STAN THE COCK OF THE NORTH
Through habit Stan hugs the east bank of Loch Tay on his return journey but only gets as far as Ardtainaig where he's met with a host of broon troot getting ready for their run up that burn. At the head of them is Auld Tam who knows Stan's family from way back.
"Hey young ain, fancy a different route back to the Tay? No mony ken it but oor lot do and it's a harder run than you have ever seen. If you're game, follow me".
Stan who has swam from the Atlantic to here a few times thinks this will be a doddle and a new way to boot says "Lead on Tam". Up the burn they go and the first falls of many up Creagan Na Beinne looms in front. Stan glides round the deep pool and watches the method of the leaping troot. Too high for a oner, use the crags as a springboard, avoid the torrent, maybe two leaps and I'm up.
Stan starts his run eyeing the outcrop of rock shelf. Half up the falls he soars, tail threshing on the crag giving himself thrust and up into the next pool. Auld Tam is waiting for him. He comes alongside and says "There's seven more falls like that one but you will manage just fine. Now I will tell you aboot this place before we go any further. Just over that hill lies a boat. Only a shell now carried by men of the Campbells to raid into clanland thinking they would use it to surprise their enemy sailing on that lochan there, but to a man they were slaughtered. Grim times Stan but then as now the source of the Almond is not far from here and good luck to you".
At Auchanfree the Almond is only a burn but as it begins its descent into the glens, hill streams and lochan run offs gradually build the flow until nearing Buchanty it becomes a fine river.
Stan had heard of this area and been warned about poachers using hand nets scooping salmon leaping at Buchanty Spout. But going downstream over the Spout - no bother to Stan who rested in the deep pool and thought about his surroundings.
They built a fine college here at Glenalmond but before that most of the land was owned by the Mercer family who also gifted the North and South Inches to the City of Perth in exchange for a burial vault in St Johns Church. An old verse tells the tale:
"Folk say the Mercers tried to cheat
When for two inches they did win six feet".
Their last burial ground lies a short distance from Buchanty covered by gorse, rhododendrons and weed. Forgotten and unseen.
Stan heads down river to Almondbank. There the Pow Burn empties into the deep pool that laps over steps that some say was a Roman encampment but now forms a tailrace.
Nearing the Tay now under the Dunkeld Road brig there's a tinker encampment. They stay here all winter then when the broom turns yellow they start their travels. Into the railway brig pool laddies swimming here bare buff cocking their bare bums at surprised passengers on the trains far above.
Stan enters the Tay at the Almond estuary gliding into the Pen and Ink where he is joined by another salmon. "Remember me she says? Mhairi". How could I forget. All that information on the Almond held me in good stead, but at the same time admiring her sleek shape and colouring as they glide together to Perth.
Mac McPherson - December 2008