"Nickie Hugh"

As morning broke in the little parish of Borgue in the south of Scotland, Hugh climbed down from the loft in the barn and walked stiffly past his house and down to the creek. The dirty wig on his head was backwards and his shirt was covered in little patches he’d cut from his trousers.

When he reached the brook, Hugh knelt down and removed his hair-piece and held it under the water until he’d recited the Lord’s Prayer ten times. Lifting the sopping wig onto a branch, Hugh sat down cross-legged and stared. At first the water poured out of the woolen strands in a thick stream and Hugh’s eyes remained transfixed on the sparkling braid. Soon the stream slowed to a steady drip but Hugh’s gaze didn’t move. It remained focused on a point of air a few inches below the wig.

He sat like a statue for two hours, eyes unmoving, until the wig was completely dry and the silence was finally broken by his mother’s voice.

“Hugh, what are you doing?”

Hugh didn’t answer, didn’t turn around, but ever-so-slightly began to rock back and forth.

“Hugh, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Hugh stood and turned to see his mother with a young woman.

“This is Nickie, Hugh,” his mother said.

“Nickie Hugh,” he repeated and turned his head swiftly away.

"No, Hugh, Nickie Mitchell," she corrected but Hugh was already on his way back to the creek where he began arranging pebbles into neat little stacks.

“Nickie Hugh.”

There was no term yet for Hugh Blair’s behavior on this July 4, 1745, but the court records detailing the challenge and invalidation of his arranged marriage to Nickie Mitchell due to mental incapacity would later be used to document the earliest identified case of autism.


Enbrethiliel said...


What surprised me a little is that the marriage produced two children.

I like that the article you linked to asks the question of what makes a good husband and father, and says that it was "conceivable" that Hugh could have fulfilled the basic requirements. I wish one of the commissaries hadn't made fun of him. =(

cyurkanin said...

Yes ma'am, me too. And it appears that the children came about after the marriage was annulled.

Lizzie Joy Loveland said...

Fascinating. Cool blog my literary friend! :) You should write one on religion/love/Jesus. :D

cyurkanin said...

Thanks Lizzie!

pennyyak said...

Might have had something like Aspergers. Who knows? I think we're far, far from straightening all these conditions into something neat and accurate. Anyway, really interesting historical notes. Thanks.

You are so kewl Mr. C. (I learned that spelling recently from an 18 year old texter). Old dogs and all.

cyurkanin said...

TY P, u r 2kewl 2... I think LOL! Gonna have to learn all the mispellings and shorthands if I want to keep track of my rapidly growing daughters!

Enbrethiliel said...


My cousins were already using "kewl" back in 1996, which is the late Triassic period, if I have my epochs right. And they loved to pronounce it as "kyool"--because, of course, "cool" and "kewl" must be distinct not just in writing, but in speech!

It's hardly "classic" slang and certainly doesn't have a shot at entering the dictionary, and I'm already seeing something annoying in the fact that it has come back for another generation.

pennyyak said...

And he wear bell bottoms too. Ha! It's hard to be current.