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The waters off Malin Head: My father. (standard:Creative non-fiction, 2223 words)
Author: CyranoAdded: May 12 2009Views/Reads: 1779/1038Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Jack Rafferty knew I'd been stealing apples from the orchard. He gave me an ear wigging. told me about a place where they lock up thieves, even if they're only ten! I thought that would be the last time I'd steal wasn't.

Malin Head 

I've been a thief. My excuse, typical if inexcusable: being always
skint.  When Jack Rafferty--the island's only policeman--came to our 
door, he took me aside and told me about a place where they lock up ten 
year old thieves. I decided right then the building of a boat should no 
longer be a childhood dream, but a necessary means of escape. Jack did 
scare me, I'll admit, removing his helmet and yet still ducking to come 
through our front door was somewhat terrifying, but it was seeing the 
tears roll down my mother's face that left me with a memory I've never 
forgotten. I'd never steal anything ever again. That's what I told 
myself. Never. 

Before tourists, the island's remoteness was its beauty. Life on Mull
was anything but sentimental. The wind most commonly came from the 
northeast bringing blizzard conditions in winter, and sometimes in 
spring, and for many months we lived and worked under an iron-gray sky. 
There was nowhere to live on the island but between the mountain and 
the sea.  The summer brought its warmth: the emerald greens, gold, 
orange, browns, pinks and blues that glowed, lighting up the mountain's 
south side.  In so many ways living on the island was easy, but then 
there was the real island, the real folk, the fishermen and the wives 
of the fishermen. There was suffering. I grew up hearing my mother cry 
on a regular basis, listened to her sobs in the next room, sleepless 
nights of anxiety about bills, and then deeper sobs every time my 
father left the harbor, heading for the Minch or the Bering Sea. 

Jimmy McCloud was fifty when he purchased the 1955 clinker built
trawler, twin mast, near a hundred and forty tons, and half sunk. He 
paid fifty pounds for her and was the laughing stock of the island. 
Four years later Jimmy had restored her to be the finest vessel in 
Tobermoray's harbor. Heartbreakingly, Seaspray, as he named her, was 
pushed aground in a storm that grew bigger and more bullish than the 
morning mischief implied she'd be. The grinding undertow sucked 
Seaspray onto the submerged granite at the base of the mountain, a 
hundred yards offshore. Jimmy, penniless and heartbroken, left the 
island for the mainland, returning two years later. My father, 
sentiment aside, offered him to crew on Nightshadow.  Jimmy was to take 
my place. My father, sensing I was not cut out to be a fisherman, sent 
me off to the Coast Guard. ‘If you cannot find the stomach to be with 
us, son, maybe you'll have the stomach to watch over us.' I was just 
out of High School. 

I loved it. My only responsibility was to learn to fly—those six years
at sea, most of it bent over the bow rail, were well worth the price of 
the next five years in flight school. Those years were to be some of 
the best years of my life and I knew it, I mean knew it then! Wine, 
women, and airplanes, and I was only twenty-five. I qualified my wings 
flying the HAR3 (Sea King). Seven years later my patch was the Outer 
Hebrides, Malin, Rockall and Bailey. I had found my life and my calling 
as a coastguard helicopter pilot. 

I was twenty-seven when posted to Oban. I'd achieved my goal. My
father's patch. 

On December fourth that first year of my command I got word that Jimmy
was sick, dying in fact. When I got to the hospice Jimmy was almost 
dead. He was gasping for breath beneath an oxygen tent. It was 
difficult to hear him; so soft, so lifeless was his voice. Three of his 
old pals were with him. Sid, Harry, and Frank, my father.  We talked 
with each other about old times, thinking we were giving Jimmy some 
joy. I noticed a movement in his finger, looked into his eyes, and saw 
he was building the strength to speak. ‘Have you never taken a risk in 
your life, lad?' he spluttered out, chest hardly drawing breath, as 
though it might rise just one more time. I'd been encouraged to call 
him ‘uncle Jimmy' as was the custom for frequent visitors to our home 
in Tobermoray. I had a lot of uncles. Jimmy was wearing an old woolen 
vest, and wheezing, while his hands, all veins and loose skin, lay 
perfectly still at his side.  I responded that the risks I took, I 
hoped, were calculated ones.  Jimmy beckoned me closer with a cobwebbed 
spiny finger. I felt uneasy, afraid of his weakness. ‘Not one of us has 
ever taken a risk,' he said in a whisper, just before the nurse 
returned with a clean bowl for his spit.  ‘There was a time when we 
were free men,' and again he coughed, choked up bile, which hung from 
his lip, ‘see me right, lads, that's all I ask.' The nurse, wondering 

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