The “summer” is drawing to an end and temperatures will now drop to under 10°C instead of 10-15°C, for a while…
So I have started planning another boat trip well in time before the canals and lochs freeze over, or so I hope. My idea is to grab SeaWhiskitt and the “whores”, warm clothes, yummy sandwiches and brews, cameras and a notepad for inspiring moments and take a bus to Lochearnhead on of these Saturdays at a godforsaken hour of 8h55 to arrive there 2 mins before 11. Then proceed to hitchhike to the eastern side of the loch. This is necessary as rowing across would take the best part of the day and we wouldn’t have time to enjoy our provisions.
The village at the other side of the Loch Earn is called St. Fillans and the reason why I want to set sail there is the little island that you can see from the bank there. The Neish Island (dum dum duuum)… a tiny uninhabited islet, supposedly a crannog? It was a refuge for members of Clan Neish until the 17th Century, when they were decimated by their ancient enemies of the fearsome Clan MacNab from Killin.
Here is the story in short, taken from Wikipedia, my flexible friend, extended with bits and pieces of information from other versions of the tale:
One Christmas the chief of MacNabs sent his servant to Crieff for provisions, however on his return he was attacked and robbed of everything he carried. He survived and returned empty handed to the MacNab chief, a man old and frail, but with twelve strong sons. One above all was exceedingly athletic and the mightiest of them all. He was called in gaelic “Iain Min Mac an Aba” or “Smooth John MacNab”.
They waited for a suitable night when there was a full moon, then the chief spoke ” Bhi’n oidche an oidche, nan ghillean an ghillean”… “The night is the night, if the lads are the lads”. Carrying on their shoulders a fishing boat, the brothers set out to climb over the hill from Loch Tay up Ardeonaig Glen and down Glentarken to Loch Earn, where they eventually launched the boat and rowed across to Neish Island (kinda like we will, only faster). Smooth John MacNab kicked open the door of the Neishes house and the MacNabs killed all of the Neishes who were taken by surprise. However two Neishes, a man and a boy, survived by hiding under a bed (cowards!).
Carrying off the heads of the Neishes, and any plunder they could secure, the sons headed off back to Killin but along the way back some way up Glentarken they tired of carrying their boat and abandoned it. It is said the remains of it were to be seen until 1900. When the youths presented themselves to their father, while the piper struck up the Pibroch of Victory (the local version of Reines of Castamere?), the old man said “The night was the night, and the lads were the lads.”
The sigil of the Clan MacNab is the severed head of the Neish clan chief, and alternatively a couple of dudes in a boat… and their motto is “Timor Omnis Abesto” (Let fear be far from all… or Dreadnaught), although I suspect this precedes the boat story.
Anyway… I thought it was a cool place to go and drink beers, but now I am also quite intrigued by the crannog thing. They are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. Most are circular structures that seem to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families. Today, they appear as tree-covered islands or remain hidden as submerged stony mounds.
The bus goes back to Edinburgh at 17h12 (or two hours later) and that should give us enough time to enjoy the trip. Very convenient…
Now just to find a sunny Saturday without Whiski vet appointments…
And the moral of the story? When the snows fall, and the night is dark and you can hear the soft jingling of bells and the skittish whinny of reindeer in the whistling of the winds, whatever you do… do not mess with Kitteh McNabb!