The Pot of Gold
Copyright 2022 by Pamella Laird
Photo courtesy of Pexels.
and legends about rainbows promise strange things. It matters not,
where in the world we are, we gaze in wonder at the colours arcing
between earth and sky. What do they mean, what causes this
magnificent spectacle? Is it really a sign from God that never again
will the world be flooded?
rainbow story enchanted my friend and me when we stumbled upon a
Scottish glen over sixty years ago. After working for two years in
London hospitals, we as two New Zealand nurses, decided to cycle
around Scotland and England as an excellent way of ventilating our
smoggy lungs. It seemed an inexpensive way of achieving ongoing doses
of fresh air while we enjoyed the scenery. And, as it turned out, an
excellent way to meet the locals.
enriching Edinburgh Festival behind us, we bought bicycles on the
Golden Mile and when the shop-man heard what we had in mind, he
thoroughly checked every working part. He also added free of charge,
Dynamo lamps for our night riding and little kits for punctures! I
used mine three times while my friend achieved a flat-tyre-free
holiday. In the end we covered a over 1500 miles from Edinburgh
north, back to London in a little over two months.
last, properly kitted out with canvas carrier bags (and no gears), we
ferried over the Forth Bridge, then rode over a number surprisingly
beautiful mornings, on to Aberdeen, Inverness, and so across the
North West Highlands.
the country road wove through low-growing heather that we realised
had intricate little streams running beneath the foliage. It was a
delight when we stopped for a packed lunch to listen to the babbling
but unseen waters. After an unexpectedly long day we eventually
arrived at Ullapool. This was a charming, unspoiled
fishing village where we found friendly, helpful Scots and memorably
delicious fresh fish and chips.
enjoying the hospitality of the local Youth Hostel for three days, on
our last night, a close study of our map prompted us in the morning,
to hire the local ferryman with his open clinker boat. By crossing
the mouth of the Loch, this would eliminate a thirty-mile bike ride
far inland, around Loch Broome on to the Wester-Ross Road. It seemed
a good idea at the time and the ferryman made no comment one way or
the other at what we were shortly to encounter.
relatively smooth trip across the salt-water inlet was veiled in
drizzle so that eventually, a glance onshore showed only a rocky
headland. Above us through persistent mist, we glimpsed from time to
time, a mind-bending track winding through low-lying scrubby bushes
all the way to the top. Our ferry-man jovially unloaded our cycles
and packs onto a shingle beach and with a hearty wave, headed for
minor adjustments to our packs etc., we had no option but to climb
the mountain-goat track eventually having to grasp the front wheel to
drag our trusty steeds behind us. The track was part-rock, part-clay
and rose steeply into a zig-zag climb. That haul took us over two
hours; until finally the sun broke through and from the summit, the
view that lay before us was breathtaking.
with ozone and near-exhaustion, we stood charmed by the pinks and
ochres of the Ullapool’s fisher-folk’s homes alongside
the wharf. On the other side, lay the green and red trawlers secured
to the dock we had left earlier in the day. We finally glanced at our
watches; more than time to move on. Following the road winding west
down into the glen, we watched mist in the valley creep among the
willows on the road, curl and cling to conifer-tops before dissolving
like sherbet on a hot spoon. Below lay a perfect vale of baize-green
silver birches, shimmering hawthorn, and a fairy-tale stone bridge.
the foreground, a rainbow hung,
so clear it
might have been painted onto
the remaining mist. It arched over our intended road, a ‘corduroy’
path of logs through one peaty marsh and on to the next. While our
cycles rattled and clanked down and across the unstable road to the
valley floor, the perfect bow above us never moved. No matter how we
twisted and turned, the ribbon of colours seemed to grow brighter
until our end of the rainbow lay in a perfect circle to the left
ahead of us, on the waters of an inland lagoon.
beside the water where the colours formed a ring, it took only
seconds for me to drop my bicycle, roll up my shorts and start
wading. My companion watched in bewilderment, ‘What on earth
are you doing?’
called, “I’m going to find that pot of gold. This is a
story for my future grand-children. Tell me when I reach the end of
the rainbow.’ At each step my feet sank deeper into boggy mud
until the brackish water reached my shorts.
long my friend called, ‘Stop!’ I turned to look back.
Streamers of colour bathed me in intense colour illuminations while
red, orange, yellow, green, bIue, indigo and violet rippled in a
complete circle around my legs for as far out as I could reach. I
groped with one foot in a wide circle through the sludge that bubbled
up in peaty swirls. No pot! No gold!
sun dipped behind a cloud and the water in the ‘mountain’
tarn clamped like bands of ice around my thighs. Time to get on to
land; my feet slipped through the mud back to my disbelieving friend,
both of us impatient to pedal on and warm up.
one has ever explained why the rainbow remained stationary no matter
how often we changed course. And where, when I finally reached the
end of this enchanted arc, was the pot of gold that had been waiting
for aeons for a seeker to claim? Had a plunderer intent on loot from
the perfect world of Brigadoon found this magic cache ahead of me?
of Scotland saw no mystery. He said, ‘You ought to know after
of married life, that I’m
your pot of gold!’
six grandchildren love this story.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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