Calum and Neil

Neil and Calum, the cone-gatherers. Neil is proud and the brother and keeper of Calum, who is innocent and trusting


Calum is one of the cone gatherers, along with his brother Neil. He is 31 years old, with physical and mental disabilities, and is an innocent victim who represents goodness in the world. Apart from his angelic face, his physical appearance is disfigured. According to some of the minor characters he looks like a monkey, as he shuffles along with his hands close to the ground and his back is hunched.

Duror is not the only one disgusted by Calum's appearance as Betty, the land girl, says he, fair gies me creeps and Harry remarks he once saw a picture of an ape that reminded him of Calum. There is an awkward moment in the bar in Lendrick, when a story about a fighter pilot who had a pet ape causes embarrassment because a number of people in the pub associate the ape with Calum.

Unlike Neil, Calum is perfectly at home climbing trees in the woods and gathering cones. On the ground Calum is less comfortable and moves awkwardly.

Calum identifies strongly with nature, in particular with the birds and animals of the woods. He helps them to escape from the traps set by Duror and suffers along with the deer during the hunt. He is instinctively sensitive, rather than having any notions of unfairness in the world.

In fact, he appears to be continually happy and has an absolute goodness, along with a lack of bitterness concerning his physical appearance, which Duror cannot come to terms with and therefore cannot tolerate.

Calum's innocence is demonstrated by his behaviour when he is persuaded to go into the beach hut during the storm. He calms down when he sees the drawings left by the children, Sheila and Roderick, along with a broken doll, another victim, which he takes away to fix.

Prior to this he is like a poor whimpering child afraid of the thunder and lightning, relating the elements of the weather to heaven from where he believes his mother is, watching over him.

At the end of the novel Calum is shot dead and is discovered hanging from a tree by Lady Runcie-Campbell. Calum is an innocent victim who loses his life at the hands of the mentally ill Duror.


Neil is disinterested in nature and is forward thinking. He is very aware of the wider world and believes the war will bring about equality and positive changes for ordinary working class individuals like himself.

He is resentful towards aristocrats such as Lady Runcie-Campbell and believes she prefers her animals to her lowly workers. This is largely because the accommodation she has provided for him and Calum is appalling, especially when compared to her luxurious home. However, Neil is unaware that it was Duror who prevented Lady Runcie-Campbell from offering them the beach hut. Despite his beliefs, Neil does not treat the conscientious objectors with equality and does not defend them.

Unlike Calum, Neil does not believe in God - if God existed the world would be a kinder place and Calum's mother would not have committed suicide after having him. Neil has no concern for nature either as he prefers to focus on the survival of mankind, as well as on his and Calum's future welfare.

Neil sacrifices any aspirations to live a normal married life and to join the army to fight for his country, in order to care for the brother he loves but sometimes resents.

When Calum is shot, Neil desperately tries to reach his dead body. Neil's own future and state of mind look dismal given his failure to protect Calum.