Joe McPhee

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The old quarry back in Joe's day The old quarry back in Joe's day

A spooky and cautionary tale about the perils of fishing by Fly Forums member Black Night.

I will describe what happened to me on a winter’s fishing day and it is up to you whether you believe it or not. I was standing on the bank edge above the old quarry; the water was two feet below, very deep, very cold and frozen. Due to the icy conditions I slipped on the path and fell into the reservoir. The icy cold shock of the water immediately numbed my body and it took less than a second to realise that I was fighting for my life.

My clothes filled with water as did my Wellingtons and their combined weight were dragging me down preventing me from swimming. I thrashed about and managed to surface grabbing a small handhold on a rock but this was only a momentary reprieve. I couldn’t get out and I had only temporarily stopped myself going down. I screamed and shouted for help but on a mid-week winter’s day there were no people about. I could feel the cold grip of hypothermia setting in accompanied by the tired feeling that eventually leads to the sleep you don’t wake up from.

My hand on the rock had gone numb and it was only a matter of seconds before I lost my grip and slid down into deep water. Just as I had given up all hope strong hands gripped my coat collar and I was yanked unceremoniously upwards. Next, I was aware of strong arms under mine dragging me over the quarry edge onto the narrow ledge that had been my downfall. At this point I had the first opportunity to look at the person who had saved me from a watery grave. He was a man in his late thirties, powerfully built and conditioned by years of hard work. His face looked old and spoke of extreme hardship but it was kindly and caring. I was puzzled by his unusual clothes but dismissed them as unimportant. I noticed his hands were rough, and full of calluses. At this point he spoke, “Are you alright sir” he asked? “Yes I am now thanks to you. I had given up all hope of being rescued and would have surely drowned if you hadn’t come along when you did.” “That’s no trouble sir” said the man. ”I’m Joe McPhee, glad I could be of help to you.

At this point I was trembling like a leaf due to the wet clothes, freezing temperature, and shock. “I must go to my car, get my wet clothes off, and dry myself before going home. Picking up my fishing tackle I turned and said,” where can I find you to thank you properly?” “Ask at the inn in the village they will tell you sir”. With that Joe walked one way and I the other way squelching as I went.

I got home had a hot bath and a medicinal whisky before I began to feel warmer. The horror of how near I had come to meeting my maker would not go away. Next day I was determined to thank Joe properly and I set off with a bottle of malt whisky to show my gratitude. At the village inn they had heard of the McPhee family and I was given directions to their house. It was a small terrace cottage, old, and painted white. The cobbled street was very narrow, more like a tiny courtyard. I knocked on the door of the house and a young woman answered. I asked for Joe and a puzzled look came over her face. I decided I had better explain how I had fallen in the reservoir and been saved by Joe. She asked me in and took a well worn photograph album from the drawer of an equally old sideboard. Pointing to a faded sepia photograph she said, “That’s Joe taken in 1910, he died in a tragic accident working in the quarry at the reservoir three years later. He was only thirty seven. This was his house and it’s been in the family ever since. “That’s not possible” I said “you must have someone else in the family that is called Joe and looks like him?” “No”, she said this is the one and only Joe McPhee, my husband’s great, great, grandfather”. Stunned I thanked her and left perplexed by the events of both days and wondered if there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than we will ever understand.

Had I really been saved by a ghost, was that possible? There are a number of documented accounts of such happenings. Had Joe’s spirit remained in the quarry due to his tragic death and if so why had he helped me? Later that day I sat down and drank some the whisky intended for Joe and hoped somehow his saving me had released him from that dark grim area of the reservoir to a better place.

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