A One-armed Bandit

This is the tale of Garioch local-lad 'old Dod Mutch' and was first published in the May 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine. I recall that publication resulted in a payment of some £50 and that it made it into the Leopard's Tale spot near the back page. Quite why I chose to publish using the name of James L. Ramsay still escapes me. I may have been trying to hide my talent behind a bush - but I am unsure if that was a good strategy.
In an effort to rectify the quirky 'nom de plume' e
rror, here it is yet again. The names of the guilty parties have in the main been changed however, in the big scheme of things, much of what follows is completely true. I can reveal that 'Birtybogs' is near the village of Oyne however and that 'the Gairnie Inn' was situated in a former bank building  near the Garioch settlement of Durno.

A one armed bandit - By James L. Ramsay
Old Dod Mutch was found dead in his chair. It was a stroke apparently and probably happened in his sleep. They said that the postie found him. In days past it would have likely been the milkie but Dod had stopped the milk years ago when his mother passed. He never drank much tea anyway, usually preferring whisky. It was in the local paper. “Died peacefully at home” read the notice “missed by family and Porgie.” The neighbours sniggered.
A short dapper man, he usually wore a green checked sports jacket plus a grey flat cap and could be seen most days tramping the two miles up the road to the inn over at Gairnie.
He would rarely accept a lift on the way up and local folk knew only to offer if it was stormy or snowing hard. On the way back though, he would nearly always require a taxi and the local drivers would, often as not, have to pour him into his house then call past next day to get payment when things were more sober in the world of Dod.
In days gone past he would travel far and wide in his search for good company. His route would usually follow mart days since folk would have money to spend and Dod was not one to stand his round without the promise of a good return. When the marts began to close his travels began to decline, he was getting on in any case and several of his drinking cronies had moved on as well. One drowned in a cattle trough up by Birtybogs after a boozy night in the grocer’s back-shop, another was run down crossing the railway out by Drinnies, a third was found behind a dyke after the March snow melt.
The publicans of the Garioch, it was rumoured, took a huge hit when Dod finally decided to restrict his outings to the Gairnie Inn. But restrict them he did and, by the time he died, locals referred to the place as Mutchies Bar.
Dodd’s funeral was attended by around sixty folk. There were a couple of family members. A niece in her sixties came all the way from Hull and a younger brother, who lived just up the road and had given up on him years ago on account of the drinking, turned up late. There was the usual service after which folk accompanied the man to the graveyard.
The new minister spoke eloquently about the man. Never once mentioning the word drink, except in the context of tea and sandwiches being available at the Gairnie Inn afterwards. He had not personally had the pleasure knowing George but had chatted with someone who knew him well. George Mutch had seemingly been born just down the road at Grassick’s Croft. Popular at school he became a valued chauffeur for the local laird before joining the army at the age of eighteen. He had served in France before being evacuated at Dunkirk with severe injuries including the loss of his left arm. The eulogy droned on for a further five minutes with the majority of the assembled mourners staring at the minister in stunned silence.
Finally the churchman stopped for a prayer and a hymn after which the coffin was taken outside and duly lowered into the family plot to lie alongside Dod’s parents and older sister Elsie. Almost all of the mourners turned up at the pub for the post funeral dram, eager to find out more about the Dod they had known so little about. Amongst the buzz of conversation phrases such as “I never knew that about the man” and “So that’s how he lost his arm” could be heard.
Dod had of course been right handed, his left jacket sleeve being carefully folded and pinned up neatly at the shoulder. It was Graeme the taxi-man who finally tackled the young minister. Originally a West Coaster, he had known Dod better than most and, alongside ferrying him about the place, had even known him briefly at secondary school. In a loud voice he complimented the minister on the service.

A fine service indeed Mr Evered, Dodd himself if he was de’en fine would have been most pleased, especially the bit about the medals and all that war service.  I knew the man all his life and never even knew the half of it.
Thank you, Mr Duff. I would have been privileged to have met him but as you know, I took up my post just a week before his death.
Indeed Reverend. Who gave you the background information about Dod?

By this point in the proceedings the drams had been drunk deeply and the sandwiches politely chewed. There was almost complete silence as the reply came.

John Donald was most helpful in that respect. 
Ah right. That would be Porgie.Why do you ask? And who is Porgie?

There was really no easy reply and Graeme the taxi made excuses then left. The next Sunday he attended the kirk for perhaps the second time since he’d met Mary. After morning service Graeme made a point of being last out in order to have a quiet word.

Jesus man! Dod was never at Dunkirk. In fact, he was never a soldier. He worked at the council quarry up by Quorthies. One day, a Saturday as I recall, he got his arm caught in the crusher.
It was ripped off in seconds and from what I heard he ran down the quarry brae brandishing the severed limb above his head and shouting “compensation, compensation.”
Porgie was Dod’s lover, but we don’t talk about that much in these parts.

Just a few weeks later the Right Reverend Evered disappeared from view. The church authorities said that he had suffered a minor breakdown. As for Porgie, he lived on for a wee bit in obscurity before slipping off in his sleep just as Dod had done.


More of my strange tales about the North-east of Scotland can be found - under my given name - at: The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire


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