jueves, 15 de marzo de 2012

THE HIGHLANDS


Scotland is the land of the Edge of Moorlands and the ruins of forests and the twilight before dawn. A Strange knowledge dwells in it. The depth of the solitude, the huge peaks, the deep chasm between the rock, the dark gloom of the forest, the deep black loch are full of associations of awe, grandeur and mystery. I used to visit Scotland often when I was living in London. My job at the backpackers company allowed me to spend quality time at the Highlands. One of the most magical places I’ve ever seen.



The Scottish highlands are a perfect setting for contacts of all kinds with the supernatural. There is something unique in that part of the world. Only persons born and reared on small Sea Islands can really understand how much the sight, the sounds and smell of the sea becomes part of life itself. In the dark nights I used to plan my visits. I was in Selkirk Forest William Wallace hiding place and I swear to got that I almost felt his presence. Over there I was told that there are two histories of every land and people, the written history that tells what it is considered politics and the unwritten history that tells everything. One of my favourites took place on a promontory of Crinan loch, a few miles south of Crainish, stand the Old Castle of Duntroom. In the seventeenth century left handed Coll invaded Argyll with his followers. He intended to attack the castle and sent his piper on ahead, to spy out the land. The piper was accepted to the castle and pleased the garrison by playing. He took careful note of the lay-out of the castle, and then entered a turret to see the land lay. But his presence there was discovered and he was shut into the tiny room with only his pipes for company. The days passed and left handed became impatient. They set sail for Crainish. From his turret window the piper saw the Galleys in the sound of Jura and fearing his leader may fall into a trap, began to play on his chanter the tune known as “the piper warning to his master”. The sound of the music drifted across the water to the galley. Coll understood the message and turned the away from the attack. But the man who had given him the warning was taken to the kitchen and there had his fingers cut of. He died from shock and loss of blood and was buried under the kitchen floor where a slab marking the grave can be seen to this day. It is said that his ghost still haunts the turret room from whose narrow window can be heard the sound of the fatal pipe tune.



I also visited the ruins of Castle Tioran that lies on a rocky islet in Loch Moidart. Located south of Mallaig and some 50 miles from Fort Williams on the west coast of Scotland, its location is made all the more remote by the fact that access is only possible at low tide when you can walk across a spit of land. Tioram was destroyed in 1715 when clan chief Allan of Clanranald ordered it to be burnt, probably to prevent it falling into enemy hands when he left to fight the jacobite cause.


On this spot I heard for the very first time the classical music of the Bagpipe; The Pibroch. Some take as long as twenty minutes to play. I had the opportunity to hear stories from a young Celtic woman who sang two Gaelic songs for me. She also told me the story of a very famous composition called Mackintosh’s lament composed by the bride of Mackintosh chief, a bride widowed on her wedding day when her husband died as the result of a fall from a horse. Most impressively was the Gaelic Hymn she sang during the night; “Talladh Chriosd” or the Lullaby of Christ. A hymn composed by Francis Rankin who emigrated with his flock from the Arisaig district at the end of the nineteenth century.



In The Highlands some people claim to have second sight. A Celtic gift thought to be the remains of the magic practised by the Druids, and second sight has flourished more among the Highlands people than any other race. To the Celtic temperament is nothing impossible in the theory of second sight, that singular faculty of seeing the invisible. In Killiecrankie, for instance, a name derives from Gaelic and meaning “wood of aspens, the sudden sound of gunfire shattered the stillness. Some people have been startled by the sudden appearance of ghostly troops, marching through the raving in the fading light of day; others have heard the distinct volley of invisible muskets, firing in the air close by them; and some women have seen the phantom form of several dead soldiers lying on the ground nearby. On that place, the battle of Killiecrankie took place on 27th July 1689. It was fought between three thousand four hundred government troops, loyal to William of Orange, led by General Mackay, and two thousands five hundred five hundred Jacobite Highlanders, supporters of the deposed King James VII of Scotland. That day the Jacobite army inflicted a crushing defeat upon the government forces. Apparently, the battle goes on.



Any time is a good one to visit the Highlands but twilight, dawn, May and November are all time of change when the mysterious place can be captured with your cameras. I was also captured by the magic light in those periods. How Can I put into words what I have seen? Maybe a lonely moor, silent and dark and trackless swells. A place profoundly still the twilight air. I am afraid that nobody can succeed in describing so much magic only with words. I just need to close my eyes to hear the music and the stories of a long time gone.




Sergio Calle Llorens

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