09/05/12 Eigg

Ok, chaps, a brief history lesson. Eigg is one of the ‘small islands’ off the west coast mainland of Scotland, nestling near Skye, Muck and Rum.

After a succession of absent
landowners – Lairds, I think some called themselves – the inhabitants of Eigg got together and, with a few donations from here and there, bought the island for themselves.

Imagine 85 people jointly owning an island. This year is the fifteenth birthday of that particularly rash purchase and, if all that I read and hear is true, Eigg is going from strength to strength.

Imagine generating your own sustainable energy through solar (optimistic I know), wind and water…imagine taking responsibility for your own usage in the knowledge if you went a bit greedy then others may go without.

That said, there is enough… occasionally too much, to go round.

Imagine though – 85 – that’s roughly the population of the street where I grew up.

Could we have managed this piece of consummate community coordination?
Well, we did once manage a silver jubilee party in 1977…didn’t attract many tourists…didn’t generate much electricity either…

I was lucky enough to catch Eigg during a particularly sunny time – I walked around the island in my tee-shirt and shorts enjoying….

Well, enjoying this….

Stop whatever you’re doing…no, don’t stop reading, silly, just play along…
Take a few moments…what can you hear….

Just a few moments…

Ok, let’s compare notes…

I’ve been walking in some remote, out of the way bits of the west coast of Scotland…

Imagine though, remote in a sea of remote…

Here’s what I heard –
The wind, some sheep and their lambs, a skylark, some geese, a cuckoo, my breath, some jackdaws…maybe the sea, but I’m not sure.

Cool, eh?

Ok, let’s be a tourist for a bit – what could such a small island offer… Well, obviously there’s the above – but here’s a bit of sinister history –

There’s a cave on the south side with a dark heritage –

Massacre Cave received its name in 1577….

The MacLeods had been visiting the island – mainly populated by MacDonald’s at the time (dispell any thoughts of golden arches please). The MacLeods, so the story goes, became overly amorous with the islands ladies and were ejected, cast adrift out into the sea for their troubles.

They were rescued by their clansmen and decided to return with revenge in mind.

They searched the island – fruitlessly – for the next few days – thought ‘bugger this’ or the Gaelic equivalent, and sailed off…

The islanders had been hiding in Massacre Cave – a cave with a narrow opening, partially hidden by a waterfall.
Unfortunately, one of their group chose to leave the cave to watch the departure of the MacLeods.

The MacLeods saw him – he raced back to the cave – they followed his footprints – they set fires at the entrance, blocking the escape of the helpless islanders as they succumbed to asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation.

Only one islander survived, an older woman who chose not to hide with the others….

Today’s islanders, I understand, tend not to cast folk adrift, nor do they encourage massacres….

Try to imagine a small island. Now remove the comic one palm tree, a guy with a beard throwing messages in bottles out to sea image from your mind.

Eigg is a great big chunk of land. It has a mountain nearly 1300 feet high -it has a huge beach with singing sands to the north – it’s nearly 6 miles long and 3 miles wide – it has so much to see – so much to offer – more wildlife than I’ve seen – more than I would be likely to see in months there…

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about some of its people – and a few of its tourists…

Until then…

Walk a mile


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