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Over the Seas to Die – Briefing


From: Andre Swahn, Briefing/99

To Operatives: Jake Carter, Brian Dellis, Vul Dragna, John Hansen, Sampson McBride, Hilda Prism

Subject: Clachantyre

Code: B/99/485/29C

Rendezvous: Caledonian MacBrayne terminal at Uig, Skye, 0600 hours, 7 February 1997.

Destination: Clachantyre, a remote island lying west of the Outer Hebrides. The population is less than 200. There is only one settlement of any size - Harriestown, which grew up around the natural harbour on the east coast of the island. Apart from this harbour, the coastline is treacherous. The island's economy is based on sheep farming and fishing, though there have been attemots to attract tourists and recent geological surveys suggests that there may be offshore oil deposits.

Travel arrangements: From Uig you will take the 1000 hours ferry to Lochmaddy, North Uist, where you will be met by the Clachantyre ferryman, Murdo Muir. You will be issued with open return tickets; Lochmaddy ferries depart daily.

Cover: You are an empolyee of Acorn Productions, a small independent television company based at 16-18 Boundary Row, London SE1 8HN, tel/fax. 0171 865 0088. You and your colleagues are visiting Clachantyre to produce a short documentey as part of a series, 'These Distant Isles, commisioned by Channel 4, which focuses on the attractions and eccentricities of life in the most far-flung parts of the British Isles. You will be provided with all necessary equipment at the your rendezvous point (see above).

(Note: this cover is rated Code 7. You will be issued with a letter approving you request to film on Clachantyre, signed by the High Sheriff of the Highlands and Islands. In the unlikely event that difficulties should arise, a telephone call to the number above will authenticate your story.)

Background information:

1) 11 March 1996 - before his shocked Sunday evening congregation, Clachantyre's minister Reverend Andrew McMillan butchers his wolfhound Bess on the church altar. Eye witnesses claim he poured the dog's blood into a chalice and drank communion from it before fleeing. Early on the morning of 12 March, Reverend McMillan's naked body is found at the foot of the 'Old Man o' the Head' - an Iron Age dolmen standing on the cliffs overlooking the west coast of the island. The Reverend had apparently severed the fingers of his right hand with an axe then blown his head off with a shotgun. The word HOME is written in blood on the dolmen.

2) 14 March 1996 - an Iron Age artefact known as the 'Old Man's Fingers' is stolen from the Clachantyre Heritage Centre. The artefact comprises a set of five quartzite rods, each one approximately 22 cm long and 3 cm in diameter; rough holes are bored in one end of each rod, and all five are currently strung on a leather thong of recent manufacture. The Fingers were found among the goods deposited in a burial discovered in 1991. From the time of their discovery until February of this year, the Fingers were kept at the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. At the time of their theft, they were on temporary loan to Clachantyre, principally as a result of the efforts of Cameron Frazer, local Council Officer, antiquarian and spare-time curator of the Clachantyre Heritage Centre.

3) June 1910 - Fort William: five members of a Clachantyre family stand accused of the murder of the 10-year-old daughter of a certain Lord Inverkirkcraig, who disappeared while accompanying her father on a hunting trip to Clachantyre. Her body was found at the foot of the Old Man; she had been decaptiated and her right hand was missing. Angus Doonie and his four brothers were found guilt and hanged on 12 June.

4) 4 May 1824 - a boat carrying 30 Irish Catholics out of Dublin sinks with the loss of all hands. in calm waters off the western coast of Clachantyre.

5) Summer 1738 - a fire destroys Hawkcraig House, the ancestral home of the Doonie family. Six family mambers, an recorded number of servants and the noted Highlands poet Callum MacClellan perish in the flames. Hamish Doonie, youngest son of the head of the family, Angus Doonie, is reported missing but his body is never found. It is rumoured that he set the house alight before fleeing to the mainland.

6) 16 August 1652 - local farmers seize 6 Clachantyre witches, force them into barrels pierced with knives, and roll them off the cliffs into the sea. The women are blamed for the murder of a baby in a ritual, the details of which are unrecorded.

7) 1566 - according to Diocesan records, the ancient church of St Aoradh is torn down and its congregation chased from the island (or killed - the language is obscure) by the other inhabitants of Clachantyre. The worshippers are accused of worshipping stones, sacrificing sheep and pouring milk upon the cliffs.

Your mission: to investigate the possibility of a connection between these apparently unconnected events. Note that SITU has reason to believe that, given the evidence, the death of Reverend Andrew McMillan was not a straightforward suicide. In addition, SITU would welcome retrieval of the Old Man's Fingers.

Contacts: Cameron Frazer and local police officer Constable James MacDuff have been informed of Acorn Productions' visit Rooms have been reserved for you at the island's only inn - the Old Man's Arms in Harriestown; the owner is Sid Bridgewater. Public telephones can be found at the inn and at the Clachantyre Post Office; however, the exchange is an old one and security cannot be guaranteed. Mail is collected and delivered every Tuesday - Murdo Muir acts as postman for offshore deliveries. In the event of medical emergencies, Dr Mary Fitzallen can be contacted on 41.

Expenses: SITU will reimburse Operatives for all reasonable expenses incurred during the investigation. Receipts will be required.

General advice: all Operatives should be aware that, while they may choose to operate outside the Law, they are not above it. SITU does not condone unlawful activity of any nature (North American Operatives should note that in most instances it is illegal to carry firearms in the UK). SITU will not act on the behalf of any Operative who is cautioned, arrested, charged etc in the course of pursuing an investigation. Indeed, if an Operative were to attempt to contact SITU in such a situation, he/she would find all telephone numbers unobtainable and all addresses unoccupied.

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