by Captain W. E. Johns


2.     CHAPTER 2 – ALEXANDER GORDON MacKAY (Pages 25 – 38) (24 – 33)


“It did not take Biggles long to pass on to his staff pilots the gist of the conversation that had just taken place in the Air Commodore’s office.  Algy and Ginger listened in astonished silence.  Bertie looked shocked, and in his indignation allowed his monocle to fall.  However, he caught it expertly.  The team take it badly.  “I vote we all go on strike.  How about it?  In this perishing country it’s the only way to get things done – if you see what I mean”.  Bertie looked around for approval.  Biggles rings the Air Commodore saying he is ready to receive the applicant for the new post.  The team are all expecting a large, red-haired Scot to walk in.  When he comes in “a hush fell.  No one spoke.  Everyone was staring.  Biggles had been prophetic when he remarked the world was full of surprises, for the man now standing before them bore no resemblance to the type that had been expected.  He was small and slight in stature.  His features were finely cut, as if they had been intended for the opposite sex.  His eyes were dark under black brows.  His hair, as could be seen when he took off his cap, was straight, brushed well back and as black at the plumage of a crow.  But what had probably taken everyone aback was the colour of his skin.  It was the pale brown tint of heather honey”.  Biggles tells him that in view of his (Scottish) name, “you don’t exactly line up with what he had reason to expect”.  Mackay says “If it’s my complexion that worries you don’t blame me.  I have to thank my great-great-grandfather for that”.  Mackay explains that one of his ancestors was a “squaw man” and married a Red Indian girl.   Biggles ask “Just to satisfy my curiosity why did he do that?  Weren’t there any white girls about?”  “Probably not.  If there were apparently he preferred a red one” is the answer.  Mackay says his ancestor commanded a Scottish regiment under General Wolfe in Canada.  He was wounded and the daughter of an Indian Chief nursed him back to health.  So he married her.  It was as simple as that.  In due course he returned home bringing his family with him.  “The Indian blood must be pretty strong for it to have persisted for so long.  From time to time since that first generation it has cropped up.  My father is white with red hair.  My brothers and sisters are blondes.  I happened to be one of the unlucky ones.  “Why unlucky?” questioned Biggles.  “I call that a fascinating story.  It delights me to know there’s still some romance in a world that’s quickly going bonkers.  I’d have thought you’d something to be proud of.  I’d be only too happy to have a Red Indian on my coat of arms – if I had a coat of arms”.  Mackay replies “It’s no joke having to go through life explaining how I got my coloured hide, particularly in these days of race and prejudice”.  Biggles guesses that Mackay’s nickname was “Jock”.  Mackay asks why.  “Because it seems to be traditional in the British Armed Forces to call anyone named Mackay, Jock.  In the same way a Murphy automatically becomes ‘Spud’ and a Miller, ‘Dusty’.  If they didn’t call you Jock, since it’s customary to give everyone a nickname, what did they call you?” asks Biggles.  “Minnie” say Mackay, explaining it comes from Minnehaha, from Longfellow’s (1855) poem, The Song of Hiawatha, about the legendary chief of the Iroquois Indians.  Mackay says he was asked by his C.O. if he’d care to join the Air Police and he said yes.  Biggles explains that they are the air police.  “All of it?” Mackay looked surprised.  “The entire caboodle.  What we lack in numbers we try to make up for in efficiency”.  Mackay asks if they carry machine guns to shoot down crooks.  Biggles explains they are flying detectives.  “On occasion, when there’s dangerous work to be done, we may carry pistols in our pockets for use only in self-defence”.  “What would we do with machine guns?  We could hardly dash around shooting down machines, possibly unarmed, even if we had reason to suspect something fishy.  Don’t worry.  If it’s danger you want we get plenty”.  Mackay asks if they have jets.  “No.  And we don’t want them.  Quite often we have to make landings where there are no servicing facilities within hundreds of miles.  We can’t carry concrete runways around with us.  We’re equipped to do our own running repairs.  If you fly with us you’ll learn something about do-it-yourself aviation”.  Mackay explains his flying experience and shows Biggles his logbook, the small regulation service logbook in which all flights are recorded.  Biggles tells Mackay that if he were accepted for the job, the idea would be for a month’s probation, as a cadet, to see how he shaped up.  If all went well, he would be confirmed as a police pilot for pay and allowances.  As Mackay leaves, Biggles says “Goodbye for now, Mackay”.  “Just call me Minnie,” he said “It sounds less formal”.  When he has left, Biggles asks the others what they think of him and they all agree he seems like the right type for them.  Biggles says he will tell Raymond that they will give him a trial run.