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9 Nov 2018

An unexpected visitor / Cuideigin aig nach robh sinn an dùil

Written by Lily Barnes, Morton Documentation and Digitisation Officer
A man in a long coat and dark hat walks across the rocky shore of a far-flung island ...
A man in a long coat and dark hat walks across the rocky shore of a far-flung island ... © National Trust for Scotland, Canna House
Every month, the Scottish Book Trust runs a 50-word story competition, searching for the best flash fiction writers in the country. Gach mìos, tha Urras Leabhraichean na h-Alba a chur air dòigh a' cho-fharpais seo.

Be they budding talents or old hands, entrants are given a prompt to get their creative juices flowing. This month, the prompt was provided by the National Trust for Scotland. We chose an image taken in the early 1930s on the island of South Uist by folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw, and paired it with the mysterious phrase ‘an unexpected visitor’. Entrants could respond to either the image or phrase, or both, and were welcome to respond in Gaelic, Scots or English.

Feumar sgeulachd goirid a sgrìobhadh ann an leth-cheud faclan. Am mios seo thagh Urras Nàiseanta na h-Alba an dealbh bhon chruinneachadh aig Margaret Fay Shaw leis an tiotal Cuideigin aig nach robh sinn an dùil. Dh'fhaodadh luchd-sgrìobhaidh na sgeulachdan aca a sgrìobhadh ann an beurla neo Gàidhlig.

Without further ado, we’re delighted to present the winning and highly commended entries.

Mar sin, seo agaibh na fheadhainn a bha soirbheachail.

All Age Category


I didn’t know you were coming home today. I’ve missed you, you know, but it was still a shock to see you there. I wish you’d told me you were coming. I would have asked him to leave yesterday, if only I had known.
(Lesley Cameron)


News of his arrival reached me before he did. Knowing that he stood now on the same island that had for twelve years been my sanctuary, made the sprawling copses, glens and mountainous ranges seem miniscule and insignificant. Nowhere to hide. I had always known he would come for her.
(Darren Syme Coremans)

She lights the candles and moves across the room to dim the lights. Examines the table, set for two. Parfait.
The doorbell jerks her from the moment. Check self; in the mirror; en passant. At the door, smooth skirt. Breathe. Open. Then she slows. ‘Oh,’ she says; flat. ‘It’s you.’
(Thomas Malloch)

Gaelic All Age Category


‘Tha mi seachd searbh sgìth dhen sgrìobadh mhallaichte seo!’ An doras air a tharraing fosgailte gu grad. Cù mòr uaine air an stairsnich, a chluasan cho dearg ris an fhuil. Cù-sìthe! Bi fialaidh dha no trèigidh do bheath’ thu! ‘A choin bhrèagha bheannaichte, thigibh a-staigh agus dèanaibh ur garadh …’
(Ruairidh MacIlleathain)

‘I’m sick to death of that damn scratching!’ The door thrown open. A large green dog on the doorstep, its ears as red as blood. A fairy dog! Be hospitable to it or you’ll lose your life! ‘Come in, beautiful blessed dog, and make yourself at home …’
(Translation by the Gaelic Books Council)

Young Writers Category (12–18)


Grey clouds hung gloomily above the ocean, as a boat crashed against sombre rocks peeking out of the sea. Hurtling towards a beach, it sent salty sprays of water into the air. Hitting the rocky shores of Aberdeen, a red-faced man wearily stepped out, gasping for breath. Where was he?
(Angelika, aged 12)


Muffled clatters brush away my slumber. My clock pulses, welcoming in December. Trembling, I enter the lounge. Switching on the light, I notice a rotund crimson creature hulking over a mammal. “What are you?” I demand. Eyes glowing, flesh in its crooked fangs, and a bloody beard, it grunts “Santa.”
(Evan, aged 16)


Autumn comes; in its shell, a tiny creature wakes. Broke in trees, a broken limb, wailing from outside. Curious sound, the creature’s found, unable to stand, move or mew. Golden fur tampered with dirt. “She’s fallen down the hill.” Autumn comes, colder. “I hope you take her in.”
(Avery, aged 18)

Young Writers Category (5–11)


I dropped off the money to two people in the boat. Turned, briskly, walked away, picked up the pace, still the men were sailing away. My heart was beating so fast, exploding in my chest. In the distance, they opened the suitcase. One million tissues flew everywhere. I ran.
(Jack, aged 10)


I’d an unexpected visitor wearing yellow, black and blue. I thought he was a bee that had fallen into a pot of blue paint so I ran away because I'm scared of bees. He robbed my house whilst I hid fearfully in the wheelie bin surrounded by disgusting banana skins.
(Annie, aged 10)


*CRASH* Then a quiet knock at the door. There was a small blob on the doorstep who made its way into our house and fired acid everywhere, burning through everything in the house. We stood there as it turned around and flew into the unknown.
(Danny, aged 11)

The Morton Charitable Trust has been funding fieldwork on the National Trust for Scotland’s photographic collections since 2014. In 2018–19, this work will further raise the profile of the collections through research, articles, talks and dedicated projects. The project will also involve the digitisation of the Margaret Fay Shaw photographic archive of mid-20th-century Hebridean life, leading to an updated database with high-quality images.