Chris Quinton: The Sinclair Selkie

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The short blurb for The Sinclair Selkie – Folk singer Donal MacCraith is touring the Scottish Western Isles, documenting traditional songs and investigating his family history. He meets Niall MacLachlan in Stornoway and Niall invites himself along. He has a secret and an agenda of his own. Meeting Donal is the chance he needs to complete it.

Now, right there I hit a not-so-slight problem – lyrics and copyrights. The titles of songs, old and new, aren’t affected, but the lyrics are, even in traditional songs. Snags can arise with using even the most obscure folk song, and there’s always someone ready to poke their five eggs into the mix. So, knowing that the lyrics of one particular song were important to the plot, and nothing I’d found came anywhere near to what I needed, I decided to write my own.

Not easy, let me tell you. I needed the feel of those slow lilting songs of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It had to tell part of a story, and it had to read as if it has been translated from Gaelic to English but still retain some of the musicality and rhythm. Is it a lament? A love song? Who is singing it and why? It’s all there in The Sinclair Selkie…

 

The Calling in of the Waves

 

Come in to me, you white crested waves

and sing to me of my love.

For my heart breaks as each wave breaks

as it rushes to kiss the shore.

Come in to me, and on the ebb,

carry my love to him.

 

Come in to me, you white crested waves

around these cruel, dark rocks.

Black they are, as bleak as my loss,

and I long for my lover’s caress.

Come in to me, and on the ebb

carry my tears to him.

 

Come in to me, you white crested waves

though your cold spray burns like fire.

Sundered am I from my love and from sea,

though my heart will ever endure.

Come in to me, and on the ebb

carry my grief to him.

 

Come in to me, you white crested waves,

come in by storm or by calm.

For I hear his voice in the surf’s deep cry

and the wind is his touch in my hair.

Come in to me, and on the ebb,

carry my love to him…

Buylinks: Fireborn PublishingAmazon US 

American Donal MacCraith is on a road trip along the western coast of Scotland and the Western Isles. His family roots are there, but his main reasons for the extended vacation are the songs and legends. He’s a folk-singer, come to collect some new old material. In Stornoway he meets the Shielingers and Niall MacLachlan. Donal is attracted to Niall, but doesn’t act on it, unable to guess if the man is gay or not. When he continues his exploration of Lewis in his rented motorhome, making for the small crofting community his grandmother left as a young woman, he finds Niall waiting for him on the road just outside the town. Donal invites him along, and Niall leaps at the chance.
Once out on the road, Niall makes a play for Donal, and they begin a casual no-strings relationship, though Donal senses Niall has an agenda of his own. Donal knows their fling won’t last, but that suits him at first. Later, though, he begins to want something more, even though he has the feeling Niall is using him. He’s right, and it’s the clue in the old stories of the Sinclair Selkie Donal’s grandmother had told him. That clue will lead Donal to the startling truth behind the legend, and they’ll both be faced with life-changing choices.

Excerpt

“What legend?” Niall raised his voice. “You’ve never said anything about it before.” There was a slight edge to his words and his gaze remained fastened on Donal.

“Oh, God,” Pat groaned. “You’ve done it now! Our Niall’s searching for old songs as well, only he’s more specific. He’s fixated on the seal-folk. He’s only been with us a week, but if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard him ask–”

“Shut up.” Fergus grinned. “It’s the legend of the Sinclair Selkie, like in the song, only it’s a mite darker. God, I haven’t thought about it for years.” He settled himself comfortably on the piano stool, and with the ease of a born storyteller, he launched into the tale. “Robert Sinclair was one of the many bastard sons of Ferghal Macauley, got on Agnes Sinclair when Ferghal was visiting Orkney some twenty and five years previously.” Around them, the pub’s remaining customers grew quiet, obviously listening. “Now, it so happened that young Robert was staying a while with his uncle, James Macauley, and Robert liked nothing more than riding out and exploring his uncle’s lands. He was returning from one such adventure at dusk, when he heard a lassie singing down by the shore. Her voice was so sweet and pure it drew him down to the sea’s edge.

“There he saw a young woman sitting among the boulders, combing out her long, long black hair in the light of the setting sun, and her beauty nigh on stopped the breath in his lungs. He immediately fell in love with her and decided she would be his, no matter what may be. When he rode closer, he saw that not only was she naked under the cloak of her hair, but a rich fur mantle lay beside her on the rocks.

“She was a selkie.” He paused for dramatic effect and took a swig of beer.

“Then the young Sinclair did what any man would. He snatched up the sealskin in one arm, the lassie in the other, and carried her away to his uncle’s keep. James gave him land near the sea, and that’s where Robert raised Creagliath, so’s his bride would be close to the waters she loved so much.

“Now,” Fergus continued, “this is where the legend parts from the song. If you’re expecting this tale to end with her bearing his children until she finds where he has hid her sealskin, then takes it back and abandons him and her bairns for the sea, then you’ll be wrong. She never did find it, so she was bound to him until the end of his days. Even his passing did not free her, for though he was dead and buried, he’d told no one where he’d hidden that mantle, not even his eldest son nor his favorite daughter.

“In time, she grew old and faded from the living world, forever bereft of the sea and her selkie kindred, and her half-human sons and daughters could not console her. Where her body lies, no one knows, but it is said her spirit still weeps among the ruins of that once tall keep, as she searches endlessly for her lost sealskin.

“And that, my friends, is the legend of the Sinclair Selkie.” He flourished a bow to acknowledge the spontaneous applause from his audience. “Is that how your folks remember it, Donal?”

“Pretty much.” He smiled, and didn’t mention that his gran knew another ending.

Author Bio:

Chris started creating stories not long after she mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of her parents and her English teachers. But she received plenty of encouragement. Her dad gave her an already old Everest typewriter when she was about ten, and it was probably the best gift she’d ever received – until the inventions of the home-computer and the worldwide web.

Chris’s reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, mostly in the male/male genre. She also writes male/female novels in the name of Chris Power. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and intends to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of her ability. In her spare time [hah!] she reads, embroiders, quilts and knits. In the past she has been a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist, and a 15th century re-enactor.

She currently lives in a small and ancient city in the south-west of the United Kingdom, sharing her usually chaotic home with an extended family, two large dogs, fancy mice, sundry goldfish and a young frilled dragon (Australian lizard) aka Trogdorina.

 

 

 

 

 

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