Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Yet Another Bell Stolen

I recently learned some sad news. Twenty years ago I visited a unique island in Loch Shiel, a dozen miles southwest of the Glenfinnan Monument. This small island has two names: An t-Eilean Uaine (the Green Isle), and Eilean Fhianain (St Finnan's Isle). I wrote about the visit in chapter 20 of book 1, and the highlight was seeing Clag Fhianain, a bronze handbell that has rested on the altar of Isle Finnan for several centuries. 

The sad news was that the bell was stolen from Eilean Fhianain in 2019. There is a scorching place in hell waiting for the thief, and he will have a lot of bell-thieving company. The loss of Clag Fhianain is just one in the long list of Celtic handbells that have been stole over the years. There is St Kenneth's Bell, taken from Inchkenneth in the late 1700s, St Kessog's Bell, which went missing from Loch Lomond in the 1800s, and St Modan's Bell last seen at Ardchattan. Prior to the loss of Finnan's Bell, the most recent theft was when St Adamnan's Bell was stolen from Insh Church in September of 2017. I visited Insh in 1995 to see the bell, and was surprised to find it mounted on the church wall, completely unattended.

Although there are curses, and legends, that these bells always find their way home, I don't have high hopes that they will be recovered. But, just perhaps, at some point in the future these low-life thieves will die an unpleasant death, and their families will discover the bells hidden in dusty closets and return them. That's what happened to the Clanranald Stone, stolen from Howmore on North Uist in 1990. Five years later the heavy stone was found in a London closet after the thief died. It is now back in the Western Isles where it belongs. One can hope a similar fate awaits the bells, and the thieves, of Isle Finnan and Insh.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dolphins at Play

Being stuck at home has one benefit. I have been able to make a start at organizing my camera memory card backups. I am always afraid I'll lose photos, so in some cases I've made backups of backups of backups. All resulting in terabytes of files scattered about in ten different external hard drives.

As I go through all these files I occasionally stumble upon videos, like the ones in the last few posts, that I'd totally forgotten about. I have taken very few videos over the years, as when I do I end up concentrating on the camera and not the moment. I was so excited when GoPros came out that I bought one in 2010. But it became just one more thing to pack and keep charged, so it only made its way to Scotland once. Since then what few videos I've taken were using my trusty point-and-shoot, so the quality is not too good.

Here is one of those point-and-shoot videos. It dates to 2009 and shows a half-dozen joyful dolphins riding the bow wave of Halmar Bjorge. These days when the dolphins show up (as they usually do) I leave the camera off and enjoy the show.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Don't Go On The 8-3-0

Since 1990, on my way to the isles, I must have driven the A830 highway from Fort William to Mallaig a dozen times. Prior to 2009 much of it was a terrifying single track, especially so for rookie left-side drivers. The road had narrow hairpin turns, and blind corners, where at any moment a large truck carrying fish or timber could appear out of nowhere coming head on. The danger was not just in front. A look in the rear-view mirror would usually show a gargantuan tour bus on its way to the Skye ferry. The bus would be so close that you could see the driver's agitated face in the mirror. The cause of the agitation was not the dangerous road, but how slow you've been driving.

If you've ever driven the road to the isles when it was single track there is a song guaranteed to make you smile. It is Don't Go On The 8-3-0, and can be found on the McCalmans 1993 album Honest Poverty. Have a listen - lyrics can be found at  Don't Go On The 8-3-0. My favorite bit is:

When lorries lose control, you've one last wish
Don't let me die under 20 tons of fish.