The Glens of Stone – Episode 03

Edinburgh, 1744

Taking his daughter’s arm, Duncan McAllan guided her along the narrow cobbled close until they reached the small building at its far end.

“Here we are, my dear. This is where the Lord’s work will be done.”

Kirsty McAllan’s spirits fell as she took in the scarred door, grimy cobwebbed windows and crumbling brickwork. It was all so different from Perth, which they’d left a few days ago.

“Aye, Father, this will be ideal for our purposes.” She feigned delight.

“Kirsty.” Duncan McAllan sighed. “I grant you it’s in a bad state of repair, but can you not see it a week or so from now?” His eyes shone. “Welcoming light in the windows, the enticing aroma of soup wafting on the air, and above the lintel a big sign reading Canongate Mission House!”

Kirsty found herself laughing.

“You’re blessed with a wondrous imagination, Father. A week or so?” She shook her head. “We’ll be lucky to have this place ready within a month!”

The interior was as Kirsty had expected. Litter, rubble and dust covered the floors and a musty odour pervaded. Undeterred, her father strode from room to room.

“It’s bigger than I thought,” he remarked, “and better than we had back in Perth. Downstairs we’ll have the meeting room – we can get fifty, even sixty folk seated! The smaller room has a fine hearth so it can be the kitchen.”

“Upstairs are three good-sized bedrooms.” He gestured at the spiral stone stairway. “Aye, the Lord has given us the bare bones. It’s up to us to bring them to life.”

“Father, I’m sure you’ll do well here,’ she said, “but Edinburgh’s well served with kirks.”

“The folk we’re here to serve aren’t likely to be found in the likes of St Giles in their finery. We’re bringing the Word and succour to the poor and needy. I’m sure there are many such here.” He ushered Kirsty to the door. “Time we were getting back, for we’ve a heavy day tomorrow when the carrier arrives with our belongings.”

As her father carefully locked up, Kirsty became aware of a young man striding towards them. He was soberly dressed but greeted them with a warm smile.

“You’ll be Mr and Miss McAllan, I presume?” he asked, proffering a hand.

“Indeed we are, my friend,” Duncan responded. “You have the advantage of us, yet your looks seem familiar.”

“I’m Malcolm Porteous; my father is . . .”

“My old friend, John Porteous!” the old man exclaimed. “It must be sixteen years since we last saw this fellow, Kirsty. He’d have been eight years old or so then.”

Kirsty’s brow wrinkled.

“I don’t remember.”

“You should, lass,” her father said, tutting. “We were all together at Ardrishaig and you pushed him and his sister into the loch!”

“I remember it was because we were teasing you.” Malcolm changed tack. “We’d be pleased to have both of you to sup with us this evening if your duties allow.”

Duncan made an airy gesture.

“Time enough for those tomorrow.”

Kirsty gave a shy smile.

“It’ll be nice to meet your parents again, Mr Porteous.”

“Malcolm, please,” the young man said. “And you’ll remember my sister, Alison, too.”

“Oh, of course,” Kirsty said hastily.

“I’ll call for you at your lodgings this evening at six to guide you to our home in the Grassmarket. Until tonight, then,” he said, and took his leave.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.