Thursday 20 March 2014

A bardic journey to the Isle of Skye

In June 2013, on occasion of the summer solstice, the Scottish Storytelling Forum organised a two-day storytelling trip from Edinburgh to the remote valley of Glendale, on the Isle of Skye. Here the Gaelic lore is strongly connected to the landscapes and the work of the local storyteller Seoras (George) Macpherson played a key role in preserving local narratives that were orally passed on from generation to generation.

Seoras Macpherson led us on story walks where we enjoyed a full immersion in local stories, legends and historical facts. In contrast with more popular outdoor activities such as hiking and hillwalking, these walks had the characteristic of being short, slow paced and sometimes without a specific destination. Local stories sprung up from the ground almost at every step, ranging from the legend of the flat top hills that could be seen far in the distance to popular beliefs related to the herbs that were right under our feet. It was an unusual and certainly interesting way to experience a place, where also the slow rhythm of the walk and the humbleness of the tiny anecdotes contributed to establish a true connection to it.

To conclude with an anecdote, on occasion our Skye trip Seoras Macpherson mentioned that most of the stories he knows were told to him by his father. This may naively sound like a natural and straightforward process, but what Seoras also told us was that his father would tell a story only the very moment he expressed the interest in knowing it.
This can only reminds us how being curious as well as a good listener are vital elements of preserving traditions as well as the basis for being able to pass them on through storytelling.

The Gaelic name of the isle of Skye is Eilean a' Cheò, which means Island of the Mist.

The bay of Loch Pooltiel witnessed many events, including spotting a couple of killer whales.
The story walk begins.

Flat top hills. The legend tells that the giants and little people of Glendale made them flat and they were called Sealbh mhor & Sealbh Beag (greater and lesser charmed mountains). Much later they were renamed MacLeods Tables .

This is the Bog Myrtle. It has healing powers and it also has the ability of keeping midges away...for at least 30 minutes!

Seoras Macpherson holds the flower called Blar Bhreacan Phuil. The story tells how the stone of destiny was brought to Scotland by St. Andrew, the flower being only in Glendale whilst the stone went to Dunadd.