THIS week, I am standing aside for a young writer from North Berwick called Finlay McIlwraith. He is 14 years old and is an S3 student at North Berwick High School; when he was younger, he attended Law Primary School.

He sent me his story as a present and, after reading it, I asked Finlay if I could share it. It’s a wonderful, heartfelt tale, well-written and engaging.

We all have stories to tell and I hope that Finlay’s story may encourage others to find ways to tell theirs too.

Enough from me; here is his story:


The Button Hat, By Finlay McIlwraith


This story should be read from Part 4 to Part 1, as printed.


Part 4

A WHILE ago, I had just walked into the school playground when my class teacher came out and gave me a package, saying it had been delivered to the school office for me.

This had never happened to me before, it has never happened to me since.

I was being picked up by my mum; we were both intrigued by what this package might hold but we decided to wait until we got home to open it. There was a brown hat inside. It was stitched with buttons and coins, some had been there a while, some only a few months.

I was relieved to see the hat, I still have it now, though it is far too small for me.


Part 3

THERE was a woman who lived in Pitlochry, she was a teaching assistant in a primary school there; she also volunteered to help clear the paths around Pitlochry.

I have never met this woman, I have no idea what she looks like, I don’t even recall what her name is, but I’m incredibly grateful to her.

One day, she was cleaning a path with autumn leaves next to the town’s theatre.

She moved along there, smelling the autumn air, crunching the path, clearing the golden brown leaves, when she saw something that stood out.

It was dark brown with lots of different colours on it. She picked it up; it was a hat.

She could have left it, kept it, taken it to a lost property, any of those things would have been reasonable to do, but she didn’t.

That night, she rang up two schools with the same name – one was in England, one was in Scotland – looking for the person whose name was on the label.

The first school had never heard the name. She put the receiver down and sighed.

She tried the other one and finally, after having to be interrogated on why she was asking about the pupil, they said they would pass on the package if she mailed it there.

She got out one of her own stamps and wrapped up the hat.

The label inside said: Finlay McIlwraith, Law Primary School.


Part 2

WE WERE at the cottage. It was behind a row of trees, partly ravaged by autumn, dry mud underneath.

We walked through the door, and it was so cosy inside, a large communal area with a wood burning stove in the centre, perfect for toasting marshmallows at night when our friends arrived, and cabin-like bedrooms to the side.

At the end, a freezing conservatory with a telescope. I suppose that was allowed. It is called the Observatory after all.

We had a leisurely first day, eating and playing board games, but now it was time for a blustery autumn walk.

I wrapped up with my coat, hat, scarf and gloves and then we were off.

It was a windy, but still lovely golden late afternoon, sun lighting the paths we walked.

We went past the theatre we were later going to see a play in, and then crossed the glittery river and we talked.

It was a wonderful day full of bird songs and blowing leaves; we kept walking, my hair blowing in the wind.


Part 1

MY MUM got off the train with her fellow commuters and started heading homewards, but before she went there she decided to have a quick look in her favourite haunts: charity shops.

In there she saw a lovely wee children’s hat with buttons covering some of it; she decided this would be a nice gift for her son, so she bought it, chatting with the volunteer and took it home.

She added some more buttons and coins and, when it was suitably covered, presented it to me. I wore it everywhere for the next few weeks.

It was nearly time for us to go on holiday: we were going to Pitlochry and I was away to pack my hat but mum stopped me just as I was about to.

“Hang on a minute, I need to put a label on that before we go.”

“Oh mum, you don’t need that, it’ll look silly.”

“No, I’m putting a label on it; what would happen if you lose it?”