Part journal, part travelogue, A Kangaroo Loose in Scotland is a delightful account of Lachlan Ness’ six-month residence in the far north of Scotland.
The book is set in 2009 in Caithness, an isolated county in the northeast Highlands. Ness, a Presbyterian minister from Australia, has come to Latheron parish for a locum ministry, a temporary position filling in for a regular clergyman.
Much of the narrative covers the nuts and bolts of being a minister in a rural community. Ness visits hospitals and shut-ins, conducts services and sees to the spiritual well-being of his temporary flock. Along the way, he introduces colorful townsfolk that readers will enjoy. There’s just-this-side-of-the-law Addon John, a sharpie who can get you anything you need, provided you pay his unexpected additional fees (Addon, as in “add on more charges”). Or Wullie, an elderly gent who after losing a leg to an old war injury, kept it, so all his parts could be buried together. “When the Lord returns in glory and the graves give up their dead,” Wullie tells Ness, “there is no way I want tae be hoppin’ all the way back tae Aberdeenshire on one leg tae fetch the one they took off me . . .”
Equally fun are the book’s travel guide elements. Ness was new to the area, so he and his wife made time to explore. The Cairns of Camster, the Brethren Well, the Ring of Brodgar and more are all well-described here.
Ness writes with humor and has a way of making readers want to visit the places he discusses. If there’s a shortcoming with Kangaroo, it’s a lack of photos. The Highlands are breathtaking, and Ness’ stories, as wonderful as they are, would have been even better had they been illustrated. But that’s a quibble.
Anyone who has been to Scotland, or is contemplating a trip there, will enjoy this lively book.
Also available as an ebook.