Monday, October 26, 2015

William Black Memorial Light

Here are a few photos of the William Black Memorial Light, which sits near Duart Point, the black point, a mile south of Duart Castle on Mull. The light was built in 1900, two years after William Black died.

Black Memorial Light - 1
Black wrote some 30 novels in the 19th century. And it's appropriate that his memorial is on an Hebridean isle, for one of his most popular books, A Princess of Thule (1873), takes place on Lewis.

Black Memorial Light - 2
Black Memorial Light - 3
A metal plaque is mounted above the door of the tower which reads: To the dear memory of William Black, Novelist, Erected by his friends and admirers, in many lands, on a spot which he knew and loved.

In A Princess of ThuleWilliam Black made use of this legend of Gealachos. During the early days of the Norse raids on the Hebrides, there lived on Little Bernera Gealachos, the daughter of the island priest. Her name meant Fairfoot, and her favorite place on the island was a knoll near St Donnan’s Chapel above Temple Strand. She was kidnapped from there by Sweyn, king of the Norseman, and taken to Norway. Ensconced in Sweyn’s great hall for seven years, she led a sad existence, resisting the king’s persistent wooing. The king finally relented, returning her to Little Berneray to live out the rest of her life, which she devoted to helping the people of the island. To quote from the end of the story of Gealachos, as told in Donald Macdonald’s The Lews:

She made merry with those that made merry, and visited the bereaved and mourned with those that mourned; and where there was illness she was there to lend a hand and help with the nursing, for she was a born nurse. She lived to a great age, and when she died she was taken and buried on the edge of the temple strand, where she sleeps so peacefully within sound of the waves which gave her such great pleasure in the happy days of her youth.

No one reads Black's novels these days, but the story was so popular that in 1882 L Frank Baum based his first play on it: The Maid of Arran. Baum would go on to write The Wizard of Oz.

Little Bernera burial ground and Temple Strand
Where Gealachos sleeps peacefully within sound of the waves

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