The Isle of Skye
 
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Isle of Skye

(Click on the picture to see a larger one)

Skye - The Misty Isle - is probably the most romantic of all the Scottish islands.  It's certainly one of the most dramatic, with the jagged Black Cuillin mountains providing one of the most exciting mountainscapes in Britain.  In Trotternish in the north of the island the Quiraing has some awesome rock formations, while just to its south stands the Old Man of Storr, a needle-like pinnacle which, in spite of only being 165 feet high, was not climbed until 1955.

Historically, Skye is largely associated with the clans and the Jacobite rebellions.  However, for the  500 years prior to 1266 the island was controlled by the Norse and it wasn't until their defeat at the Battle of Largs and the subsequent destruction of their fleet that they finally lost control of the island.  The clans then took over - specifically, clans MacDonald, MacLeod and MacKinnon - and they of course spent much of their time feuding and fighting.

In the north of the island, at the tip of the Vaternish peninsula, stand the ruins of Trumpan Church.  The MacLeods used to worship here, but one Sunday in 1578 the MacDonalds of Uist landed on the beach, barred the church door, and set fire to the building.  All the worshippers were burned to death except for one girl who escaped and warned the MacLeods at Dunvegan Castle.  A MacLeod force, carrying their magic Fairy Flag which guaranteed them victory in battle, managed to reach the scene in time to set upon the MacDonalds and slaughter them to a man. When you visit the church today you'll see an ancient low wall; just remember as you sit on the wall admiring the view out to Lewis that under it lie the bones of the vanquished MacDonalds.  (To be fair to the MacDonalds, they were only trying to get their own back in a particularly vicious feud that had been raging since the previous year, when some MacLeod men were sent home castrated after forcing their attentions on some MacDonald girls on the Island of Eigg.  A retaliatory MacLeod raid on Eigg ended up with 395 MacDonalds dying when the MacLeods lit a smoky brushwood fire in the mouth of the cave in which they were hiding).

One of the most spectacular castles in the island must surely have been Duntulm which stands in a magnificent position with cliffs dropping almost sheer to the sea on three sides.  It's certainly Skye's most haunted castle. There's Hugh MacDonald, who died raving in a dungeon after being fed a diet of salt beef and no water and still moans most mournfully, there's Donald Gorm who holds all night parties with ghostly companions, and there's poor Margaret MacLeod who, following her marriage to Donald MacDonald of Duntulm, lost an eye in an accident and was sent back to the MacLeods on a one-eyed horse accompanied by a one-eyed servant and a one-eyed dog. She can still be heard weeping inconsolably.... Perhaps not surprisingly, no-one has lived at Duntulm since about 1730 and the castle is now extremely ruinous.

Flora MacDonald will almost invariably feature in any discussion on Skye's history.  A South Uist girl, she moved to Skye on her mother's remarriage and seems to have been taken under the wing of Lady Margaret MacDonald who arranged for Flora to complete her schooling in Edinburgh.  In 1746, during a visit to South Uist, she learned that the fugitive Charles Edward Stuart, otherwise known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, was in hiding on the island and wanted to get over to Skye.  So, as everyone now knows, Flora took him over in a small boat, the Prince being disguised (in flowered calico gown, quilted petticoat, cap, hood, mantle and gloves) as Betty Burke, an Irish maid.  Flora's part in the Prince's escape became known and she was duly arrested and even imprisoned for a short time in the Tower of London, but she was released in 1747, subsequently emigrating to America with her husband.  Even then, Flora's travels were not over; the call of the Hebrides proved too strong and in 1779 she returned, eventually dying peacefully in Skye in 1790.  As a reward for her troubles Charles gave Flora a locket containing his portrait, but he never tried to communicate with her again, an apparent ingratitude that did not go down well on the island.

Emigration from Skye to the New World began soon after the 1745 rebellion, but reached its height during the infamous Clearances between 1840 and 1880 when some 30,000 people were evicted from their crofts to make way for sheep.  When persuasion didn't work it was all too often replaced by violence which was, ironically, supported by the law.  What made the situation particularly sad that it was all too often the clan chiefs, to whom the people had previously looked for and found protection, who perpetrated the evictions in search of higher profits, with Lord MacDonald being one of the worst culprits.  In Skye the climax was The Battle of the Braes in 1882 when eviction notices were served on a number of crofters who had been trying to establish some crofting rights.  Fifty Glasgow police were called in and there was a pitched battle between police with batons on one hand and crofters with sticks and stones on the other.  Five crofters were arrested, but were only given light fines by a sympathetic court.  The battle received such national publicity that a Royal Commission was set up and, in 1886, The Crofters Holding Act at last gave the crofters a number of rights, including security of tenure.

Today, two of Scotland's greatest clans, Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald, have their headquarters at Dunvegan and Armadale Castles respectively.  Other family names associated with Skye include MacKinnon, MacAskill, MacQueen, MacCrimmon, MacInnes, MacArthur, MacPherson, and Nicolson.

Our map of Skye measures 13 x 14 inches (327 x 370 mm) when stitched on the supplied 27-count Linda evenweave material and has 30 buildings, puffer, ferry, fishing and sailing boats, place names, compass and representations of the MacDonald and MacLeod arms.  Also shown are the islands of Raasay, Rona, Scalpay and Soay.  The kit includes twenty-nine shades of Anchor stranded cotton. Stitch count is 174 x 194.

Kit 28.95 UK pounds
Chartpack 13.95 UK pounds


 

Music on this page is The Skye Boat Song, sequenced by Allan M. Ferguson.


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