Oral Tradition of Goraidh Crobhan and the Dragon

Ciamar a tha sibh, worldwide fellow Clansfolk, and to the ones who actually visited us within the last few years a particularly warm "Hello" . As one whose ancestors first arrived in Islay centuries ago, I have heard many tales of Clan Donald, and I would like to share this one with you, perhaps it will spark some interest somewhere in someone - and who knows what could happen?

When the mighty Norwegian King Harold Hardrada was killed in battle in 1066, his Chief of Staff was Goraidh Crobhan (Godred of the white hand), who escaped and made his way to the Island of Islay, where his reputation as a clever and fearless warrior had gone before him. Men flocked to join him, and he was victorious in his battle with Fingal, King of Man and the Isles. He also fought successfully against Malcolm Canmore.

History speaks well of Goraidh Crobhan, but in Islay he is best known for killing the dragon, so here is the tale as my father told it to me:­

At this time in Islay, a dragon had eaten most of the cattle and quite a lot of the people in the area surrounding its lair at Imraconard, many had tried to kill it, and all had perished. Goraidh Crobhan, home from the war heard of the dragon and made plans accordingly.

First he got huge, sharp spikes driven into a great many barrels, then anchoring his ship in Lochindaal he put the barrels between the ship and the shore. Placing a fresh horse every two miles along the road he boldly rode up to the dragon's lair and threw a spear at it. Turning his horse, and followed by the dragon he made off at top speed to the first of his fresh horses. Dismounting, he leapt upon the fresh steed and galloped off towards the next horse, the dragon stopped only to devour the tired horse then gave chase to where Goraidh Crobhan had again changed horses. Riding up to the barrels he dismounted, and running lightly betwen the spikes he boarded his ship just as the dragon came rushing clumsily over the barrels, the spikes penetrated its body killing it instantly.

At his death in 1095, Goraidh Crobhan would have been buried in full regalia, as befitted a Viking Chief, and I heard a few years ago that a pilot, flying his plane low over Islay, thought he could see the outline of a Longboat in the peatland near Port Ellen. Perhaps some day we may learn more about that, but at present our Warrior Chief, progenitor of Clan Donald lies neglected and forgotten under a huge, solitary white stone standing in moorland among sheep and cattle.

Written by Arra Fletcher. Many thanks to his son Arra for letting me publish this story on the Islay Weblog

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