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Monday, 3 June 2013

One Day Clad in Mist……
It’s been a busy bank holiday week for me here so instead of writing a blog I thought you might enjoy a couple of extracts from old literature about Arran.

The first extract is from The Isle of Arran in the Beautiful Britain series. It was written in 1912 by Rev. Charles A Hall and it’s available at The Book and Card Shop (on the seafront in Brodick) as well as at the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum:-

Rev. Hall comments how “One who knows the island intimately and is under its spell can readily sympathize with that Arran devotee who, nearing the end of his earthly career, prayed, “Let me die with my face towards Arran”.”

He also describes the island’s changing moods: “Arran is a sea-girt land, clad in greys, purple, russet, and green, with its rugged granite peaks, its noble glens, its cadent burns and comfortable-looking whitewashed cottages……. One day clad in mist; another bathed in sunshine; now gloomy and threatening; to-day warm and grateful; to-morrow gale-swept, with the erstwhile trickling burns so swollen by torrential rains that they rush thunderingly, carrying boulders and debris in hurrying, scurrying haste to the sea.”

Some of the vocabulary in “The Isle of Arran” has become dated, but the picture of Arran painted in words remains very recognisably the Arran of today whilst much of the human planet has changed beyond recognition since then. The sinking of the Titanic, the First World War and votes for women (in Britain) all lay in the near future in 1912.

Malcolm Higgs stayed here last summer, and now lives on Bute. He shared his interest in ancient history by passing on to me an extract from the Lyra Celtica, an 1896 collection of translations from early Gaelic poets. The introduction to the Lyra Celtica describes Arran as Arran, no longer Arran of the many stags, but still one of the loveliest of the Scottish isles, and touched on every headland and hill with sunset glamour of the past.” As you know, stags feature strongly in daily Lochranza life so it is interesting to learn that this was not the case 117 years ago.

The following extract is from a translation of the Lay of Arran by Caeilte, an Ossianic bard:

Arran of the many stags- the sea impinges on her very shoulders….. Skittish deer are on her pinnacles, and blackberries upon her waving heather; cool water there is upon her rivers, and mast upon her russet oaks…..

Smooth were her level spots- her wild swine they were fat; cheerful her fields, her nuts hung on her forest hazel’s boughs, and there was sailing of long galleys past her…… at every fitting time delectable is Arran!”

I have left out the blood thirsty bits about hunting but viewing landscape from a perspective of food supply is a surprising one today.

Finally, it strikes me in reading these old texts that the superlatives of 21st century tourist literature are nothing new: Arran was making writers strive to do justice to its beauty in the long distant past too.

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