From the Archives: A Barra Blessing

I have written exactly two bits of travel writing. One of my travel pieces was published on Beliefnet, and the other was rejected by Islands Magazine. Both pieces were written after I took a trip to Scotland’s Western Isles in the fall of 2000. In the heretofore unpublished piece below I make mention of a Glaswegian cover band called Manford Clan[sic–see comments below]. The band has long since broken up, but over thaka Laird and Lady Chafe years the drummer, Craig Smith, and I have kept up a correspondence (he even comments on this blog from time to time). On January 26 I had the great pleasure of officiating at his his wedding to the lovely Michelle Thompson[sic–see comment below] at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, Ca. It was a wedding like no other.

My fascination with the Island of Barra began with a story. “The king of Scotland,” or so my father told me, echoing the words of his uncle Neil, “declared that the Isle of Barra would go to the clan whose sailors won a boat race. The first clan to touch the island, could claim it as their own.” The Castlebay from KisimulMacNeils were winning the race, but began to fear they might loose to the Campbells” (or the Stewarts or the MacDonalds—the story changed a little each time it was told) “and so the head of the clan, our ancestor, laid his arm on the gunwale, took out his sword, chopped off his hand and threw it on to the island, making the MacNeils the first clan to touch the island. And that’s why we’re all a little bit crazy.”
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