The Angry Corrie 21: Jan-Feb 1995
The Mystery of the Cairngorms:
"Which is why we can't see it?" I asked, to show I was following his theory, even if it didn't make the slightest bit of sense.
"That's right", Possel replied, "and that was also the extent of my hypothesis. Until last night. But as you told me, there is something altogether strange about the Cairngorms, Macdui in particular. The quantum mass of Cairngorm granite displays a seemingly inexplicable variance from that of any other type of granite. A variance which can only be explained by the presence of dark matter! And, under certain circumstances, the quark-gluon plasma (the state of matter in the universe before it cooled) might be recreated. If so, it could be possible to pass into the Other Dimension. And if I was right about dark matter being attached to Cairngorm granite, then such a place might well be the summit of Ben Macdui. So, while you were finishing off my whisky last night, I was busy recalibrating my figures.
"Certain fluctuations in the sun's electromagnetic field can occasionally excite strange particles and cause them to collide with the subatomic anionic compounds in pink feldspar. This makes the quarks flow backwards. A pro-ionic mass exerting into this reverse quantum field will spontaneously pass through the fabric of space and time."
"Er, yes, great. But what exactly does that mean?"
"It means," the professor replied, a distinct note of excitement in his voice, "that Ben Macdui is a gateway into the Other Dimension, and its true summit lies outside the space-time continuum. What's more, since this true summit cannot be seen, neither can its height be measured!"
"Which is why no-one can find the SMC?"
"Precisely. To find the SMC you need to know the heights of all the Munros."
Right, but how does all this relate to what happened to Baird and Barrie?"
"Simple! I'd have thought even you could have worked that out by now. Baird and Barrie, as you witnessed in your dream, passed through to the Other Dimension. The river they followed to escape finds its outlet into our world at the place we call the Wells of Dee - or, more correctly, fhuarain a dhe, the fountain of god. A place appropriately distant from the true earthly source of the Dee on Ben Macdui - or Beinn Mhic Dhuibh, hill of the son of the dark, a typically veiled Celtic reference. And this, of course, is why the force of water at the Wells is so great: it has already fallen a considerable distance down the sides of the part of Macdui which exists in the Other Dimension. But that's not all. I believe the Other Dimension to be inhabited."
"Have you not heard of am fear liath mhor? Clearly the story of the big grey man arose from encounters with a being from the Other Dimension. Just as we can, occasionally, pass through to the true summit of Macdui, so too can beings who dwell there pass through to our world. Actually, I believe they are really bodhisattvas."
"Bodhisattvas - enlightened beings. It's they who gave rise to legends of gods on the summits of Macdui and other mountains. They're sort of guardian angels. Used to come down more often, but nowadays they just end up scaring people."
"So how come no-one knows all this?"
"Ah, but they do. Have done for thousands of years. The entire history of the British Isles is intricately linked with the search for Tir nan Og."
"Hang on a minute. Where does Tir nan Og come into all this? I thought we were discussing the Cairngorms."
"But we are. The Other Dimension, you see, is none other than Tir nan Og, Annwm, The Blessed Isles, Land of Eternal Youth, Ultima Thule, The Garden of the Hesperides, Elysium Fields, call it what you will. (This is starting to sound like a Van Morrison song - Ed.) The ultimate destination of every mythical hero. Time is different there, it doesn't follow the laws of our universe."
"But Tir nan Og is supposed to be an island."
"And what, pray, is Britain if not an island? The legend goes back to long before the Celts came searching for an island in the west. When they reached Britain and found it no different to the rest of Europe, they naturally assumed Tir nan Og lay even further west. Only later did a few inhabitants of the far north begin to guess the truth. And they, like the masons, formed a secret society - so secret that only a handful of people know of it even today. It was necessary, you see, to protect the location from others who also came from Europe in search of the fabled faery realm: Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, French, Spanish, Nazis - even, some would claim, the Americans. All sought to conquer Tir nan Og, and saw England as the stepping stone. But always the Picts in the north, and their successors the Scots, prevented access to the Cairngorms.
"So the secret, handed down from father to eldest son through countless generations of Gaels, remained inviolate. Many have guessed at the truth - not least the English, whose government will allow no other to rule Scotland for that very reason. Do you know what I think happened last winter when that English woman got lost and they spent three days searching for her? I believe she and her two companions did indeed climb Derry Cairngorm, as first claimed, but they then passed through into the Other Dimension, emerged further west, became disorientated and fell from the shoulder of Macdui. The money paid for their story was simply to ensure silence, though it's unlikely the woman had the faintest idea what really happened."
"But I thought the papers paid her that money?"
"So we were all led believe. But those who guard the secret have many agents. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Rev Skene - he who first declared the Wells of Dee to be the source of the Dee, and later claimed Ben Nevis was higher than Macdui - was also in their pay."
"Do you really expect me to believe all that?"
"Actually no, because if you did, then you might tell someone else - provided the Branch Bothidian didn't get to you first."
"The Branch Bothidian? What the hell have they got to do with all this?"
"They are none other than the descendants of the society formed to guard the secret. Bothies are just a front, although it's said the entire future history of the British Isles is enshrined within the geometry of a certain secret bothy."
"What, you mean..."
"Yes, but do not utter the name of that bothy within or without these walls. You never know in what dingy comer a bothidian might be lurking."
Outside, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and peered confidently round the curtains, spotlighting a particularly dingy comer of the Professor's study. I looked carefully, but could see no sign of a lurking Cornwallis, so assumed I was safe for the moment.
"Look, I need a drink. I'm not sure how much of all this is true and how much you're making up. But I definitely need a drink."
"A good and wise idea. And as for believing - well, that's for you to decide. Perhaps it's better if you don't believe it. Either way, I beg you, do not seek the secret bothy!"
"Okay," I said, picking up my coat. "Oh, and by the way, you don't know where these came from do you?" I pulled from my pockets five Spanish pesetas which had most definitely not been there yesterday.
"Er, um, no," replied the Professor hesitantly, "but there is much in this world best left untold. Right, let's go - the Black Adder Inn awaits, and Mr Brazil owes me a pint..."