Monday, September 2, 2013

Lighthouse Cruise 4 - Little Bernera

After leaving Scarp we headed towards the Flannan Isles, the site of the mystery of the missing light keepers (see book 2, chapter 26). But it was not to be. The sea was too lumpy, large swells bashing the ship as we headed west. Ten miles away from the Flannans the decision to give it up was made, and so we sought shelter to the east in Loch Roag. 

Although we missed the Flannans, our consolation prize was to spend the day on one of the most beautiful of the Hebrides: Little Bernera. This island is special to me as it was the inspiration for one of my first magazine articles. The article was about a visit to Little Bernera in 2003 to find the grave of Isabella MacDonald. Isabella was one of the inspirations for the main character in William Black's 1873 novel The Princess of Thule

The article appeared in the May 2005 issue of The Scots Magazine, and is included in Book 2 (chapter 27). A month after the article was published I received a letter from Rhoderick Macleod. Rhoddy was the great grandson of Isabella Macdonald, and he was so happy to see the story he invited my wife and I to visit him at his home near Canonbie, where we spent an enjoyable few hours. Rhoddy also took us on a tour of a section of Hadrian's wall near his home (first two photos). 

Rhoddy and my wife at Hadrian's Wall
Rhoddy and myself at Hadrian's Wall
Rhoddy also provided me with these two images of his grandparents: Isabella and her parents in the first, which I included in the book, and Rhoddy's grandfather Dr. Rhoderick Ross in the second. Dr. Ross was the physician who went to North Rona to perform a postmortem on the two men from Ness who died there mysteriously in 1885.

Isabella MacDonald and parents, c1860
Portrait of Dr. Ross
Rhoddy asked me for a print of a photo I used in the article of the beautiful graveyard on Little Bernera where his grandparents are buried (next photo). The building at the right - that looks like a chapel - is the enclosure where his grandparents are buried.

One of the most rewarding things that have come from writing my island stories was to see the joy it brought Rhoddy to see the story. I had not spoken to Rhoddy since 2006, and so it was a bit of a shock when I visited Little Bernera on August 10 and found this memorial stone mounted on the wall of the burial enclosure.

Rhoddy was a kind gentleman. The last line on his memorial says "Here he lies where he longed to be". I am so glad he is at peace in the resting place of his ancestors. 

1 comment:

  1. Really interested to read this Marc. I had been wondering where that photo was of the lovely little chapel. Chrisitna