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Smoo Cave

Cave / Rock Shelter


Even after he had escaped from the Black School at Padua, as told at CREAG MHOR and CREAG BHEAG, Donald Duibheal MacKay was still pursued by his old master. One day MacKay went to explore the great Smoo Cave, a huge limestone cavern near the north coast, south-east of Durness - but the Devil got news of his intentions and was waiting for him there. Some say MacKay fled, leaving his horse's footmarks by the cave's entrance. In Otta Swire's 1963 account, however, MacKay had reached the second cavern when his dog, who had raced ahead of him into the third and innermost chamber, came back

'howling and hairless'

warning MacKay who he could expect to see if he went further. Just at this moment, dawn broke and the sound of cockcrow was heard. The Devil and the three witches who were there with him realised their time on earth was up, blew holes inn the roof, and escaped: this is said to be the origin of the holes through which the Smoo Burn runs into the caverns.

The unfortunate dog's expereience that of the piper's hound at CLACH-THOLL (Argyllshire & Islands), whose master set out to explore a subterranean passage and was never seen again. in many such stories the dogs alone escape but with all their hair singed off, a sure sign of a fiery diabolical encounter. It is interesting here the Devil, like the ghost of Hamlet's father is dismissed from the world by:

the bird of dawning,

the cock announcing the end of the night. Nor is this the only Shakespearean echo sounded: the 'three witches' accompanying the Devil are probably an addition with literary inspiration.

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drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
26th January 2024ce

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