The Bodach Stabhais – Stabhais’s Ghost


murdo 'stavish' mackenzie, memories of torridon (1996)

Location: Torridon
gaelic language and placenames, the natural world

The Bodach Stabhais – Stabhais’s Ghost

Murdo MacKenzie, nicknamed Stabhais, was a local postman. This story, recounted by Isabella Ross, tells of how he met a ghost one New Year’s Eve.

Now he was due back in Diabaig at 9 o’clock. He wasn’t supposed to be later than that but on New Year’s Night the postman could be as late as he liked. That was the one and only night in the year when the postman could take his time. So, Murdo must have been taking his time on this particular New Year’s Night. Now I’m not going to say, perhaps the Alligin people entertained him before he left, we don’t know but as you go to Diabaig and as you come to the little loch on the top and you go along past it , you’ll see where the old road goes down by the side of the loch and there is there what they call ‘ Glac Stabhais’ which means Stavish’s Hollow, this is the bit.

Now as he was going along there, he saw this man with a MacKenzie tartan kilt on, carrying his head under his arm. The postman, he maybe was a wee bit frightened and yet he thought to himself, well. So he had his walking stick and he drew a circle round himself and he said to this person, “Now you’re not coming inside that circle.”

The ghost then spoke and said that he was a Chief of the Clan MacKenzie and that long ago the MacLeods and the MacKenzies were disputing the land but rather than the clansmen all fight, the two chiefs decided that they would have a dual in this certain place. The Chief of the Clan MacKenzie got there on a very warm day and he was waiting for the Chief of the Clan MacLeod to come. While he was waiting for him he got fed up and he fell asleep so the Chief of the Clan MacLeod came along and he thought to himself, well I might lose this dual anyway, I’ll just take pure advantage of him, of MacKenzie and he took his sword and cut off his head.

And the ghost said, “My spirit couldn’t rest until I appeared to someone of the Clan MacKenzie to tell them what happened.” He then disappeared but before he disappeared he said, “Now he said, one year from now a lump will grow on the back of your neck and it’s only then that you will tell your story!”

So the postman went home and didn’t tell a soul. A year passed and one night this certain postman was up at Fraser’s Great Grandfather getting his hair cut and as Murdo, whom we knew very well, was cutting the other man’s hair, he said to him, “What lump have you got on the back of your neck?”

So Murdo the postman said, “Oh, is there a lump on the back of my neck?”

“Oh goodness yes, can you not feel it?”

“Oh well,” he said, “now I can tell my story.” So then he told his story. Then everybody of course began to be frightened of the ghost that he had seen a year ago.

So, time went on and people began to make fun of him. His brother became postman in his place. He gave up the job and he began working at the salmon fishing at Craig along with my grandfather. They used to stay in a bothy there during the week and they just came home for the weekends. But sometimes during the week when the days were long as they are just now, they maybe came to cut peats or do something about the croft and one evening they had been in Diabaig and they walked back to Craig.

They were both sitting in the bothy and as they were sitting there, the two of them, my grandfather said to him, “Now Murdo”, he said.

Murdo looked at my grandfather and he said, “You and I have been friends for a very long time. Did you really see something that night coming from Alligin and if you did, how did you dare to go back the following night?”

Murdo looked at my grandfather and he said, “If you knew the end of the story”, he said, “You wouldn’t be a bit surprised as to why I went back the following night. But neither you or nor anybody else will ever know the end of the story!” And that was it.

Well, Murdo MacKenzie, he was still quite a young man and because people were making fun of him, he emigrated to New Zealand. He got work there on a sheep farm and one day when he was out on a horse, rounding up the sheep, he fell off it and he was killed. So that was the end of our postman of course.

As told by Isabella Ross for the Memories of Torridon project

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