Obituary: Neil Mutch, water diviner and faith healer
Born: 6 July, 1926, near Ellon. Died: 7 October, 2012, in Banff, aged 86
Neil Mutch, who has died aged 86, was known throughout the farming communities of Scotland as the famous waater (water) mannie of Foggieloan (the local name forAberchirder).
A straight-talking, sometimes strict-but-fair father figure, he was widely respected for his uncanny ability as a water diviner, a faith healer and successful farmer.
Neil had been born into difficult circumstances and was largely brought up by his farming grandparents.
He had left school at 14 and was soon living a simple life with other “loons” (young boys) in a simple bothy with no electricity and eating at the table of the farmer’s wife.
The Doric was his only tongue and he once described the start of his day as a 14-year-old horse boy as follows:
“Efter six ye wid hae tae muck yer horse, each horseman scrapit oot the dung, the foreman he swypit, n as second horseman I wid ful the barra an rowe it oot, aat wis jist the routine.
“Efter ye hid deen that, at aboot siven-o-clock ye went intil the hoose, intil the kitchen for yer brakfast an then ye ploughed tra ilevran, when ya fed yer horse agin.”
The first farm he worked at had a staff of seven, mostly loons like himself, and he was also to recall that you made sure you were on time for your work, not so much for fear of the boss but for fear of losing your status as a grafter in the highly regimented hierarchy of the wood-panelled bothy.
Neil had an above-average intelligence and was fascinated by the order of the environment and what he termed the “under ground water veins” of the land. In his spare time, he would walk the fields trying to understand all the processes of nature.
A hard worker with a natural way with sheepdogs, he was soon promoted to work solo with a flock of up to 700 sheep. From that base, he established a travelling team of sheep shearers and contract workers that enabled him in 1958 to purchase a 75-acre farm and get married to Cathy Mckilligan, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
Neil was only 17 when he first started water divining. He had seen it being practised by others and when he tried the skill himself was thrilled to find that his response to the quivering hazel stick was more acute than among his fellows. It was no party trick and when he started to travel with his band of shearers and contract workers he started to become known as the “water mannie” for his skill at finding hidden water, a resource which was then often accessed through bore holes. It was a practice that became even more common when privatised water companies started to increase their charges for access to the mains water supplies.
Once, when asked whether he was performing magic when he was looking for water he replied no, but it was certainly magic when he found it.
In later life he found that he thought he could heal as well as water divine. When his wife was suffering her short and terminal illness he became aware that he could greatly relax her by laying his hands upon her and felt an energy leaving him and soothing her.
In the years following her death, when he was out on his rounds as a farmer or diviner, if he ever came across people or indeed animals that were sick he would offer to lay his hands on the afflicted area.
He made no claim to have any mystical powers and spoke no words or sang eccentric incantations, just accepted that sometimes for reasons that he didn’tunderstand he would feel energy leaving him and going into the other being.
Sometimes, he said that his work was often not so much about healing as “briefing” (his own word) people for death, putting them more in touch with what he described as “the wa o’ things” so that they were more at peace, and his work often involved simply listening intently to stories of stress and worry before he laid on his hands.
Typically, one recent divorcee shared her worries over whether she should pursue her husband for her share of her farm. Another complained that their child couldn’t sleep. All were listened to with care (he arranged to have that child’s bed laid out in a different compass bearing. It was a success and when they next met the child threw his arms around him with the famous words “I ken fa ye er. Yer the waaterman of Foggie loan.”)
One client remarked that he was as much a brain healer as he was a faith one.
The reports of his successes are many and entirely unprovable and range from one report of a noted medical consultant taking his cancer-ridden wife to the water mannie, to a valuable prize bull being diverted from the freezer and back to his enjoyable work in the farm yard due to Neil’s magical touch. He seldom charged a penny for his healing services, though was reported to have reluctantly accepted a cash gift from that consultant after his wife hadrecovered.
Neil is survived by his two sons, one daughter, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and a huge number of cheerfully gushing bore holes across Britain.
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