Monday, 18 October 2010

(19) Munlochy

‘A tiny doll hangs by the throat at the black well-mouth.
The weak thin young man descends, takes water from the trough,
and puts it on his chest. His wife seals that with a kiss.
He wears his hospital wristband.
People are getting over everything,
using these rip-rag gallows trees.’

– Valerie Gillies, from ‘Munlochy’

19 audio, Valerie Gillies, 'Munlochy'
Alec Finlay, 2010

Our Iizuka hot springs is the Cloutie Well, Munlochy

Our post town of Ko-ori is Strathpeffer, and Angus’ steading at Millnain

Our Okido Barrier is the turning from the A835 on to the A832 at Contin, low mist over a fast wet road

Our all night, thunder, pouring buckets, roof leaking, fleas mosquitoes in droves has to be the rain, general and specific, the midges and ticks, prolific

The Well

The ramshackleness of Basho’s lodging merges into the raggle-taggle rotting cloots of Munlochy, where it drizzled and cleared, drizzled and cleared.

19 The Well
Ken Cockburn, 2010

19 three times sunwise
Ken Cockburn, 2010

The Rite

Walk round the well 3 times


Ablute face and hands

wash your clout.

Drink some well water

or splash some on the ground.

Make a silent wish or prayer.

Apply your clout, or mind,
to the wound.

Tie your clout on

and leave it to rot.

19 audio, Angus Dunn, Munlochy
Alec Finlay, 2010

19 Ango
Alec Finlay, 2010

Eck poured a dash of Osmanthus Black from the flask, and Ken tinkled the well with a few drops of the local Glenmorangie, at 10 years old with youth on its side.

19 Basho & Ango libate The Cloutie Well
Alec Finlay, 2010

19 Sora’s wash
Angus Dunn, 2010



I first came here on a bright spring Sunday in 2001, returning from the Cromarty Book Festival, when the basin was right by the road and there was no car park; the photo in my photo album shows a knoll of trees made gaudy with pieces of clothing. I recommended it to Angus Reid, who was travelling by earlier this summer, but he found it a dismal, desolate place.

19 hokku-label
(‘a slow air / entitled / Mr Reid’s dismay’, KC)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

Today’s Angus directs us to a car park, made once the site got on the tourist trail and coaches started blocking the road; the coin-peppered basin’s now a few metres uphill, beneath a canopy of beech, rowan and larch.

It’s a strange site, much used; clothes left to fade and rot with time. As Angus explains in the audio, when you’re ill you leave something here, and the illness stays too.

19 Basho at the well
Alec Finlay, 2010

I’ve brought a top of my sister’s, douse it in the basin and attach it to a berryless young rowan, bent over with the weight of its attachments but still sprouting vital green shoots.
We perform the suggested rite – three times sunwise round – then drink, immerse our hands, Angus splashes his face too; and perform our own rite, libation and communal drink of Glenmorangie.

Eck points out the basin to a young English couple, and the decisive sceptical reply comes, I'm not going to be drinking any of that. They don't hang about.

The rain’s eased.

Cloots left behind, backs turned on them, even taking a photograph away seems counter-productive; I look generally and not the particulars. But the water’s good and the green’s good and in the battle between the trees’ rate of growth and the cloots’ rate of disintegration the genius loci will overcome detritus.

19 hokku-label
('The message of the cloths / Is not the message of the leaves', AD)
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 hokku-label
('On the hillside / Cloth of cold, cloth of fever' / Mouldering by the spring', AD)
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 hokku-label
('Pine and beech, ash and birch / Flag and sock, glove and sash / Long and hope, wish and want', AD)
Angus Dunn, 2010

The information board mentions the 1581 Act banning pilgrimages to such sites but the practice was never entirely stifled. I recall Tobar Loch Shianta on Skye, which by comparison is hidden, unsignposted, unburdened with remnants (to the extent our wishes and poem-labels were removed overnight); in some ways Munlochy’s clutter’s the opposite of that loch’s clear waters, but it has its own clarity, in its continually restated willingness to let the world go.




19 circle poem (the day goes by)
Alec Finlay, 2010

19 prayer flags, Munlochy
Alec Finlay, 2010

19 hokku-label
('Occasional birdsong / And many cloths – / Chaffinch, scarf, / Bunting')
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 Sora
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 Sora’s clout
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 Ango, with Munlochy Midge
Alec Finlay, 2010

19 Cloutees (Ango, Basho, Sora)
Unknown Anglophone photographer, 2010

19 clouts

Ken Cockburn, 2010

Our Rags & Wishes

19 hokku-labels
Angus Dunn, 2010

Munlochy hokku






rags &


how many wishes
hung out
in the rain


our colours fade
with what wishes

as we rot
with what wishes


(after Basho)


off than



the message of the clothes
is different
from the message of the leaves


on the hillside –
cloths of cold

cloth of fever
mouldering away



hanging out
the washing
for good


Munlochy rain –
a memory of sunshine
a memory of health


19 hokku-labels, Munlochy
Ken Cockburn, 2010

Fabrications (1): Nub

Over lunch at the Munlochy Hotel Angus entertains us with news of recent local happenings – a grand party hosted by the gay vegan biker couple, and the Ambassador of Nub’s stagemanaged visit, when Angus circulated as ‘August June, warrior-poet of Nub’, asking guests can I have a word? and at the end of the affair constructing from said words a Nubbite ode.

Fabrications (2): The Steading, Whelk and Fire Temple

15:15 19.09.2010
Ken Cockburn, 2010

19 Nasturtiums
Ken Cockburn, 2010

On the outskirts of Strathpeffer rowanberries drape the windscreen and nasturtiums are still in flower.

Added to our contemporary survey of things perched between art and architecture is the
whorled form of the whelk – to be formally addressed as ‘The Conch Sound Studio’ – imagined by artists
Neil Bromwich & Zoe Walker (of Berwick), and fabricated by Angus himself. Last seen at the Inverness Expo.

19 hokku-label, The Whelk
(‘of growth / & form // talk spirals /thoughts dome’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

19 Wrapped Whelk
Ken Cockburn, 2010

19 The Whelk
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 The Whelk
Angus Dunn, 2010

19 audio, Angus Dunn, The Whelk
Alec Finlay, 2010

Sans seasmell, the shell’s scented with larch, a cosy shelter for chats. Neil and Zoe have a
fine line in idylic faery-tale share-spaces. Angus’ improvisatory touch and the Outlandia-like intimacy gives this integument a specal air; it’s a beachwork to equal their celebrated silver sailboat,
Celestial Radio. This L’arch for that M’irror.

19 Celestial Radio (daytime)
Neil Bromwich & Zoe Walker
Pippy Houldsworth, 2004

19 Indian fire-temple
Ken Cockburn, 2010

19 Angus points the route in to Slioch for Basho
Alec Finlay, 2010

Eagle Stone, Strathpeffer

The Brahan Seer predicted that the third time stone falls, the sea will rise so far that a ship will be able to sail into Strathpeffer. It has already fallen twice, and is now concreted to ensure stability. ( Sealevel again, something more than the equinoctial moon –keels in the woods, recalling the image of boats anchored around Dunadd, the hunt coursing through The Princess Forest. Memory as prediction.

19 hokku-label, Eagle Stone
(‘a stone anchor / waits in the forest / for sail and sea’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010


The Forestry Commissi
Cloutie Well

Angus Dunn is a poet, short-story writer and novelist. His latest book, Writing in the Sand (2006), is set in the Highlands. You can also hear Angus talk about his work here.

Arts in Motion provide technical support for art productions.

Neil Bromwich & Zoe Walker make art and space that challenges its audience socially and psychologically.

Valerie Gillies
was the Edinburgh Maker, poet laureate to the city, 2005 - 2008. In
The Spring Teller (2008), a journey our own echoes, Valerie travels the wells and springs of Scotland and Island in a series of poems.

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