Place

Hallaig clings to a green slope on Raasay, an island to the east of Skye. It is a pleasant wooded place - sheltered from the prevailing winds by high hills and cliffs and with an open aspect over the ‘Inner Sound’ between Raasay and the mainland of Scotland.

MacLean laments the abandoned village with simple, clear descriptions:

  • the road is under mild moss
  • the grass-grown ruined houses
  • The window is nailed and boarded/ through which I saw the West

The boarded window to the West is symbolic. In Gaelic mythology the west is seen as a source of light, mystery and good things. Boarding this window shut is closing off this sense of promise.

nailed and boarded is a harsh phrase. It denotes finality and the end of an era. On visiting Hallaig, MacLean sees only ruins. Physically the Hallaig of the past is gone. However the experience of actually being in the place allows him to again connect with his people.

He sees the activity of the people, the visiting between the neighbouring communities Clachan and Suishnish

He evokes the physical appearance and atmosphere of the place when he refers to the whole ridge from Beinn na Lice a mighty limestone ridge which dominates the walk to Hallaig.

But his reaction to the place is more than just physical. He talks of the dumb living twilight and the dimness comes on the kyles- suggesting both the passing of time and a sense of the mystical or spiritual that is often linked to twilight in tradition.