A Winter’s Tale

14 December 2023

Guest newsletter contributor and local historian Iain Thornber shares an unusual story of a long ago winter on Kingairloch.

One of the popular fireside stories which used to be told in this area many years ago was of an old woman called Jenny Cameron, who lived in a lonely spot in the hills above Kingairloch. About 1810 a great snowstorm swept across the West Highlands leaving the ground covered for weeks in deep snow. There were fears for Jenny’s life and as soon as it was possible a party of estate gamekeepers and shepherds set out to make sure that she was safe. Reaching a corner in the glen from where the old lady’s house should have been visible, they saw nothing except huge snow-wreaths. On they went expecting the worst, until they saw smoke rising. When they reached the old cottage, nothing was visible except the hole in the thatched roof which acted as a chimney and even it was lower than the snowdrift. They climbed onto the roof and called down, but before there was any response, a large fox jumped out and ran off. Soon the men were inside and found the old lady very much alive and well.

They heard that the day the storm began a fox came down the chimney and curled up on the rafters enjoying the warmth and shelter along with her hens, which he never once touched. When dawn came, he would go off hunting and return with a hare, a blackcock or a grouse almost every day and what he left Jenny washed, cooked and ate maintaining she had never dined so well in years!

This is a remarkable and unusual story which one might be inclined to disbelieve before hearing that it was recorded by the grandson of the local Church of Scotland minister, who accompanied the search party.