Dougie MacDougall - The Jura Witch

The story of the witch of Jura is preserved in a place named Scriob-na-Caillich'e the slide of the old woman, on the north west slopes of Beinn-an-oir (the mountain of gold), a reference to the setting sun.

The old witch had MacPhee from the island of Colonsay, in her magical power. Whenever he tried to escape, she would throw a magical ball of thread into his boat and bring it back to land. At last, he discovered that there was a magical hatchet which could cut the thread. One day MacPhee stole the magic axe and made his escape at dawn. By the time the witch missed him, he was making for Colonsay. She rushed to the summit of Beinn-an-oir, spotted him and threw the magic ball of thread into his boat, but he cut the thread with the axe and continued on his way. Three times she tried to bring him back, without success, until in desperation she flung herself down the mountainside, leaving behind her the deep scrape marks and loose stones of Scriob-na-Caillich'e, seen to this day on the hillside.

Incidentally, when she slid to stop, there was an egg-shaped boulder across her legs which she threw with terrific force after MacPhee, but missed him. The boulder is still stuck to rock on the shore below Adnahoe Farm on Islay. She must have been a very strong woman, for it weighs at least one hundredweight, if not more. The name of the stone is called 'Cailleach' (The Old Woman).

Tag: dougie macdougall tales jura

Dougie MacDougall - The Ghost that never was

When I was a young boy, along with my other brothers, we sometimes went along to Caol Ila Distillery at night when all the workmen were away home, except for a watchman and one workman who kept the peat fires burning in the kiln. We as boys, were not allowed near the place at night, but we watched our chance to get past the sentry box when William MacEwan was inside, the we ran for it. Our house at Yellow Rock was only a stone's throw away from our objective, so we knew how and when to approach the place with the utmost stealth. We knew old Dugald McIndeor who was in charge of the kilns, keeping them fired till six in the morning; that was when all the workers arrived for their day's work. We always helped the old man throw baskets of peat on the fires: sometimes the two kilns had to be fired, so with that and the ploughing of the barley on the malt barn floors, we were kept out of mischief. We sometimes were very glad to sit down on the seat provided for the kiln workers and most times we made a cup of tea heated up on the kiln fire in tins made for the job. We enjoyed that very much.

Old Dugald was very superstitious; many a ghostly story he would tell us, but to tell the truth, those stories went in one ear and out the other. I think perhaps the drinking of whisky most of the day did a lot to kindle the imagination, to the extent that they took to believe in the supernatural. Read more....

Still (Islay) Waters Run Deep

A while back I started with the first story on this blog written by Dougie MacDougall. The second story was about the Islay fishermen in the old days and the third one was about his years as a boatman on the Sound of Islay. Dougie MacDougall was Christine Logan's father and she was very happy that he was remembered in such a nice way. Also her mother Lily MacDougall was very happy with the stories and a few weeks ago Christine sent me another one of his lovely books called Still Waters Run Deep. Unfortunately this booklet is not for sale and Christine agreed with the publication of some stories on the Islay Weblog. The first story is called Unexplained Mystery but I will start with the introduction first:

Dougie MacDougall: I have been kindly advised by people who have read my book 'As Long as Water Flows', to write a second edition regarding the customs and manner of living in the old days around the districts of Kilmeny, Port Askaig and beyond. I shall endeavour to piece together subjects of interest, of happenings about people known to me, also of stories handed down from the past that have lived in my memory. My main idea is to have all or most of what was going one in those years put down in writing before everything sinks into oblivion! Continue reading.....

Dougie MacDougall’s Islay Stories

From the booklet As Long as Water Flows. For Christine and her Mother, Lily MacDougall.

Dougie MacDougall: The Sound of Islay with its six knot tides can be very treacherous – the surrounding hills and glens are the sources where strong winds spring from, sometimes without trace until they hit the water. This you must know when under sail. On the other hand, the Sound can be most charming with its beautiful surrounding hills and glens and scenery that well can be admired according to the fulfilment of your views.

When my father retired I was appointed as boatman for Rhuvaal and McArthur’s Head. This of course included attendant for minor lights and gas buoys. It was a twenty foot launch with spray hood aft with petrol paraffin engine, a good sea boat in which we had to carry out all trips. I am telling you now, the launch had to be a good sea boat, for when you got the call, no matter what the weather was like, you went if at all possible. If there was a patient at either lighthouse during the day or night, you were obliged to go if the weather permitted, and that if you could find a doctor to attend.

For instance, there was this lightkeeper at Rhuvaal, a very nice man, got very ill sometimes with blood running through him. The doctor attended him twice but failed to understand what was wrong, for each time that he examined him he seemed to be alright. The doctor at the time was Dr MacIntyre, an exceptionally clever man and one you could depend on in an emergency. Everything went on quite well till this wild night a phone call was received from Rhuvaal advising that the keeper took a bad turn and the doctor had to be summoned at once. I hired a car to go to Bridgend, ten miles distant, to see if I could get hold of the doctor. Eventually I found out that he was at a rifle shooting practice in Bridgend Hall. I told him that the keeper had taken a severe turn and that his presence was required at the station. ‘Och,’ he says, ‘I am not going to Rhuvaal tonight, for I have been there twice and I failed to find anything wrong. What do you think yourself?’ Continue reading.....