The cloud cover over Aberdeen International Airport was minimal as the
727 began its initial landing approach, making a slow turn over the
North Sea and the hundreds of natural sand dunes along the shore line.
The lone occupant could see the farm animals dotting the countryside,
running with gay abandon as the sun began to rise. A few tractors were
moving slowly across the fields as the local farmers were beginning
another day’s routine. April was the beginning of the warm season
with rainfall only averaging about 30% in a given week.
Most farmers supplemented their incomes with salmon fishing in small
two-man boats. They too were now being launched as the private jet
touched down and taxied silently to a waiting hangar. A small
groundcrew made the necessary preparations and moved a portable stair
into position. Normally when the MacLeod jet arrived anywhere in the
world, a group of local dignitaries were waiting to lavish the warmest
of greetings. Today would be different.
Donald MacLeod was flying under the radar, so to speak. This visit was
strictly business and meant to be known to only a few key people…. the
mayor, the police chief and the lead contractor that would be running
the many crews involved in the project. Next week Donald’s oldest son
Steven would fly in from Manhattan to attend the official ribbon-cutting
and meet with the press. Donald and his attorneys anticipated a loud
and vocal response from the environmentalists and Steven had a much
better grasp on his emotions than his volatile father. Their dream of
building the greatest golf course the world had ever seen was about to
become a reality.
Donald’s team estimated the final cost to complete this massive
project would exceed 1 billion pounds. This included paying off various
layers of government and recruiting the police to provide security. By
the time the locals got wind of what was happening it would be too late.
He would secure what he couldn’t purchase via “Compulsory Purchase
Orders”, a form of Eminent Domain that Donald had used successfully in
the States. He was constantly amazed how people of great wealth can
bend the rules.
* * *
Molly Malone had spent every day of her 92 years on the family farm.
Her only son, Michael, had an adjacent farm and continued the family
tradition of living off the land. His son Ian (Molly’s only
grandchild) marched to a different drummer, earning a degree in Zoology
at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen before joining The Black
Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The Royal
Highlanders had a distinguished record of service going back to 1881.
Ian earned distinction as a marksman, leading to sniper training which
he put to lethal use in “C” Company, 5th Battalion. There was no
official record of the number of kills he achieved in Iraq and
Afghanistan as part of the NATO forces, but there were many who
witnessed his gallantry on June 24, 2009 during Operation Panther’s
After a number of engagements with Taliban insurgents, the soldiers of
the battalion secured three main crossing points over the Nahr-e-Burgha
canal. This operation established a firm foothold in what was the last
remaining Taliban area controlled in the southern Helmand Province. Ian
Malone saved countless lives by killing enemies blocking the path of the
advancing NATO forces. Upon his return home, he pledged to never take
another life, human or animal, for country or sport.
During down time in Afghanistan, Ian saw numbers of snow leopard skins
hanging in many of the stalls in the Kabul market area. This cat is the
last of the large predators still living in this mountainous region and
seeing them destroyed broke his heart. This led him to develop a keen
interest in big cats and conservation efforts to protect the most
Upon his discharge and return home, Ian made a sincere effort to adapt
to the life of a farmer and fisherman. His father had every reason to
expect his son to assume management and eventually, ownership of both
his and Molly’s farm. After six months, it was clear to Ian and his
father that he was looking for more than a rural existence could
He decided to use his education, both formal and practical, to become a
hunting guide and conservationist and sought his future in South Africa.
His mission was to document and deter poaching and film the majestic
cats for use in educating children around the world. Robert Gordon
University provided him with a research grant and he was on his way.
* * *
As promised, the week after Donald MacLeod’s initial visit to
Aberdeen, his son arrived to a greeting fit for the prominent dignitary
that he believed he was. A motorcade sped from the airport to the
luxurious Marcliffe Hotel and Spa, a stone’s throw from the campus of
Robert Gordon University. This 40-room estate, considered the finest
hotel in all of Aberdeen, offered a degree of elegance similar to what
the MacLeod’s offered in their own hotels.
A welcoming dinner was arranged in the ballroom which was soon filled
with prominent members of government and industry. In this neck of the
woods, a 1-billion-pound investment was something to talk about. The
local press hoped to have an opportunity to ask questions of the
celebrated guest, but all such requests were declined, with assurances
that a press conference would follow the ribbon cutting ceremony the
The following morning Molly Malone made her usual rounds of the chicken
coops in search of eggs to be consumed for breakfast. Once her basket
was filled, she grabbed a hose to fill the water troughs. She turned
the faucet handle, but nothing came out. Strange, she thought, but
before calling her son she went back to the house to see if she could
get water at the sink. The house had no water either. No water for the
toilets and none to wash dishes or bathe in. Time to call Michael.
“Michael, I have no water,” she said as her son tried to wake up.
“Does your water work?” she continued.
“Hold on Ma…let me check,” he answered before putting the phone
down and walking to the bathroom sink. He had no water either.
“No water here either, Ma. Let me get dressed and drive to the well.
Must be a broken pipe.” He dressed quickly and jumped into his old
pickup truck for the short drive to the well location at the northern
edge of his farm. During the past week a procession of heavy equipment
began to arrive and a major construction project was clearly in the
works although no one knew the details.
The dirt road leading to the well was rarely used but this particular
morning there were numerous trucks stationed near the well location and
two local police cars were idling nearby. When the lead constable
recognized Michael, he walked up and blocked his path to the well pump.
“Morning Michael. What’s on your mind this morning?”
“Morning”, Michael replied. “Seems we have no water and I need to
take a look and see if a pipe may have been broken by all this equipment
digging around my property.” The constable stood his ground.
“This might not be a good time to get in the middle of this. I’ll
have the construction supervisor take a look and give you a call.”
“It’s my fucking land and my fucking well so please step aside so I
can inspect the damage and get it fixed. Can’t run a farm without
water for the stock.” Michael began to push aside the constable, a
classic mistake we often make with the police. He was greeted by the
business end of a billy club and went down in a heap.
Excerpted from "Aberdeen" by James Frishkey. Copyright © 2018 by James Frishkey. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.