Northwords Now Issue 37

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Daft Wullie

Loch Leven, Kinross

by Peter Burrows

As a boy there was no escaping the local tale.  
His ancestor, Daft Wullie, the keeper
of Castle Island boats was the one they said
gullible enough to be coaxed to smuggle
the key, to row her across the loch at night
setting her free to her fate. An undeserved title
bequeathed by hearsay, perhaps; four centuries’ mist
obscuring the ‘bastard orphan’. 16 years old,  
‘Wee Willie Douglas’, love-smit, hawked; a fool    
for her cause. The failed attempts. Banished twice.
Yet too much the knave to be doubted again -
Lost in the lore of an unforgiving view.
Behind the masque, he plays the part of courtly page
to the drunken Master. He drops the napkin,
swapping keys, rushing from hall to gaol.
The disguised Queen fleeing to his readied skiff. Locking
all behind, with their sunken boats. Halfway across,
she rises. Lifts her veil to her followers
ashore. By her side, William Douglas
throws the keys into the loch. From the castle
her watching captor, captive, incensed, attempts
to stab himself with his dagger. The oars
ripple out their moment in history.
The keys lost, until dredged centuries later.