One For Sorrow

one for sorrow, by john lister-kaye

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This Highland story is a blend of fact and fiction gleaned over twenty-five years of living in the heart of the Highlands and observing the ebb and flow of landownership and the sweeping systems which are applied to the land, so rarely to the benefit of the local people or the fragile rural economy.

After a quarter of a century of living among these ancient mountains with their sighing corries and wide, whispering moors, and knowing and working with farmers and crofters in the long, narrow glens, I am forced to conclude that the continuing saga of the extractive land-use imposed upon this land and its people, is indeed, one for sorrow.

John Lister-Kaye
Aigas, 1994

Excerpts from the book


Rob dug like a dog with his hands, spraying the peat out, first to the left and then to the right. After a few minutes work, now immersed in a hole to the elbows, his hands touched something different, something coarse and fibrous. He pulled away the remaining peat to reveal a potato sack bulging with the uneven shape of something inside. Rob’s heart thumped almost audibly. The sack was bound with a short length of orange twine. Carefully he picked it up by the neck and eased it out of its grave. It was heavy. He shuddered at what he was about to find inside. Gingerly he lifted it up onto the dry peat and picked at the knot. 

He couldn't guess how long it had lain there. The bag was moist but not wet; anyway, he knew it would take years for anything to decompose in the sterile peat. Excluded from oxygen and flies, decomposition of whatever was in the bag would be extremely slow. He loosened the neck carefully. Picking up its bottom corner, he allowed the heavy corpses to roll shapelessly out into a heap at his feet where they lay in the pathos of their own destruction.

'You bastard! You miserable, criminal bastard!'  

Rob was close to tears. He stood looking at the ragged corpses of two adult golden eagles and a raven. For all their tangled and crumpled appearance, they were untouched. Rob knew in  his bowels that all three were the victims of a scurrilous poisoned bait. The carcase of a rabbit, or a hare, or perhaps a deer or sheep, which had been laced with a lethal dose of strychnine or alphachlorolose or possibly phosdrin.

The great soaring wings lay stiff and twisted and the long pinion quills bent and broken. The gripping scaly feet, as yellow as the gorse flowers beside the Corran, were drawn together, black talons curled in upon each other in contortion. The soft feathers of the proud, golden mantle, the colour of a summer wheatfield, fluttered gently in the breeze above the hooded brow, the clouded sunken eyes, and the mighty curving bill. A silent scream issued from the gape of the second bird, its spiky tongue protruding to one side. The glossy blue-black raven lay beside them with its wrinkled jet eyes staring lifelessly at the sky.


“This compelling saga gives dramatic insight into the way we use and abuse the natural heritage of our hills and glens. Stimulating, thought provoking, challenging and deeply felt, ONE FOR SORROW is also a first-rate yarn. It is a must for everyone who loves a good story and cares about the highlands. ”
Magnus Magnusson

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