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11 Jul 2019

Morton Writing Competition – Part II: The Cat and the Crayfish / Farpais Sgrìobhaidh Mhorton – Pàirt II: An Cat agus an Giomach

Written by Lily Barnes – Morton Documentation and Digitisation Officer
A black and white photograph of a large crayfish and a tabby cat sit on a low stone wall by the shoreline on Barra.
A crayfish and a cat near the shoreline on Barra (c1935–38) / Giomach agus cat faisg air cladach Bharraigh (c1935–38) © National Trust for Scotland, Canna House
We asked you to write short stories and poems in response to one of four images from our photographic collections. Here are the winners and runners up who were inspired by ‘The Cat and the Crayfish’. Dh’iarr sinn oirbh sgeulachdan goirid agus bàrdachd a sgrìobhadh a’ togail air ìomhaighean às an tasglann againn. Seo an fheadhainn a bhuannaich agus a bha san dàrna àite a thagh ‘An Cat agus an Giomach’.

The Baudrons, the Bus and the Big Praan

Caitlin Walker

Baudrons wis waitin oan the numbur two bus. She hudnae been there lang, so she expectit tae be waitin a wee while yet. The numbur two’s rotten noo, she thought tae hersel – used tae be ye’d staun at the stoap no een five minutes n it’d trundle oan up n that’d be you. But noo, ye’re aye half an oor easy, sometimes thri-quarters! They’ve a monopoly! The numbur two’s aye been that gid, naebdy thought tae use the numbur four or numbur eleven. So they’ve bin scrapped, n noo the two’s yer whack. They know it. They rip the mick n dally along wheneer they want. It’s scandalous!

Baudrons looked up the road tae see if there was any sign eh said bus forthcomin. Her eyes narrowed. She saw somethin, but it wis nae bus. It wis Big Praan. The sight eh him shamblin along towards the stoap didnae fill her wi joy. Because, as she n abody else knew, Big Praan wid talk fur Scotland, n frequently did, n nane eh it interestin. Abody hud ceased tae reply a long time ago. Baudrons wis in no mood tae be dealin wi his patter the day. N especially no for the length a time it wid take the bus tae come.

Baudrons turned away quickly n kept her eyes fixed on the road in front eh her. She could hear Big Praan hummin as he approached, n afore lang he settled on the seat beside her. The end eh his wee tune came wi a right long, drawn-oot, flourishin hum, n she sensed how pleased wi it he wis. Then, inevitably:

“Bitter wan the day, int it?”

“Aye.”

“Honestly, it’s near the end eh May, we’re due some sun noo sure!”

“Aye.”

“Ye waitin on the two?”

“Aye.”

“At’s a rotten service noo, int it?”

“Mm.”

“A mind the days ye could sit here no een five minutes n it’d trundle right up!”

“Mmhm.”

“Aye then that’d be you. Noo, yer wit, hauf an oor, sometimes thri-quarters! Aw cause they’ve done away wi the four n eleven. It’s scandalous a tell ye, scandalous!”

Baudrons nodded, n in daein so snuck a glance past Big Praan up the road fur the bus. Ya dancer! Here it comes! That couldnae hae een been fifteen minutes, she thought. She stood up – Big Praan hud also noticed the bus n stood up an aw. “Here hen, ye wantin oan the bus fur nuttin?” Baudrons turned tae Big Praan. “Sorry?” she said. “Av wan eh they wee cerds,” he replied. “Gets me n a companion oan fur nuttin. Ye wantin tae use it?” Baudrons was taken aback. “Eh, aye. Aye, thank you. That’s awfy nice eh ye Praan, thank you.”

Big Praan goat oan furst, showed the driver the cerd, n the driver waved them baith oan. Big Praan sat doon the front. Baudrons hesitated, then plonked herself doon right next tae him.

“So where are ye off tae the day then Praan?”

Runner-up in the Scots category

An Cat agus an Giomach

Abbie Rettie

Uair a bha siud, bha cat a’ suidhe air balla.

“NA ITH MI, NA ITH MI!!” thuirt e ris an giomach.

“O chan ith”, thuirt an giomach, “’S tusa mo charaid.”

“Tapadh-leat,” thuirt an cat.

An uair sin, bha an cat airson luchag a ghlacadh agus bha an giomach ag iarraidh iasg airson picnic. Ghabh iad am picnic agus bha an dithis aca làn. Às dèidh greis, thàinig cuideigin airson an cat fhaighinn agus a bharrachd air sin, thàinig cuideigin airson an giomach. Ach, fhuair an cat air falbh agus shabhail e an giomach.

Bha an dithis aca fon phlangaid a’ cadal agus air an latha sin bha iad a’ bruidhinn ri chèile agus a’ sabaid air a’ phlangaid.

Thog cuideigin an cat a-rithist agus chaidh e air ais gu taigh agus leabaidh ceart.

Thuirt an cat, “Tioraidh mo charaid, giomach.”

Leum an giomach a-steach dhan mhuir agus thuirt esan, “Tioraidh mo charaid ùr.”

Winner in the Gaelic 0–11 category / Neach a bhuannaich sa Ghàidhlig aois 0–11
(An unlikely friendship develops between the cat and the crayfish, but eventually the crayfish must return to the ocean.)

Stuck on a Wall

Nathan MacLeod

Charlie was a ginger cat who lived by the sea. One day, she climbed a wall and saw something she’d never seen before. It was long with big pincers at the front and six thin legs. Charlie was afraid that the pincers would snap at her.

“Hello,” said the crayfish. “What’s your name?”

“Charlie,” said the cat. “Are you going to pinch me?”

“No, don’t worry,” he said.

“How did you get here?” Charlie asked.

“A fisherman caught me in his creel. If I dry out, I’ll die,” said the crayfish, sadly. “I want to go home.”

“I’ll help you,” said Charlie because she didn’t want the crayfish to die. “What should I do?”

The crayfish said, “I have an idea. Could I go on your back?”

“Greet idea,” Charlie cheered. She lay down and the crayfish climbed on her back.

“Can I hold onto your ears?” asked the crayfish.

“Yes,” said Charlie. “Just so long as you’re gentle.”

So the crayfish held on gently and Charlie slowly climbed down the wall. When they reached the bottom, as quickly as she could, Charlie took the crayfish to the shore. The crayfish crawled off her back and hurried towards the sea. Before he left, he turned around and said, “Thank you for taking me back. The ocean is my home. I’ll be safe here.”

Charlie felt happy. “You’re welcome,” she said. “Are we friends now?”

“Yes,” the crayfish said. “You will always be my friend.” Then the waves carried him home.

Runner-up in the English 0–11 category

An Cat ’s an Giomach-Ciùil

Robbie MacLeòid

Seall ort fhèin, cho cruaidh
a charaid, cho biorach is treun,
gun luaidh air do shùilean
an-còmhnaidh a’ cur nan car, 
a chealgaire! Gu dè tha dol
air cùl do lèirsinn, is tu
cho carach...

Cho carach? Mise? Chan aithnich
mi cò air a bheil thu bruidhinn.

Runner-up in the Gaelic 18+ category / Dàrna àite sa Ghàidhlig aois 18+
(Mutual suspicion is the hallmark of this terse conversation between the cat and the crayfish. Can either one of them be trusted?) 

Barra’s Audience

Angus Franklin

The shore of the island is quiet and calm,
The waves roll on a rhythmic beat,
Two sets of eyes sit and watch,
Together on a sheet.

From their wall they see each dawn,
Gaze at every change of tide,
Wonder at fins of porpoise,
Together by the seaside.

Winters are harsh and grey,
Summers not much of an improvement,
Rain, hail, sleet or snow,
The pair sit together indifferent.

‘Would you have it any other way?’ the crayfish asked
And his feline companion replied ‘never’,
‘Life is far better shared by two,
You and I are in this forever’.

And to this day, on the shore of Barra,
The unlikely pair sit with one another,
And watch the beauty of the world,
Together, together, together.

Runner-up in the English 12–17 category

Splash

Julie Galante

‘What is THIS?’

The assistant consulted his clipboard. ‘Um, ah, this is your co-star, mam. Meet Mr Snappy.’

‘How do you do,’ said Mr Snappy, clacking a claw in Mittens’s direction.

‘I didn’t come to the sphincter of Scotland to work with a lobster. Get me the director!’

The assistant nodded and ran out.

‘Yes, I was warned you’re difficult. And I’m a crayfish, not a lobster.’

‘I don’t care what you are. I’m not here to film with a crustacean.’

The assistant returned with the director.

‘Mittens! Darling! You’re looking fabulous as always. I see you’ve met Mr Snappy.’

‘What the fluff, Jeff?’ Mittens’s tail whipped about. ‘I’m here to film The Owl and the Pussycat. Where’s the goddamn owl?’

‘There’s, ah, been a few changes to the script since you last saw it. It’s going to be more of a… buddy movie.’

Mr Snappy’s claw pinched shut just shy of Mittens’s tail, catching a couple of hairs. Mittens hissed.

‘Calm down. I was only playing – just trying to lighten the mood.’ said Mr Snappy.

Mittens huffily sat down and started licking a spot on her leg.

‘You two will be great together! You’re both huge stars in your own right. While Mittens is a classically-trained Shakespearean actor, Mr Snappy’s background is more of the vaudeville tradition, is that right?’

‘I do a mean can-can,’ said Mr Snappy.

Mittens looked up.

‘Would you leave us alone for a few minutes, please?’ Mr Snappy addressed the director and the assistant, who left together.

Mittens resumed her grooming, brushing a moistened paw over her face.

‘Can I interest you in a glass of purrsecco?’ asked Mr Snappy.

Mittens hesitated. ‘It is my favourite.’

Mr Snappy poured two and passed one over. ‘To our new motion picture.’

‘I haven’t agreed to work with you yet.’

‘Drop the act, Mittens. Neither of us can afford to turn this flick down, least of all you.’ He dipped an antenna into his drink. ‘If you don’t do it, Jeff will just find someone else, someone more… flexible. And younger. What are you, ten?’

‘Eight!’ spat back Mittens. ‘And how dare you.’

‘Look, sweetheart. Get with the times. Sea creatures are where it’s at.’

Mittens lapped at her beverage.

‘Heard of a little film called AquamanThe Shape of Water?’

‘And where does that leave me? It’s not like I can – grow gills, or whatever it is you’ve got going on there.’

‘If I were you, I’d give up film and focus on a YouTube career. Big opportunities for gals like you.’

‘Those cats are all idiots! Who wants to be known for falling off a table or jumping at the sight of a vegetable.’

‘You’re right. You belong on the big screen. So make this film with me. It’s going to be fabulous.’ Mr Snappy led Mittens out onto the set.

‘It better be, or you’re in hot water.’

‘Is that supposed to be a lobster joke?’

‘Purrhaps.’

‘Action!’ shouted the director.

Runner-up in the English 18+ category

See the responses to ‘The Tower’ in Part III

Faic na pìosan air am brosnachadh le ‘An Tùr’ ann am Pàirt III

Special thanks to the Gaelic Books Council for their assistance with judging, and their generous offer to provide prizes for the Gaelic runners-up. If these stories have made you interested in learning Gaelic, find out more about the work of the Gaelic Books Council or find them on Twitter at @LeughLeabhar

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.

Banner of four different images: Kellie Castle tower; two girls; cat and crayfish; small boy in front of wall