February 28th, 2012 Doug
Most of all, though, they brought the memories of the home they were leaving; recollections of the sound and sight of the sea-birds that reeled around its crags and cliffs; the seals that sometimes popped up their grey heads in the bay; the feel of island stone on their fingers; the brush of moss and lichen growing upon its walls; the mist that sometimes trailed across each dip and slope, bog and summit; the immensity of the sky that stretched above them on still days; the storms that kept them imprisoned when wind and weather lashed their homes; the miles of sea that fringed its coastline, dividing them from the places to which they were now being taken on this - the day they were leaving its shores for the last time …
February 19th, 2012 Doug
It was first given that name in 1846 when Iain MacKinnon of the Great Silvery Beard used it to tie his rope around it when he clambered down the cliff at Oiseaval to gather and harvest fulmars. One time, however, the knot frayed, chafing against rock before he tumbled, his body shattering on the waves. The next day, a crow was found on its crest, cawing out a long, discordant message to those who lived on the island, each sound a blasphemy or curse. No bird was ever again recorded to have rested on top of the stone till some twenty-two years later when young Rachel Mackinnon stumbled on it when making her way home through a dense, impenetrable mist to her home in Village Bay. Head over toes, she plunged into the sea, not surviving her fall. Again, a crow perched on its summit, the gneiss below its claws forbidding as a pulpit as it preached its dark and cruel sermon. The next time an event of this kind occurred was after Lachie Mackinnon sat on the stone after he had guided a group of visitors to the edge of Oiseaval on a mild summer’s day. At one moment, he was entertaining the group with his tale of how a member of the Bonaparte family had once landed in Village Bay, claiming the island for France. The following minute, he was clutching his chest and choking for breath, unable to stand again. Again, a similar ritual occurred. The crow landed, both its stillness and the black sheen of its feathers contrasting with the speed and whiteness of gannets as they dived for food nearby. It was on this day that Angus Mackinnon warned his family that no one who bore his name was ever allowed to go near that stone again. ‘Death waits for anyone who goes there,’ he declared, his voice as dark and compelling as any minister. ‘It has happened too many times in that place for those of our kin.’
For the most part, this warning was obeyed by the generations who came after. However, there was one exception. It is written that one member of the family ignored this warning a few years after the island was evacuated.
February 1st, 2012 Doug
Study for Exhibits
The famous showman, Mr Benjamin T Bradshaw made an unusual request when he arrived on the island. He ran a small travelling circus which journeyed around the towns and cities of mainland Britain, displaying ‘Amusements, Amazements and Curiosities’ to all and sundry who stepped within the entrances of his various tents and halls. He asked for three exhibits from the island to be placed alongside Brenda the Mermaid, Henry the Human Worm and The Infant Drummer 4 Years Old – An Amazing Fat Infant. After much discussion with the Island Parliament, three individual items were taken from Village Bay to become part of Bradshaw’s ‘Educational and Entertaining Enterprise’.
The first of these was a puffin which Lachlann MacQueen had taught to perform dance steps to accompany the psalm tunes sung and precented by his father at early morning worship in their home.
The second was Murdo Murray Gillies, a slow-minded teenager who was too clumsy and lumbering to survive for long on the cliffs.
The third was the fulmar – a bird at that time only found on the island cliffs.
All three exhibits obtained mixed receptions from the visitors who congregated around them. The puffin was greeted with yawns and snide comments.
‘Can’t it do the waltz or the Charleston?’
‘It’s boring …’
Murdo Murray Gillies was looked upon with disgust and disapproval.
‘Such a fowl-smelling young man…’
‘An elephant ankled biped. Such appalling toes.’
Over time, the fulmar became the spokesman for the trio. Whenever visitors came into range, it would squirt oil in their direction, staining all the finery they wore for their visit.
‘Math fhein…’ Murdo would chuckle. ‘Very, very good…’