[Part 1: The quest begins.]
[Part 2: Ever closer to McTavish.]
A commendable thing about Glaswegians is that they love a good mystery.
At a pub later that night, the three bartenders got very involved in my mission, one of them going so far as to ask the entire bar if there were any McTavishes in the house. (There were not, but there was plenty of derisive laughter.) A charming drunk named Michael White gave me a promising lead: Two pubs right down the road catered to Highlanders. He also asked if I’d tried the phone book. Almost everyone I’d met had. I was beginning to think my ground rules sucked.
Like a shark hunting its prey, I could taste his scent as I stalked toward the pubs: the unmistakable oaten whiff of haggis, a hint of peat moss, a horrid cologne bought at a Menzie’s. I entered a cozy shack called the Snaffle Bit with almost too much confidence. He was close. Very close. But besides a kilted man (surname: Kinney) doing the funky chicken to — no lie — “In a Big Country,” I turned up nothing of interest.
My last hope was the Park Bar. A band was setting up, and when I told the bartender my sad tale, he called the singer over. Hating myself for being hopeful, I asked the guy his name. Surprise, surprise — it was Innes. Gary Innes. I learned, however, that earlier in the day, he had played in the league finals of a sport called shinty, which is a Gaelic game akin to lacrosse. “The finals are called the MacTavish Cup,” he said. “I play for Fort William.”
I’d come full circle! After finding out that Gary knew two McTavishes back home, I decided that he was close enough. I asked him if he wanted the drink I’d come all this way to buy for McTavish. Gary shook his head and pointed out the window. “No,” he said. “I’m driving back home tonight.”
In the morning, I broke down and rifled through the phone book. It turned out that there were only 21 MacTavishes or McTavishes listed in the entire city of nearly 600,000. By comparison, there were 15 listings for my surname, which is English.
Knowing how slim my chances were helped, but maybe I should have at least talked to a McTavish, you know, just to cover all the bases? I briefly considered dialing the number of a Duncan McTavish. But, remembering the Nash quotation, I concluded that a McTavish would understand why I put the receiver down. After all, the hotel charged two pounds per call, and a drink would have at least doubled that.
Update: Two years after I fulfilled my quest, McTavish’s Kitchens burned to ground.