Saturday, 6 December 2008

Not at the helm

6 November 2008
A fishing boat went down off Bayble, some 5 miles east of Stornoway. Fortunately, all crew were saved uninjured. An inquiry has revealed that the skipper had left the wheelhouse of the Faithful Friend II a few minutes beforehand to make a cup of coffee, leaving the boat to proceed on auto-pilot. She struck a rock, which was well charted, and sank fairly quickly. A quick Mayday call, nearby vessels and a rapid response from the Coastguard prevented loss of life. The owner of the Faithful Friend II has been forcefully reminded of the necessity of watch-keeping on his boats at all times.

1 June 2006
Fishing boat Brothers leaves the harbour of Gairloch in Wester Ross (southeast of Stornoway) and proceeds to head west across the Minch. It never returned to port, and sound nor sight was seen of it again. A massive search was launched in the Minch, but the wreck of the Brothers was finally located beneath 40 feet / 12 metres of water off an island just north of Skye. The bodies of the two men on board were not in the wreck. One of them turned up in Gruinard Bay, 35 miles to the northeast 3 weeks later. The other was never found. It is thought they left port after a few drinks the evening before and dropped off to sleep. When the boat ran aground, it must have sunk quickly, leaving them no chance to save themselves.

19 December 2004
Fishing boat Audacious leaves Stornoway harbour in the early hours of the morning. The crew leave the boat on auto-pilot, which appears to malfunction. The boat runs aground just south of the lighthouse at Arnish. The skipper drowned, but two other crew were rescued.
A memorial to the skipper was later erected near the lighthouse.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tragedy at Arnol

In June 2007, a man of 60 went out canoeing with his youngest son. He was a father of 11, living in the village of Arnol, 15 miles north of Stornoway. That afternoon, the two were seen by a chance walker off the coast by the next village, Bragar. Thinking nothing of it, the walker went on her way, and after a little while came to the beach by the cemetery at Bragar.

Where one of the canoes was found washed up. She immediately raised the alarm, and the Coastguard found the man in the water. He was quickly transferred to hospital, but did not survive. His son was not found for another 3 weeks, in spite of intense search efforts which were carried on quite late in the evening, on account of the long evenings in June.

Whenever I pass through Arnol, I pass the house where the family used to live - I seem to remember they moved away - and feel the sadness. As in all communities by the sea, this is only too common an occurrence. Even in the few years I've been here, several tragedies like this have occurred. Those left behind remain in my thoughts.

View across the walls of Arnol to the next village, Bragar.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


It is 4 years ago that I arrived in Lewis, and among the handful of activities that I have engaged in over that period of time is photography of wargraves and war memorials. I have so far located over 330 individual graves of war dead or gravestones linked to these casualties in the two dozen cemeteries in Lewis and Harris. The task is not complete, as I initially focused on the victims of the Iolaire Disaster, later of World War I and this year World War II.
Photographs and additional information can be accessed through this page on the Scottish War Graves Project website.

This is an example of a wargrave in the cemetery at Gravir, South Lochs.

Murdigan Aonghais Alasdair
Last address in Lewis: 10 Calbost
Son of Angus and Christina Finlayson, of Lochs.
Service: Merchant Navy
Date of death: 1 February 1944
Lost on SS Caleb Sprauge, when that ship was sunk at Newhaven by enemy action.
Had served in RNR for 2 years 9 months before war
Interred: Gravir Cemetery
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last month, I visited the island of Hoy in Orkney to take pictures of all the (named) wargraves in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness. I have now completed the task of putting images and information on a different page of the Scottish War Graves Project. . In this cemetery lie buried the dead from all over the United Kingdom, as well as more than a dozen German service personnel.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice tribute 2008

Armistice Day, and the 90th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War. The war to end all wars, what a fallacy that turned out to be. Watched the ceremony in Whitehall this morning, when the three remaining surviving veterans of the Great War laid their wreaths at the Cenotaph. The eldest, Henry Allingham, aged 112, laid the wreath with his own hands. Very moving.

My thoughts today are with all who fell in that conflict. And with those who tragically drowned outside Stornoway Harbour on 1 January 1919, on their way home. Their transport, a troopship called the Iolaire [Eagle], ran aground on a reef and sank after an hour and a half. 75 survived, but 205 went to the bottom with her. They had survived up to 4 years of war - only to drown within sight of their home town. Inquiries in 1919 and 1972 did not properly account for the events of that dreadful night.

The village of Shawbost, 18 miles from Stornoway, buried 9 of its sons a few days later. North Tolsta, 13 miles north of the town, had lost the largest number of their young men. Of those drowned, 64 were never found. The remaining 140 were found scattered on the shores around Stornoway; one turned up in Loch Grimshader 5 months later.

I'll close this post with a tribute to one of the victims:
Leading Deckhand John MacAskill

Last address in Lewis: 12 Lower Sandwick
Son of Kenneth and Mary MacAskill, was married
Service: Royal Naval Reserve, HMT Thomas Booth
Service number: 9635/DA
Date of death: 1 January 1919 at the age of 24
John drowned, and lies buried at Sandwick

Thursday, 18 September 2008

SS Empire Light

SS Empire Light was sunk in 1941 in the Indian Ocean by the armed German raider Pinguin. Survivors of the encounter were picked up by the German vessel, which itself was then attacked by HMS Cornwall. The Pinguin was sunk, taking the survivors from the Empire Light to the bottom with her.

Twenty-six of the Empire Light's crew perished on 8 May 1941, six of whom came from Lewis. Their names are:

Norman MacIver, 37 Vatisker
Murdo MacDonald, 32 Gress
Donald Graham, Garrabost
Murdo Campbell, 5 Sheshader (also quoted at 42 Inaclete Road, Stornoway)
Norman Malcolm Montgomery, 17 Sheshader
George Campbell, 5 Portnaguran

A visit to the Eye cemetery reveals that this was not just an island tragedy, it was a family tragedy as well. Norman Malcolm Montgomery of 17 Sheshader was related to Murdo Campbell of 5 Sheshader. Norman's mother, Isabella Montgomery nee Macleod, died 6 months after the sinking of the Empire Light. Her husband Norman was lost in the sinking of HMY Iolaire on 1 January 1919, one of the 205 drowned in that disaster.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Iron railings

Stornoway is one of the few places in Great Britain to have held on to its cast iron railings. Elsewhere in the country, they were taken away during World War II for use in the war effort.

A new exhibition, which opened in Museum nan Eilean today, will highlight this aspect of local history. Three years ago, I went on a guided tour of the various pieces of ironwork. They have all been catalogued on this webpage. It is high in graphics content, and will take time to load, particularly on a slow connection.

Stornoway doesn't just have cast-iron railings, its guttering and downpipes are also made of it. Most of it was made in the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, which had a catalogue full of moulds. The difference with wrought iron is that no piece is the same in wrought iron, as it is hand-crafted.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Fisherman's memorial

The Isle of Lewis has more than its fair share of poignant memorials, and this is one of them. Taken in September 2006, this picture shows a personal memorial to a young fisherman, Craig Duffy, who drowned on 19 December 2004, when his fishing boat Audacious foundered on rocks nearby. His three crew were rescued.
The memorial stands about a hundred yards from the Arnish Lighthouse, and with the lighthouse I see the memorial every day from my location. A fancy-dress party was held in Stornoway a week or so ago in his memory.

It is noteworthy that this memorial stands within sight of the Iolaire Memorial, on the other side of Stornoway Harbour. As I have often mentioned on here, the Iolaire was a troopship which foundered on New Year's Day 1919, with the loss of 205 seamen who were returning home from World War I.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Kildun Cottage, Arnish

Arnish Farm in the 1950s
The above image is of Kildonan Cottage, as I was advised by a local man today. The picture was taken in the 1950s, and cannot be reproduced today.

The position of the photographer would be suspended in air, several dozen feet above the ground, as the hill he stood on has been bulldozed to make way for the Arnish Fabrication Yard. The cottage was burned down by way of demolition.

Related to today's topography, Kildonan Cottage stands between the Lighthouse and the Fabrication Yard, close to Downie's Pier.

This is the view, two years ago, from Charlie's Monument, just south of the Fabrication Yard.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Cutting the ears of the sheep

5878. What was the arrangement you spoke about with regard to the sheep pasturing on your crofts in winter. Was that by a special arrangement and included in the rent you paid for the croft?
—No it was no part of the agreement. But when Dr M'Lean would find our sheep in the fank, the owner of any sheep who was not prepared to pay half a crown on the spot for it would have the ears of his sheep cut close to its skull at once.

5923. You spoke about cutting the ears of sheep. I understood you to say that if the crofters kept the sheep and did not pay 2s. 6d., then the ears of the sheep were cut off. Did you ever see the ears of a sheep cut off ?
—Yes, I did see that in Dr M'Lean's fank at Talisker. I never saw it before or since.

5924. Was that a punishment of Dr M'Lean's invention, or is it the custom in this country ?
—I never saw it with anybody but himself.

5925. Had you any name for that mode of marking sheep ?
—No, we had no particular name.

5926. Did you ever hear it called the thief's mark?
—Yes, I heard it called the thief's mark.

Napier Commission: Soay

6343. There is a story about a number of people having been kidnapped, or induced to remove from Soay and other places in Minginish long ago ?
—I know it well.

6344. How long ago was it ?
—It is seventy years ago since my grandfather went, and it was before that.

6345. There were a lot induced to emigrate to Canada ?
—They took them away in spite of themselves.

6346. And they were not taken to Canada ?
—No, it was to Charlestown, where they were sold for slaves. He left them poor enough and robbed the clothes off their backs, before they came back to the same farm again.

6347. Who did that ?
—Old Kenneth M'Askill.

6348. Of the farm of Rhu Dunan ?
—Yes. we heard news from people who went to America. Many of them say they would rather be home in their native place yet, if they were the way they were before.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Evicted from Skye

4191. How many altogether were removed by Mr Gibbons?
—Seventeen. He placed these families as close together as the sea would allow him; and we have but very little land, and it will not support us ; and some of those he took from Minginish were placed upon peat soil, which had never previously been cultivated. When he packed the people in that way Ebost tack was then free, and he thought that was a better bargain, and gave up Feorlick. Then Major M'Kinnon succeeded him. He was not very severe on the people. They were paying rent in work, but he removed some of the people,—Malcolm Stewart and Murdo Macdonald ; these had not a place on earth on which they could put a foot. I myself saw them living under a sail spread on three poles under high-water mark. He warned off Donald Campbell for giving shelter to a poor man who had not a place to live in. I saw the officer coming to his house and breaking into it; and he went in with a pad of water and extinguished the fire, and a great steam arose in the house; and what with the noise of the fire extinguishing and the denseness of the steam, his wife went out of her senses. We were then advised that if we would tow her after a boat in the sea, she would get better; and we took her out, and she would not sink deeper than up to her breast. I myself was two years in an asylum in Glasgow. I was a keeper there, and I never saw one that was so mad as her. Now Major M'Kinnon went to Edinburgh, and it was said he was brained there. He was succeeded by Mr John Scobie, who came to Harlosh, where I live. He told us freely that M'Leod of Dunvegan had overgiven to him, that he might do what he liked with us, and he said it was God who sent him there. He came and took a view of Harlosh, as the spies did who went to spy out the land of Canaan. There is a place there called Ardmore Point—a peninsula in Harlosh. He thought that would make a splendid park for tups, and he thought that whatever became of the people, he would have such a park there, and he removed four of them, and said he would make them as comfortable up at Balmore as they were before. He said that he had told M'Leod about it, and that he had promised M'Leod he would make them as comfortable as they were before. The four people went up to see where they were to be located. There was a piece of mossy ground there, which had never been cultivated, and was in its primeval state, and when the people saw the place they would not go into it. John Campbell was one of them, John Macdonald was another, and they said they would trust to the providence of God; and if God should support them, they would go to Australia.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Abuse of power

3596[...]— Statements prepared by the Tenants of Edinbane. Our lots are from 6 to 8 acres of arable land. There are about 20 half lots from subdivision. A large piece of the hill has been taken from us called Ben Dhu, and no compensation, given. Several of our lots have been taken down by 1 acre, and no reduction of rents. The proprietor has never done anything for the land. The houses are built and maintained by ourselves. On removal we get compensation for the roof only. We think our rents too high, when so much land has been taken from us, and the rent in many cases raised. They were last raised to give the factor Mr Robertson votes. We are not in arrears. Seven days' work is claimed by Mr Robertson from each lot, and 2s. is taken from us for every day we miss. He likes us to give him the first offer of stock, but he does not fix the prices. A lot is allowed four cows and twenty-four sheep. Four cows are too many for the pasture. The profits from sheep go direct to Mr Robertson for rent. We never touch a penny of the money. The money from our sheep for the rent, instead of being put in the bank for us until Martinmas -when it is due, is kept by Mr Robertson for his own use, and we get no interest from him for it. We cannot utilise fishing for the want of proper boats, &c. Fishing should be distinct from crofting. There were plenty of evictions in Grishornish and Coshletter before the time of the late Mr M'Leod. Many of us have seen the law officers come and strip the roofs in Edinbane, and pour water down on the fires. The people evicted mostly emigrated. They got no compensation. The land is now largely in the hands of Mr Robertson, the factor. We would migrate, not emigrate. No Gaelic is taught at our schooL We would like our children taught to read the Gaelic Bible. The school rates are a shilling. Fees for standard IIL Is. 6d. There are eight paupers on the estate; most of these on Ben-Dhu have come from other places. Several cottars have been removed by the late Mr M'Leod and by Mr Robertson from Grishornish and Coshletter and put upon us. The poor-rates are 8d. Mr Robertson, the factor, has the lands once belonging to us of Kerrol and Ben-Dhu in his own hands. We received no reduction when these lands were taken from us. Mr Robertson keeps a meal-store, and we nearly all deal with him. We are this year already very deep in his books for meal. When Mr Robertson put the money on to our rents, for votes for himself as he said, he promised to make it good to us, but he has never done so, although we protest every year. We can give many other instances of oppression. One man took in a lodger against Mr Robertson's wish. He was fined a £1, and had to pay the £1 for five or six years, and was only pardoned last Martinmas. Another man for selling a stack of corn off the farm, although he had offered it to Mr Robertson several times, and was in sore need of ready money, was punished by having his rent raised from £3, 8s. 5d. to £4, which he still pays. The year before last two men quarreled about the march of their crofts. Mr Robertson ended the quarrel by fining the man with the largest croft 10s. a year on to his rent, and no corresponding reduction to the man with the small croft. In November last the factor put 7s. on to a half lot, with the reason stated, " I want to make a gentleman of you, and give you a vote." Mr Robertson has two shares of sheep in the hill, and although we complained, he will not pay for the grazing, and he refuses to let our sheep go over the lands of Kerrol, which is our right in winter, and makes us twice a year build up the dyke that keeps our own sheep out of our own grazings. We have to submit to such things as these, for fear of being evicted. Reforms wanted. More land and fixity of tenure. We cannot improve our lands at present as they will not support our families while we are improving them; but if we had enough of land to keep us on it the whole year round, and if we were made secure against fines and evictions from petty spite of the factor or other causes, we would improve it, and there would be no more heard of destitution in hard years like this. When the credit which this bad year drove us into is settled for, there will not be much of our stock left to us we think.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

In the army - in the 1850s

Join the army in the Crimean war, mid 19th century. What did you get? Well, paragraph 1123 from the Napier Commission inquiry into the conditions of the poor of the Highlands and Islands gives a flavour:

But when you were in [the army]?
—Well, for one time I had two years and four months without ever stripping or going to bed. From the time I left Portsmouth till I returned, I never stripped. I was in clothes all the time, and it was hard enough work for all I got.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

The Napier Commission

On 8 May 1883, Lord Napier visited the Isle of Skye and other areas in the Highlands and Islands. He had been charged by Queen Victoria to investigate the grievances of crofters and cottars against the prevailing system of land ownership, security of tenure (or lack thereof) and living conditions. I have a transcript of the report, and it makes for deeply depressing reading. However, if anyone wants to understand the recent history of the north of Scotland, this is compulsory reading.

I copy the first 21 paragraphs, which gives a flavour of society in those days.
For reference: the man interviewed, Angus Stewart, lives in an area called the Braes, 8 miles southeast of Skye's main town, Portree. When the landowner found that the local cottars were not paying the rent, he sent in the constabulary. The police were met with a fully fledged riot, and retreated bloodied to Portree. A Royal Navy ship was sent to the area, by which time the uprising had come to the attention of the authorities in London.

1. The Chairman.—Would you have the goodness to state what is your occupation ?—A crofter.

2. Have you also been engaged in fishing ?—Yes.

3. Were you born here, at the Braes?—Born at the Braes.

4. Have you lived here all your life?—Not all my life. I have been away, but not very far off.

5. From time to time?—From time to time.

6. But you are thoroughly acquainted with the feelings and interests of the people here?—Yes.

7. Have you been freely elected by the people to be their delegate!— Yes.

8. Now, will you have the goodness to state to me what are the hardships or grievances of which the people complain who have elected you ?— Yes; but it is in Gaelic that I prefer to speak.

9. You desire to be examined in Gaelic?—Yes. [From this point the examination of the witness and of subsequent witnesses in Skye was conducted through Mr Dugald McLachlan, sheriff-clerk depute, as interpreter.]

10. Then you wit! have the goodness to state what are the hardships and grievances, if any, of which the people whom you represent at this place complain?—I would wish that I should have an opportunity of saying a few words before I tell that, and that is that I should have the assurance that I will not be evicted from my holding by the landlord or factor, as I have seen done already. I would not have a fire in my house at Whitsunday I want the assurance that I will not be evicted, for I cannot bear evidence to the distress of my people without bearing evidence to the oppression and high-handedness of the landlord and his factor.

11. Have you anything more to add to your preparatory statement?— No.

12. It is impossible for the Commission to give you any absolute security of the kind which you desire. The Commission cannot interfere between you and your landlord, or between you and the law, but we trust that no act of oppression or severity would ever be exercised towards you or any one else by the landlord in consequence of your courage and goodness in telling the absolute truth.

Mr ALEXANDER MACDONALD, Factor for Lord Macdonald—examined.
13. The Chairman.—You are at liberty to speak if you desire to make any observations?—In the first place, I may say that I am surprised at this man's statement, because he is not one of our crofters at all. He is a crofter's son; he is not a crofter. That is the first thing. In the next place, I do not think that he has any reason whatever, or that any person has any reason whatever, if he tells the truth, and nothing but the truth, to fear anything. In fact, we consider it rather insulting to us to insinuate anything of the sort. We despise to do anything of the sort. We expect and trust that the men will tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and the whole truth.

14. There is something rather ambiguous in the statement which you have made. Am I to understand that you publicly state that no proceeding will be taken against any tenant or inhabitant of this place in consequence of what they state before the Commission on this occasion?—I believe not.

15. You say you believe not, but do you engage that no proceedings will be taken?—That is all I can state: on my own property certainly there will not be, and, I believe, on no property. In fact, such an idea never entered our heads; but we expect the people will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

16. Mr Cameron.—Would you engage on behalf of the proprietors for whom you act; for all properties with which you are connected?—Most certainly; but this I would say, if we hear any man making a grossly false statement against us, which we can prove to be false, I do not think that in human nature it would be found we should like to continue that man as our tenant. If there is any statement which is made by a man thinking and believing it to be true, even though we ourselves differ from it, we would never dream of using any power that we have, but if the man tells a parcel of unfounded lies—which I do not believe any man here or elsewhere in Skye will do until I hear it—that is a different matter altogether. So far as we are concerned the people have full liberty to tell everything they have to say, without any fear.

17. The Chairman.—If you are able to do so I would rather that you availed yourself of this occasion to make a distinct declaration that whatever the people say no proceeding will ever be taken against them on that account,—that on this particular occasion whatever they may say, however mistaken you may think them, however erroneous or false, no proceeding will be attempted?—These are my own personal feelings, and certainly so far as the properties for which I am factor are concerned they will never know or hear anything about it—so far as I, as factor, am concerned.

18. Then I am authorised by you to assure this gentleman before me that nothing will ever be done to his prejudice on this occasion?—I expect that he will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and so far as I am concerned as factor, I will visit in no way anything upon him, and I believe Lord Macdonald will do nothing.

19. Mr Cameron.—You have heard what this witness has said, that except under certain conditions he refuses to give us evidence. We have been appointed by the Queen to investigate this subject thoroughly, and it is impossible that we can do so unless we get proper evidence from witnesses such as Mr Angus Stewart. Now, I am sure you would not Macdonald, wish that the evidence should fail to be recorded from any disinclination on your part to give the assurance which has been asked by the chairman — I give him the fullest assurance.

20. And I think all we wish was contained in the observation which I formerly made, namely, that so far as concerns the estates under your management nothing shall happen to any witness in consequence of any statement which he may make, whether you consider it truthful or not, before this Commission. If you give that assurance we may at once proceed ?—Certainly we expect the man to tell the truth.

21. The Chairman.—But let us come to a point on this matter. Will you state yes or no in reply to my question,—will you authorise me to state absolutely to this man that nothing will ever be done prejudicial to his interest or that of his family in consequence of anything he may say on this occasion ?—I believe I am quite at liberty to say so. I believe I am perfectly at liberty to say so, and from the first I could have said so.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Politician

On 12 March 1941, the SS Politician was making her way from the United Kingdom to America, but was hopelessly lost in fog around the Hebrides. Although the captain thought he was near Skerryvore, he was in fact a good few miles further west, and heading into the narrow channel between the isles of South Uist and Eriskay. With a grinding crunch, the boat ran aground on a reef, just off Eriskay.

The Politician's crew decided she was not going to come off in a hurry, either refloated or sinking, so they rowed ashore at Eriskay and alerted the authorities. The islanders were alerted in the process and they went over to have a look around the wreck. Its cargo consisted of cases of Jamaican banknotes, several grand pianos, bathroom suites and... many thousands of cases of all kinds of whisky.

The story has become legendary, with the islanders helping themselves to unimaginable quantities of uisge bheatha [water of life] and having a high old time. Compton Mackenzie immortalised the story in his book Whisky Galore, changing a few names along the way. Apart from the whisky, the bathroom suites also found a good home. One set is reportedly still sitting outside a house in Eriskay, in daily use.

After a couple of days, the authorities intervened and retrieved part of the cargo. Several islanders were prosecuted for illegally retrieving goods off a wrecked ship. Bottles of 'polly' still turn up every now and again, If they have been in the sea, the spirits will have become undrinkable. But it's a nice story.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Titanic's predecessor

I bought this book on Amazon (last copy in stock in the UK), as it has some bearing on local history here. It is about the sinking of SS Norge in 1904, in which 635 passengers and crew drowned. This Scandinavian liner was crossing from Copenhagen, Christiania (now Oslo) and Christiansand to New York in late June 1904 when she hit rocks at Rockall. This is a tiny islet, rising 70 feet out of the Atlantic some 250 miles west of Scotland.

The Norge had insufficient spaces on board lifeboats for all the about 780 on board (in fact only 250), meaning a certain death for most. One lifeboat was wrecked as it was launched, others could only carry a few dozen. The ship, which carried emigrants from Russia and Scandinavia, went down 20 minutes after it struck rocks. Five lifeboats managed to get away. Survivors from four were picked up by other ships within about a week. A fifth boat was never recovered, and may have drifted into the Arctic - we shall never know. Survivors were landed at Grimsby (northern England), Aberdeen, Stornoway and Torshavn (Faeroes), in a pitiful state. Some died shortly after arriving on dry land; 11 of them lie buried in a communal grave at Sandwick, just down the road from me.

The book gives a good impression of life in the early 1900s, the huge wave of emigration to America that was taking place, as well as the appalling circumstances in which Jewish people were made to live in the Russian Empire of the Czars. It is heartwarming to read the welcome that survivors were awarded in all places they came ashore - it is heartrending to read the hardships they had to endure on the way there.

This entry is dedicated to the memory of those lost in the sinking of SS Norge.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Calum Zachary

Calum Zachary [Calum Sgaire] lived in the middle of the 19th century at Bosta (see image above), in the island of Great Bernera, off the west coast of Lewis. He fell in love with Margaret MacLeod from Breaclete, but her family wanted her to marry an older but wealthier man. The couple decided to elope, but missed each other in the night. Disappointed and convinced the other had reneged, Calum sailed for Quebec the next day on an emigrant ship from Tolsta Chaolais, never to return. Margaret married the older man, but even tried to drown herself whilst the rest of the village were still celebrating the wedding. She died within a year of a broken heart. If you click on the link above, you'll hear a recording by Gaelic folkgroup Gleusda, during a performance during the Royal National Mod in October 2005. The lyrics can be found below.

Sèist: Chorus (after each verse):
Air fail a ra u Air fail a ra u
Fail eile 's a ra u Fail eile 's a ra u
Fail eile 's a ra u Fail eile 's a ra u
Hogaidh o 's na ho i Hogaidh o 's na ho i
Och a Rìgh gur trom m' osna Oh Lord, I've a heavy, sighing heart
'S fhada ò mo luaidh anochd mi My love is far away from me tonight
Mise tuath air Ceann Lochlainn I'm away in the north at the Cape of Norway
'S ise aig Loch an Fhir Mhaoil While she's at Loch an Fhir Mhaoil
Dh' fhalbh i, ghlais i leinn dhaichaidh It set sail for home with us
Chuir i chuairt ud air Arcaibh It sailed 'round Orkney
Cruinn ùra 's siùil gheala New masts and white sails on her
Tìde mhara 's i leinn She was running with the tide
Ged is math a bhith seòladh Though it is enjoyable to be sailing
'S olc a tha i 'gam chòrdadh I cannot say I'm enjoying it just now
'S mòr gum b' fheàrr a bhith 'm Bòsta I would rather be in Bosta
Cur an eòrna 'san raon Planting the corn in the field
Ach nam bithinn-sa aig baile If only I could be at home
A shamhradh 's a dh' earrach Both summer and spring
'S mi nach leigeadh mo leannan I would never allow another man
Ri balach gun strìth To have my love without a fight