The Strange Tale of Tideline Ted
When we moved to the Isle of Coll in 1965, the 'flitting' fishing boat from Applecross carried numerous boxes of personal items, over and above the usual household paraphernalia.
In one box was my childhood teddy bear, all of 28 years old. I had always hoped my children would take a liking to him. But he was of the old fashioned variety; hand-packed with straw and somewhat rigid, and he was very bald and had only one eye...
So, there was no second childhood for Old Ted with Mark or Tammie. His first childhood with me can hardly have been memorable, either; for how can I explain the heinous crime I committed one fine spring-cleaning day?
Old Ted went to The Dump.
The traditional dump for Crossapol House was 'over the back' on the north side of the island. A deep cleft in the cliffs served as a shute down which accumulated junk - no Strathclyde skip in those days - was tipped from the trailer. The sea always slurped darkly below. Out of sight, out of mind - Old Ted, the empty Heinz bean tins and the cracked plates.
Six months later, however, looking for aluminium floats (3/6d we got for them then!) along Feall beach I found Old Ted washed up on the most recent tide line. He was intact, but very soggy. It never struck me as all that amazing. Feall is near enough to the Crossapol dump.
Old Ted was brought home and dried by the fire. But the sea dampness never quite left him. As the years went by, his straw-filled belly became mouldy. He began to smell.
Before we finally left Coll in 1973 to go and live on the mainland there were many runs to the dump. Need I tell you? Off Old Ted went again in the back of the trailer.
In the summer of 1975 - two years later - whilst holidaying at Hyne and on a beachcomb of Hyne Bay, there, on the high winter tide line, he was - AGAIN!
Kindle-dry this time but only the one-eyed head and one arm left; three rusty limb swivels entangled in the few surviving strands of the fabric that once contained the rest of his bald old body. It was a weird reunion.
I have his remains now in Inverness in a box tied with a ribbon. He is not a pretty sight. Some days I think too much about it all. Which way did he travel round the island? By Sorisdale? or Gunna Sound? How long was he in the sea? Did he land up on other beaches for a while- on Mull, the Treshnish Isles? - then to be lifted off by winter storms?
And why did he finially get washed up on the beach of the one house on Coll to which I regularly return?
And why did l find him again?
Answer me that, Tideline Ted.