Father’s Journal, 1970
As I was up long before the other members of the household I carried out the old ritual of going out by the back door, and bringing in a lump of coal by the front door. After that I did my usual daily stint of lighting the fire and making their morning tea for the sleepers! Some showers before daylight. Forenoon damp with intermittent smirr and hill fog. Wind
light to moderate, at first but veered to Northwesterly in the evening. Showers from mid-day onwards. Afternoon and evening raw and cold. No sunshine.
Apart from Eliz’s illness, the year just ended was a good one for us in
every way. No post tonight. Westerly
The old ritual referred to by Father is of course the Scottish New Year custom of the ‘first-foot’. According to this custom the luck of one’s household is determined irrevocably for the whole of the coming year by the physical type of one’s first visitor in that year or, in the synecdoche of the common phrase, by one’s first-foot. Women, children and fair-haired men are considered unlucky; the ideal first-foot is a dark, mature male. It is better, too, that he does not come empty-handed and if he carries a piece of coal that is felt to be especially productive of good fortune.
Excerpt from Night Falls on Ardnamurchan – The Twilightof a Crofting Family by Alasdair Maclean.