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Always in the hallways

Author: Ann Barr

Woooosh…..we’re over a map of Scotland, way down there below us,

zooom in, wooah, and head for the top-right corner,

Yes, looook, we’re heading for Invernesshire,

Ahh! slow down now; hover a bit, let’s just check, there’s Inverness itself, so..gotta veer off to the right.

Ok.

Where’s Nairn… there, Oh! hang on, gone too far, tread sky, bounce, bounce, slow down…. aaah, that’s where I want, on the coast,

right of Inverness but left of Nairn, -village of Ardesier.

Let’s get floating down now, down, slowly, gently ease on, slower, and aahh, land.

In the street,

safe and sound…feet on the road.

Take stock.

Hmm.

This is the place, changed its name, but definitely where I want to be; big gateposts, either side of the straight path up to the front door, the small, neater part of the building facing me, and, at right angles, is the long-house rest of it.

Across the road, a neat cottage, where The Misses Cameron were, three ‘spinster’ sisters, very genteel, of best Scots stock, one an ex-school-teacher.

Walk up the path, against the w-i-n-d, the sighing wind, the breathing wind, blowing me back,

….approaching …through the years, I reach the front door of, …Cromal Lodge,….. commandeered as Army Officer’s quarters for a while now, …..the year, 1959.

Haha, the young family is inside, three wee girls, lots of giggles, screechings and running around.

Daddy’s not there this week, away, he is, Army dentist for the area, attending to the teeth of all the troops in Fort William. So Mummy is left on her own, to cope with two daughters, Mary-Ann and Barbara, and cousin Mary-Kathleen, all around three or four years, young.

‘Right’, says Mummy Patricia, authoritatively, ‘Up to bed now’.

All troop up the stairs.

There’s a queue at the bathroom, standing in line for teeth, hands and face–washing.

Mary-Ann’s at the end, leaning against the door-frame, idly passing the time, then, enquires:

‘Who’s that old lady?’,

‘What old lady?’ Mummy replies, occupied, but suddenly wary.

‘That old lady, in the hall’. Says Mary-Ann, more animated now, ‘ She’s looking for something. She’s needing help, we should give her a hand.’

The grim, answer came back, ‘If there’s an old lady in the hall, she doesn't need our help’.

The youngster insisted, ‘Gran says, you should always help people who need it, especially old people, and she needs help…to find something, she’s looking all over, holding her candle high up, and down, Oh look, she’s going into Nanny’s room’.

They usually had a nanny in the house then, but she was away in Barra with her family, her room right at the end of the hall.

Pat enquires suspiciously, ‘What does she look like?’

‘She’s got, silver hair, in a plait like gran’s, all the way down her back, and she’s got a brown dress on, it’s high up to her neck and goes right down to the ground, it’s all crinkly…..making a noise, listen, you can hear it……it’s rustling,.. listen…..’

Just then, a terrific, BANG! And everything became, very cold …

The next day, at tea, with the Miss Camerons,

One remarked, ‘We saw the lights'd stayed on all over the house last night, and thought one of the children was ill, and you might not come over’. Mother replied, ‘Oh no it wasn’t that, it’s just…..…Mary-Ann, saw Miss Susan last night………..’

Well: Miss Susan Georgiana, had once been the ‘mistress of the house,’ and would have been, well-over a hundred, if she had been alive.

Patricia said, ‘I couldn't go and turn any of the lights off, I could feel her, in my back, watching me, I knew, if I turned around I’d see her myself, and I didn’t want that, thank you very much! ‘……….

The eldest of the Miss Camerons stressed, ‘ Oh, you mustn’t be frightened of Miss Susan, she was a very good person, she built the Methodist Hall in the village, she wouldn’t do you any harm’

Mummy replied that, that was all very well, but she was dead, and she should stay wherever she was, and she didn’t want her wandering all around the house, with us living in it……!

Further enquiries, from a more curious Pat, discovered, the lady was buried in the local cemetery, and had been engaged, to someone who had been killed, in the Boer War, and, that she had been, Very Stern.

She would cut the slices of bacon for the next morning, off the hams, that hung in the kitchen cold store, and count them in front of her servants,,….then, pointedly, wrap the joint back up, so, definitely, none of them were getting any, and she'd know all about it if they did!

and, even tho’ she’d given money to build the Hall, she wouldn’t give her servants, time off to go to the services!

Zoooom forwards, decades later, in Malta, a place where many army families had been ‘posted’, and naturally, visited often afterwards, full of happy memories.

Conversations arose between two families, around a swimming pool, guess what? Both had also been billetted at Cromal Lodge.

Mummy Pat asked if, the other family, had ever…… found anything …odd …. or strange, when living there…?

'Noooo…..', they said enthusiastically, ‘No, we never saw anything, but our dog did. Our dog would sometimes just stand, in the hall, with its lips all pulled back and its teeth bared, doing this low, menacing, growl …. and its hackles would slowly rise, all along its spine,

it was always in the hallways, never in any of the rooms…but yeah, that dog definitely was aware of something ……..’

Cromal Lodge later became a hotel.

I heard it was due for demolition a while ago…..

maybe, because of, ‘things that went Bang in the night’!.....