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Beinn na Cailleach



This site should not be confused with Skye's other Beinn na Caillich, although admittedly this is difficult since not only do they both have the same name, but also each has a cairn on the summit which is said to be a woman's grave.

"The road to Sligachan winds under the shadow of Beinn na Caillich, on whose summit a cairn can be seen. It marks the grave of a Norse princess who lies forever gazing out to Norway, which she loved and whence she came. How was she ever laid there? What devotion she must have inspired in one at least in a foreign land. It was believed that if she saw danger approaching she would return to warn her children's children."

- Otta F. Swire, Skye: The Island and its Legends, 1962, p. 13.

Swire also records a story (pp. 9-11) in which a priest from Pabay was walking through this region of Skye on his way to meet with some parishioners, when a crowd of 'little people' waylaid him in the forest. An old man came from amongst their ranks and explained to him that they were the Daoine Sithe (the fairies) and that:

"...we have come to beg you to pray for us, that we may become once more God's children and recover our souls. For a long time we have repented of our sins but we dare not say the Pater Noster or any other prayer unless we have your forgiveness."

The priest, in his overwhelming generosity of spirit, refused to forgive them, having been taught that "the 'little people' belonged to the Evil One", and declared to them "as soon would my stick become a tree again as God forgive you". The grief of the Daoine Sithe was tangible, audible:

"Everywhere round him he could hear as he went a soft, despairing wailing, as of a people without hope. It spread through the forest and up the slopes of Beinn na Caillich on into the hills and did nothing to lessen the trouble in his mind."

He went on his way, met with his parishioners and baptized their new-born child. But when he was done there he realised that he had left his staff at the place where he had met the 'little people', and since this crook was both his badge of office and his only possession, he returned to find it. There he discovered that it had transformed itself into a mighty ash tree, taller than every other tree in the forest. Remembering his words to the Daoine Sithe, about his stick becoming a tree again, he fell on his knees and prayed, then began wandering around the forest calling to the 'little people'. Yet he was answered with only their hopeless wailing. So he returned to Pabay and sought permission to live in the forest, permission which he obtained. On returning to the trees:

"...he preached continually, day and night, the forgiveness of God to all who would listen, birds, beasts and trees. Men called him mad and he never saw the 'little people' again, but slowly the wailing ceased in the hills."
TomBo Posted by TomBo
28th June 2004ce
Edited 22nd March 2011ce

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