This is the last of 14 installments. Click to read the entire piece.
But Tom - and Mackie - made it home. And the village cheered and wept and carried on. And a few, Davie Blane amongst, slept sound in their beds and knew that 2 lives had, thanks to them, been saved. And as is the way with all great adventures of boyhood, Tom set foot on the road to becoming a man. A distant future of slipways and lifeboats and late night alarms. Of those lost - in the water and out of their depth. The service of others who found themselves in need of aid.
And I speak as one who knows. Who has - a long, long time ago - clung in the dark to the side of a boat. Who lost a father but held a younger brother close. Who cried and yelled and trusted help would come. Who gripped a compass tight in a watery palm. Who owes her life to the men who left the warmth and safety of home. Rescue bound in the worst of sudden storms.
I would not live to see a story such as theirs be lost.
And my compass in a box. Lucky charm at sea that night and all the years to come. Mine to only weeks ago post north. Wrapped in foil with a handwritten scrawl. 'For those who keep the sea at night to find their way back home'. Posted to the RNLI on the North Shore Road.
For I need it no more.
A speeding bike under summer sun, a label lost in a sudden fall. A chain of lucky events which led to Tom.
Assuming - of course - you believe in luck. Which Annie did, which I did, and which most of us need never otherwise have reason to explore.