Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ewen Little Head

Crannogs, man-made island strongholds, are interesting structures. The first I remember seeing is possibly the most seen crannog in Scotland. It lies in Loch Sguabain (Mull), a quarter-mile off the A849, and is easily seen from the tour buses that take thousands of people every year to Iona.

This particular crannog is more interesting than most. It has a name, and some of its history is known. Called 'Caisteal Eoghainn a' Chinn Bhig' (the castle of Ewen little head), it was last occupied by Ewan Maclaine in the 16th Century. You can read about Ewen, and how he lost his little head, in Thomas Hannan's The Beautiful Island of Mull, and in Alasdair Alpin Macgregor's The Ghost BookEwen was killed during a battle nearby (some Maclean/Maclaine infighting), and his head was cut off.

Macgregor includes Ewen's tale in chapter 3 of The Ghost Book - a chapter entitled  Haunted Lochbuie - because Ewen's headless ghost, riding atop a horse, is said to haunt Lochbuie House and the surrounding area. Seeing (or hearing) Ewen ride by was said to mean there'd be a death in the Maclaine family. Ewen was said to have been heard the night that Murdoch Maclaine, the 22nd chief, died in 1909. See the December 9, 2014 post for more on the death, and funeral, of Murdoch Maclaine. And see this CANMORE page for more on Ewen's Fort.

Ewen's Fort - Loch Sguabain
A mile and a half northeast of Loch Sguabain, on the hillside below the ruin of Torness cottage, you will find a small cairn that marks the spot where Ewen was decapitated in the battle of Glen Forsa. Every time I pass by I like to stop and add a stone to this memorial to Ewen Little Head, the Headless Horsemen of Lochbuie.

Ewen's Cairn - Glen Lussa


  1. David Gartside, UKMay 20, 2015 at 11:46 AM

    Hi Mark. Not heard from you in a while?