Isobel Skye

Here are two photos of our recently born granddaughter, (our first grandchild,) Isobel Skye, whom I mentioned on Friday. We can’t wait to see her in the flesh.

Isobel Skye
Isobel Skye

Highland Cattle on Skye

On one of the hauls up/down a hillside on Skye there was a parking place. The Highland cattle there attracted an enthusiastic audience.

Highland Cows on Skye 1

They are wonderful shaggy beasts. But don’t let the horns get near you!:-

Highland Cows on Skye 2

Highland Cows on Skye 3

Highland Cows on Skye 4

Skye Hills

These photos were all taken on the hoof through the car window.

Not by the driver I hasten to add.

Skye’s landscape is pretty bleak with very few trees but has a stark beauty of a kind.

The main mountain range is the Cuillin but the Black Cuillin lie more to the west of the island than these which I believe belong to the Red Cuillin.

Skye Hills 1

Skye Hills 2

Skye Hills 3

Skye Hills 4

Skye Hills 5

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram Waterfall, Skye

Waterfall and continuing stream:-

Skye Waterfall

Different angle:-

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram Waterfall, Skye,

Closer view of waterfall:-

Close-up on Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram Waterfall, Skye,

Closer still:-

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram Waterfall, Skye, Even Closer view

Video. (Click on picture to get to it):-

Video of Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram Waterfall, Skye

Skye Scenery

Looking towards (sea) Loch Ainort from near a bridge over Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram. An older bridge can be seen in the distance nearer the loch. The island of Scalpay lies across the sea water.

Skye Scenery 1

The older bridge in close-up:-

Bridge over Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram, Skye

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram from roadside:-

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram, Skye 1

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram looking towards Loch Ainort:-

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram, Skye 2

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram looking up the coire (corrie):-

Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram, Skye 1Allt Coire Nam Bruadaram, Skye 3

Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree harbour looking out to the island of Raasay and beyond:-

Portree, Isle of Skye, Looking Out To Raasay

Portree harbour, pierside buildings:-

Portree Harbour

Great Wars Memorial Portree, overlooking harbour. Upper inscription (gold lettering) is the same Gaelic phrase that appears on Portree’s War Memorial, Mairidh An Cliu Go Bragh:-

Great Wars Memorial Portree

The lower inscription reads, “Lest we forget. Donated by Seoid Portree Primary School War Time Memorial Project 2002-2003. Donated to thank the community. In memory of all who sacrificed so much in The Great Wars”:-

Inscription Great Wars Memorial Portree

River Sligachan, Skye

As well as the three bridges over it I took a few photos of the River Sligachan on Skye and the countryside round about just to remember the landscape.

From the old bridge:-

River Sligachan, Skye 1

From the riverside:-

River Sligachan, Skye 2

River Sligachan, Skye 3

Bridges on Skye

From Kyle of Lochalsh we travelled over the sea to Skye – not in a bonny boat but via the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh.

On the way on to Portree I spotted a lovely old bridge over the River Sligachan. I made sure to stop on the way back to photograph it.

It was an atmospheric day with mist shrouding the hills and rain making fitful appearances:-

An Old Bridge on Skye

Old Bridge on Skye From Angle

Just off to the left there was a smaller bridge over a smaller burn:-

Smaller Old Bridge on Skye 2

Reverse angle of old bridge. The newer bridge over the Sligachan can be seen through the first arch:-

Old Bridge on Skye (New Bridge through Arch)

The newer bridge:-

Newer Bridge on Skye

The Corncrake and the Lysander by Finlay J Macdonald

In The Finlay J Macdonald Omnibus, Warner Books, 1988, 187 p. First published 1984.

The Finlay J Macdonald Omnibus cover

This final instalment of the author’s childhood memoirs sees him, having at the second attempt passed the bursary exam, finally off to the “big” school in what he perceives as the metropolis of Tarbert though by wider standards it is little more than a village. In his new school the headmaster “didn’t really expect boys to behave themselves – he had seen too many boys for that – but he did expect them not to get caught.”

Before that, though, the author had time to aid Old Hector, debilitated by malaria contracted in his sole journey away from the village as a seaman, with milking his cow daily – which has the side advantage of providing the opportunity to have a sly smoke without the knowlegde of his parents. Hector wasn’t really old but his infirmity meant he depended on others, a dependency made worse by the death of his sister who had dedicated her life to looking after him. Macdonald, in considering how Hector would have to sell his cow when he leaves for school, conceived of the idea of advertising for a household companion ‘with a view to matrumony’ for Hector, a plan kept secret between the two of them. (Later, however, Macdonald’s father surprises him with his knowledge of Finlay’s part in the scheme. How did he know? “You never could spell matrimony.”) The first replies were unsuitable in various ways but in Macdonald’s absence at school someone did come to fulfil both aspects of the design. These machinations give the opportunity for some light humour as does the visit of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, that particular incumbent being a Gaelic speaker.

There is a more reflective aspect to the text when the author mentions the melancholy of being present when a language goes into its death throes. (Though nearly ninety years on from the times described here the Gaelic language still manages to survive.) The assumption in the village and more widely on Harris and elsewhere in the Hebrides was that to get on a child had to get out, that not to do so would be a failure, a factor which would inevitably lead to a hollowing out of life on the islands. Macdonald’s going to the big school was a first step on that journey. This quality of Macdonald’s memoir is of a piece with one of the perennial considerations of the Scottish novel; the sense of nostalgia, of things lost, of a strange incompleteness. I suspect that is one of the hangovers of the Union of the Parliaments and the formation of the United Kingdom in 1707. Macdonald also has the Scottish novelist’s eye for landscape description.

Macdonald’s growing to adulthood lay under the shadow of the looming Second World War. There is a grand set piece when the lads who have signed up are piped on to the ferry to the mainland to join their regiment, the ill-fated 51st Highland Division. This was before the actual formal commencement of hostilities when, “Nobody heard Chamberlain’s declaration of war on the Sunday because, in the Hebrides in those days, radio sets were never switched on on a Sunday – not even for the news.” The “wireless” in those days had vagaries of its own which is illustrated by the author with a comparison that is now itself outdated, “the sudden demise of the accumulator tended to have the sort of explosive effect that the telephone bill has nowadays on a house with daughters.” Macdonald’s thoughts on the whole matter are expressed by the sentiment that, “Nobody ever had a ‘good’ war and I can’t imagine how anyody could coin the phrase in cynicism or in jest.” He had a near escape himself when he and his brother unscrewed the spikes from a mine that had floated onto the shore and then hammered them onto their door as a makeshift knocker. His father was appalled when he discovered this.

He himself had been a sniper in the Great War (a conflict to which he never referred) and would not touch a gun since. So it is that on one of Macdonald’s returns home for the holidays he is surprised to find his father kitted out in khaki and with a rifle. He had joined the Home Guard. He allows Macdonald one shot of the rifle (wildly inaccurate of course) but on practice with his platoon merely jerks the rifle instead of firing it.

The drawbacks of progress are illustrated by the demise of the corncrake whose cry is Macdonald’s abiding memory of his childhood and whose habitat was destroyed by the improvement of the soil’s richness by the application of fertiliser reducing their scrub ground cover. Also the local oysters and wolf mussels die out because the run-off from the new internal toilets was being directed straight into the sea. The Lysander in the title refers to an RAF spotter plane which patrolled the waters round the islands in search of U-boats.

It is odd to see words such as ‘carry-out’ and ‘screwtops’ given quotation marks but English was Macdonald’s second language.

Pedant’s corner:- focussed (focused,) a closing inverted comma where there hadn’t been an opening one, Coolins (a curious Anglicisation given Macdonald’s Gaelic childhood, in most texts in English Skye’s mountains are spelled as in Gaelic, Cuillins,) “since the balances of males to females was totally disproportionate” (the balance … was,) some commas missing before or after pieces of direct speech, miniscular (x2, minuscular,) “honoured more in the breech” (breach.)

Some Good News (and Reelin’ in the Years 183: Here Comes the Sun)

Something cheerful this week. In celebration.

One day last week we were woken up by a phone call where my and the good lady’s very happy eldest son told us of the birth, a little earlier than expected, of his baby daughter, our first grandchild, Isobel Skye, 6 lb, 6 oz. (All those years, over 50, of nothing but the metric system being taught in Scottish schools and we still announce birth weights in Imperial units!) Mother and child are both doing well.

A welcome good thing arriving in what has been a dismal year. Sadly due to Covid restrictions we have not met Isobel in person. Soon, we hope.

This song was a hit for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in 1976 (Richie Havens had also recorded it in 1971) but it was first heard on The Beatles album Abbey Road in 1969.

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel: Here Comes the Sun

And the original:-

The Beatles: Here Comes the Sun

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