A chance remark by a member of my reading group inspired me to read this book by one of my favourite Scottish writers and I am so very glad that I did. It was just right for these rather anxious times amidst the Christmas busyness – beautifully written, meditative and wise. Andrew Greig was and remains deeply inspired by the poet Norman MacCaig, an older friend and mentor to him when he was a young aspiring writer. Ever the enigmatic individual that he was and nearing death, MacCaig’s final instructions were to urge Greig to go to his beloved Assynt, seek directions for the Loch of the Green Corrie and fish there on his behalf.
This is in a sense a travel book, which takes the reader up to the north west near glorious Lochinver, enabling us to embrace the beauty, the ruggedness and the mystery of this part of Scotland and learn more about its landscape, its geology and history. It is a pilgrimage, where Greig has the time and space to reflect on many aspects of his life, his hopes and aspirations, interests and beliefs, both in the company of others and alone as he seeks to fulfil his quest. It offers a fascinating insight into one of my favourite poets and the text is generously illustrated with many of MacCaig’s pieces, set in the part of the country which he loved best. I am not a fisherman, but the description of him skimming the loch with his casts and seeking out where the trout might lie are simply magical. As all true fishermen know, it is the experience rather than the success of the catch which draws them again and again to the water. And it is a joyful account of the bonds of male friendship, something which is perhaps lacking in much of modern literature.
The last thing MacCaig said to him was ‘ta ta’ as he waved him down his tenement stair – something Greig took as both a thank you and a goodbye. What a wonderful epitaph.
Reviewed by a library member. We have a copy of At the Loch of the Green Corrie in the library.