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In the Hebridean Mist

Mike Harding | 11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I spent a week in mid-August fishing for salmon and sea trout on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

The trip over was interesting; a seven-hour car run to Oban followed by a seven-hour ferry crossing.

On its way to South Uist, the ferry called in at Barra and looking out through the rain of the gathering Hebridean night I saw, perched on a rock in the middle of the bay, a single keep castle, four square and massive.

Looking at my guide book, I read that it was Kishmul's Castle ancestral home of the MacNeils.

I felt the kind of tingle you feel when something out of the past suddenly appears before you and my memory went back to my early folk club days when Manchester singers like Frank Duffy and Tony Hardman and Arthur Wakefield would sing a song called 'Kishmul's Galley', an early medieval ballad about a band of heroes returning in a galley to pull in
under Kishmul's walls where there would be: "Red wine and feast for heroes, Sweet harping too, sweet harping too, In Kishmul's Castle of ancient glory".

There on the rocks at the foot of the castle was the place where the galley was pulled up on rollers out of the storm. For years I had imagined the song was simply mythology - now here was the very place of the song looming out of the sea fret and drizzle.

If you don¹t know the song then check out The Corries recording of it on my programme next week. It is superb, and listening to it you begin to understand how the Hebrides have more in common with their Norse past, more to do with the Vikings and the sea raiders than they do with Edinburgh.

By the way - I did catch some sea trout but no salmon.


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