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Islay Birding - A trip to remember

It's not more than logical that a Birding Trip on Islay is great fun with an entertainer like Jermey Hastings. Jeremy knows his way around Islay and is an expert in Islay wildlife. It's therefore a great compliment for Jeremy that he was mentioned today in the Online Independant. I can very much agree on that and as a participant I can only say the trip is fantastic, with so much to see and learn about Islay and Wildlife.

For those who like more info and book a trip with Jeremy you can contact him through the Islay Birding Website.

The battle of Traigh Ghruineard by Arra Fletcher

The battle of Traigh Ghruineard in 1598 was the last big Clan battle to be fought in the Island of Islay, and it was between Sir Lachlan Mor MacLean, the 14th Chief of Duart and his nephew Sir James MacDonald of Islay.

They fought over possession of the Rhinns in Islay which Lachlan Mor claimed was the dowry given to his wife in 1566 by her brother Angus MacDonald, chief of Clan Donald South, and the most powerful branch of Clann Dhomhnuill. Later, MacDonald gave the land of the Rhinns to Brian Vicar MacKay, lieutenant to the MacDonalds, and for years MacLean had demanded the return of the Rhinns to his wife.

At long last MacLean decided that the only way to settle things was to invade Islay and do battle with Angus' son James.

At that time no chief would go into battle without consulting a ban-fhaidh (wise woman) and this MacLean did. He was very annoyed when she told him not to go to Islay, and when he insisted that he was honour bound to go she closed her eyes, and raising her hands intoned this warning: "In spite of my plea you will set sail for Islay, do not arrive on a Thursday, do not fight on the shores of Loch Gruineard, do not drink from the well known as Tobar Niall Neonaich (the well of strange Niall) or else you will surely die."

Islay House Bridgend

A Follow up on a story about Islay House from Armin's Islay Blog. During our Birding Tour with Jeremy Hastings we were told that Islay House is now owned by a retired American Navy Pilot and he lives there on his own in that huge House. The new Owner of Islay House donated the Walled Garden to the Islay Community and is now in use as Kitchen Garden and has undergone a huge transformation. The Ileach already reported that the first potatoes from the new Kitchen Garden are for sale and more vegetables will follow soon.

Where does the name Islay come from

First of all, Islay is pronounced as Eye-la. Now we have that sorted out we can continue. There are several ideas where the name Islay comes from. Some think it comes from "Island divided into two" with Loch Gruinart and the Gruinart Flats being the dividing line. There are also ideas that it means "the law island", but is is also suggested that the name derives from a Pictisch princess called Ile, who lived around 650-700 AD. It is of course also possible that the name has emerged without obvious reasons.

According to Domhnall MacEacharna, who wrote the book The Old Parish Church Kildalton and The Lands of the Lordship: The Romance of Islay's names, the earliest known reference to the island comes in Adamnan's biography, Vita Columbae, of the Irish Saint, Columba, written in about 720 AD. St Columba visited Islay on his way north, prior to setting up the famous monestry on the island of Iona, of the south-west tip of Mull. Adamnan wrote it as "Ilea", describing it as an inhabited island, "Ilea insula habitabat", and also as "green, grassy Islay", a phrase which is still used in the Gaelic, "Ile Ghorm an Fheoir".

In a text in 740, it is spelt "Ili", while by 1095 it had become Yle. From then on, it is commonly Ila, Yla and Ilay. The present spelling was not widely adopted until about 1800. It is as if more modern writers were unhappy with Yla or Ilay and added an 's' to make it look more like the word "island". Islay is the anglicised spelling; in Gaelic the island is still spelt Ile.

Peggy Earl, writer of the book Tales of Islay, which is still available at C&E Roy in Bowmore has a different theory. Her favourite theory, however, concerned a Danish Princess called Iula, or Yula, who left Denmark with an apron full of stones of different sizes. As she proceeded on her journey some of the stones fell out, one becoming Ireland, another Rathlin and a third Texa. The remainder of the stones fell out and became the string of islands from Ardbeg to Kildalton. She perished in the soft sands off that coast and was taken to Seonais Hill above Loch Cnoc and buried there. What was described in the Statistical Account of 1794 as the grave of "a daughter of one of the kings of Denmark" is marked by two small standing stones about 10 meters apart, though there is no good evidence to support this tradition. Islay is said to have got its name from this lady, or perhaps she may have taken her name from Islay.

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