I really enjoy finding time to read, particularly when it’s about local places, people or historical events. One of the reasons moving to Skye excited me so much was the chance to get to discover the history of our new home location.
Hailing from the Outer Hebrides I knew that my Inner cousins had fascinating stories and histories that would keep me occupied in such a manner for many a wild winter’s night. And though there were a few wild nights last winter, I just didn’t manage to get as much reading done as I expected, even though a certain telephone company tried their best to stop me working by leaving me 3 months without internet. I thought come the better weather I’d rectify that by prepping for family days out but we’ve been that busy and the weather has been that dreich, that we haven’t managed to explore quite as much as we had anticipated before we ventured northwest. Still I manage to snatch half an hour here and there to satisfy my thirst for local history.
The world over, folk know about Skye’s beauty and majesty and many also know a fair bit about her history, or certain events in her history to be sure, like Flora rescuing yon softie fae o’er the water, who unlike The Bruce gave up after not much effort. I love speaking to knowledgeable locals about the folk who lived here before, crucial events in history and the way they lived their everyday lives and how the dramatic events affected them. And to Skye’s credit I have met more people here knowledgeable about the land and its past that anywhere else – barring maybe my own homeland of Lewis, though given I was born and raised there that’s probably not a fair comparison – and that is regardless of whether they are locals or incomers like myself.
I have lived in places where folk were completely oblivious to things that were on their doorstep and I’m not just talking about obscure events that I know only excite me and a tiny other proportion of the population. When I first moved from Glasgow to Falkirk to set up home with my Warrior girlfriend - a Warrior is a son or daughter of Stenhousemuir – who is now my better half, that autopilot switch was flicked and she loved taking me to all the great places she knew around the area. In that short space of time before the bairns arrived we crammed a fair amount in.
I started a new job in the area and enjoyed telling my new work colleagues about the places we’d been, but it was somewhat disappointing to find that so few knew of many of the places and fewer still had visited them. One lady I worked with told me she lived in the picturesque village of Airth, just days after I had visited the stunning Dunmore Pineapple right on her doorstep. Even now I still fail to fathom how she didn’t even know the place existed.
I’m no fan of modern architecture and I’m sure there were those back in the day who hated the pineapple for the same reasons, but it is still a place that brings a smile to my face. And it’s no wonder, for the Fourth Earl of Dunmore was so taken by the newly imported pineapple that he had a summerhouse built with a pineapple shaped roof.
It’s odd, of that there is no denying, but it’s also brilliantly quirky and architecturally stunning. Odder still is how somebody living right beside Dunmore Park doesn’t even know such a marvel is waiting to bring a smile to their face if they’d only venture through the woods.
Anyway, I’ve fairly gone off at a tangent tonight. I started this because I wanted to post some verse I came across tonight. As I said earlier, I don’t get the chance to read as often as I’d like and rarer still are the times I delve into the world of poetry, but today I came across this poem by the Northumbrian poet Wilfrid Gibson from his 1932 book ‘Islands’, that captures perfectly the kind of summer weather we’ve being having this year.
Skye by Wilfrid Wilson
The squall had swept the heavens clear
At sundown and across the sea
Relinquishing her veils of rain
Skye burned, an emerald on our lee.
Over a tide of serpentine
Chiselled by the keen diamond light
Out of the matrix of dark cloud
It burned and glittered, jewel-bright.
The sun dipped swiftly, and the Isle
Its peaks dissolved in amethyst
As southerly we sailed, again
Vanished in veils of opal mist.
But for a breathing-space the witch
Shedding her cloak of mystery
Unveils her beauty to the light
Beyond the cold green glancing sea
A moment, and then busily
Spinning, she swathes herself again
In a fresh web of mist and rain.