Water diviner, faith healer and farmer;
Born: July 6, 1926; Died: October 7, 2012.
Neil Mutch who has died aged 86, was known throughout the farming communities of Scotland as the famous waater (water) mannie of Foggieloan (the nickname given to Aberchirder).
A straight talking, sometimes strict-but-fair father figure, he was widely respected for his apparently uncanny ability as a water diviner, faith healer and a provider of contract services, particularly sheep shearing. He went on to teach his grandson, Gavin Mutch, who this year was awarded the honour of being the world champion at sheep shearing.
Mr Mutch was born into difficult circumstances and was largely brought up by his farming grandparents. He left school at 14 and lived in a farmers' hostel or bothy. He was later to describe the experience in the local accent of Doric, which was transcribed into a popular book on his life, The Waater Mannie. "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."
His entire funeral service was conducted in Doric.
A hard worker with a natural way with sheep dogs, he was soon promoted to work on his own with a flock of up to 700 sheep and from this base he established a travelling team of sheep shearers and contract workers that enabled him in 1958 to purchase a 75-acre farm and marry Cathy Mckilligan, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
He was only 16 when he first started water divining and found it easy, and was soon offering it as a skill on a commercial basis.
Soon he was travelling as far away as Orkney and the Isle of Man to offer his services, though he would be quick to admit a good deal of his success in finding water came from his extensive surveys of the land prior to taking up his divining rods.
When once asked whether he was performing magic when he was looking for water he replied no, but it was certainly magic when he found it.
It was later in life he found that he thought he could heal as well as water divine, though he would often associate the two skills. It was in the 1980s, when his wife was suffering her short and terminal illness, that he became aware he could relax her by laying his hands upon her and described feeling an energy leaving him and soothing her.
Sometimes he said 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 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.
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.
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 had recovered.
Neil Mutch is survived by his two sons and daughter, eight grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
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