Murdo’s Measure  – Foyers (Loch Ness)

Murdo’s Measure  – Foyers (Loch Ness)

Scratched into the surface of the bar counter in the Foyers Hotel, is a strange scale. At just over two feet long, it has marks across it, dividing it into a number of units of irregular width. Under it are scratched two lengthwise arrows, one with a capital ‘H’ pointing left, the other a capital ‘T’ pointing right. Written in uneven letters in chalk underneath this puzzling piece of primitive art is the title, ‘Murdo’s Measure’.

Any visitor intrigued by this almost indecipherable marking and curious to know what it was for, would be answered with a nod and a wink accompanied by a forefinger tapping the side of the nose. Their curiosity will only be resolved if they happen to be in the bar when a small, fit looking man with a weather beaten complexion comes in. This newcomer dressed in a long overcoat – much too big for him – opens it to reveal two deep poacher’s pockets and in one of them, something wrapped in newspaper. Going straight to the bar he pulls the parcel from the pocket, thumps it down on the counter, opens the newspaper and reveals a fine salmon. The newcomer then carefully positions the salmon alongside the scale, head towards the ‘H’, tail towards the ‘T’ and calls for the Landlord

The newcomer and the Landlord then adjust the position of the fish until they agree on its precise placing. The Landlord pours a dram, which the newcomer picks up and swallows in one gulp. Smacking his lips, the newcomer bangs his glass down for a refill. Then for each dram the newcomer drinks, a chalk tick mark is put in one of the spaces under the fish. The newcomer is Murdo and this is Murdo’s Measure in use. Murdo will drink his way through the fish for as long as an ‘unticked’ space remains. The bigger the fish, the happier Murdo becomes.

With the last space ticked off, the Landlord shakes Murdo’s hand, wipes the measure clean with a towel and transfers what was now his fish to the hotel refrigerator.

This is normally a cordial arrangement, but there was one occasion that still rankled with Murdo, although the Landlord believes that Murdo only got what he deserved.

Foyers is a fairly isolated rural area, policed by single constable. ‘Big Iain’ is a local lad and a popular member of the community. He is also very sociable, and enjoys his tipple as well as the next man; he often sits drinking with the locals until long after closing time. It is well understood by the locals that when Ian is wearing his hat and tunic, he is on duty, but if not, he is just one of the boys.

Late one autumn evening, Murdo had brought in a good-sized salmon and was sitting drinking his way through it. He had been there for some time and although it was well past closing time, there were still a good few regulars lingering on. The comfortable peace of the bar was shattered when the landlord’s wife rushed in and shouted,

“Look out, Big Iain’s coming to the front door and he’s got his uniform on!”

The tranquility of the bar erupted into chaos as customers scattered around trying to escape. A few dashed through the door and scrambled up the stairs towards the bedrooms, others clambered over the bar, shot through the landlord’s office and tried to get out through the back doors. Two, in their panic – to be anywhere but in the bar – dived out through open windows. Outside the hotel, those who had not managed to leave the grounds hid in the shrubbery, outbuildings, up trees or in any other hidey-hole they could find, not already occupied………..

To read the remainder of Chapter 10 Murdo’s Measure, get your copy of A Storm in Any Port by Johnny Jones. Click Here on where to purchase.


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