelled! That means we won't lose our flights, home but it could be a day or two before we get home.” says Skye.

Billy reappears from the rear area with a big Brown Betty teapot which he places on the bar, then he goes off again to come back with a tray loaded with cups, saucers, sugar, milk and spoons and a big packet of digestive biscuits.

“Help yersells tae the tea an biscuits, ladies and gents. Wha wants a beer or a whisky?”

“Can I have one of those 'Nippy Sweeties'? asks Gladys.

“Comin richt up.” replies Billy.

“Two Glenlivets, please? “ ventures Skye.

“ Och, we dinnae hae that posh whisky here; there's nae demand. Will Grouse dae?”

“I suppose, if that's all you have.”

Soon the Outlanders are getting warm inside and out with tea or whisky. Then Jamie and Claire come into the bar accompanied with a large, tall bearded rough looking man that looka vaguely familiar to Skye and the others.

“Weel guid evenin folks, my name is Chairlie, Chairlie Martin. I'm the local Cooncillor for this toun. I hear that ye have had a wee bit o trouble wi yer bus and driver and that ye are stuck here. Ye may have heard that there his bin a big volcano eruption in Iceland, and so aw flights in an oot o Britain are groonded til further notice. There isnae a hotel in Slamannan, so we'll hae tae billet ye wi oor guid tounsfolk.”

“Oor Jamie and Claire want tae tak yer Jamie an Claire tae their wee but-an-ben. But the rest o ye will cam wi me tae the Community Centre for a sit doon meal, an then we'll pair ye up wi yer hosts. Feenish yer drinks, and then follow me tae the Joe Corrie Community Centre.”

Ten minutes later the Outlanders follow Chairlie to the nice new Community Centre where already there were several ladies busily setting up tables in rows with tablecloths and chairs. Dishes and cutlery appear, followed soon after by bowls of piping hot Scotch Broth with wholemeal bread. Then a large plateful of mince and tatties accompanied by lashings of tea. Finally there are platefuls of homemade shortbread for the sweet tooths.

“The best meal on this trip by far!” says Skye. “Absolutely delicious!”

“I'll second that!” chips in Angus

“You are all so kind. I will pray for you all tonight. We were lost and desperate and you rescued us.” said Ethel. “How can we repay you?'

“It's no problem. Helpin strangers is pairt o' oor tradition an we're used tae pullin thegither in times o’ need. This is a coal mining community, used to disasters and hardship.” replies Chairlie. “It's nae bother, an we wud be insulted if ye offer to pay. When ye hae aw hud yer fill, the ladies here will tak ye tae their hames and put ye up fur the nicht. The morra we'll see whit the story is wi the volcano an the airport. Meet back here ra morra at eleeven. Guid nicht, and dinna fash!”

One by one the Outlanders pair up with the doughty wives of Slamannan and follow them to their humble Cooncil hooses.