Friday, October 17, 2014

The Beehives of Clan 'ic Phail

There are three beehive cell ruins on Eilean Mor of the Flannan isles. The largest, and most intact, is Teampull Beannachadh, the house of blessing. It lies near the lighthouse on the east side of the island, and has been altered into the form of a rectangular chapel.

Teampull Beannachadh
The other two beehives lie on the west side of Eilean Mor. They are often referred to at Bothan Clan 'ic Phail (the bothies of the Clan of the son of Paul). Donald MacDonald, in his book Tales and Traditions of the Lews, dedicates a short chapter to the MacPhails of Lewis. To quote MacDonald: 

The MacPhails made their power felt throughout the ages, and we find that they were used as wardens by the Macleods of Lewis and placed along the west coast...to prevent the Macaulays of Uig from passing north to raid the Morrison territory.

Below are some photos of the MacPhail beehives that I took during a visit in 2003. The two cells were probably shelter for those who came to the island to harvest birds. See page 132 of Bill Lawson's Lewis (the West Coast) in History and Legend for some descriptions of the abundant wildlife once found on the Flannans. See this link for some information on the various branches of the MacPhails.

The MacPhail bothies (the two bumps on the slope) 
The larger of the two cells
The smaller cell - ready to collapse
The smaller cell - not much of a shelter these days

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