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TITLE
From Sea to Sea (17 of 19)
EXTERNAL ID
HC_STS_FROMSEATOSEA_17
DATE OF RECORDING
2001
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Bob Pegg
SOURCE
The Highland Council
ASSET ID
2420
KEYWORDS
canals
waterways
Camerons
audio

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The following extract is taken from 'From Sea to Sea', an audio celebration of the history, people, landscape and culture of the Great Glen waterway - The Caledonian Canal. The project was created in 2001 by Bob Pegg and funded by Highland Council through the British Waterways 'Living Waterways Programme'.

'The Braes of Lochiel' (Narrative)

'The Braes of Lochiel at the west end of Loch Lochy lie in Cameron country. A young woman of the Cameron Clan once lived at a place called Moy, near where the old swing bridge spans the canal today. She was known in the whole district of Lochaber for her powers of witchcraft and the locals called her, in Gaelic, Gormsuil, the 'blue-eyed one'. The story goes that one day, Lochiel, the chief of Clan Cameron, was passing the cottage where Gormsuil lived. 'Where are you going?' she called from the doorway. 'What business is that of yours?' 'Well', said Gormsuil, 'GAELIC. Many a time the fisherman or hunter was non the worse for my blessing. They're usually lucky on the river, or the hill, if they first come to me so why shouldn't I wish good fortune to my own chief?'

Lochiel paused and then sat down. And he told her that the Earl of Atholl had asked him to meet, to fix the boundaries of their lands, but that he must come alone, except for a piper. Gormsuil shook her head. 'No,' she said 'what you must do is this; go home, back to Achnacarry, gather a band of your best men, well armed, and hide them in the heather, near the meeting place. Tell them that if there is any trouble you will turn the scarlet lining of your cloak to the outside.'

So, Lochiel did just as Gormsuil advised and, after concealing his men, he went forward to meet the Earl of Atholl. They talked long and hard but could not agree. And all of a sudden Atholl drew a silver whistle from inside his cloak and at its long, sharp blast a group of armed men sprang up behind him. 'Who are these?' demanded Lochiel. 'These are the Atholl sheep come to eat the Lochaber grass.' At that, Lochiel flung the scarlet lining of his cloak over his shoulder and his own men leapt from their hiding place. 'Well,' he said, 'these are the Lochiel dogs come to chase the Atholl sheep away from the Lochaber grass.' Atholl saw at once that he was outnumbered and gave in; the boundary would remain as it was. The Cameron piper struck up a tune in triumph and Lochiel, with his men, marched home.

On the way home Lochiel stopped to thank Gormsuil for the advice that had protected his land and saved his life. He promised her any favour she might need. 'Yes,' she said 'I'm glad you listened to me but, despite all your kind words, one day you will hang my son.' 'Never!' said Lochiel in astonishment. 'You only have to come and remind me of this day and whatever your son has done wrong I will spare him, for your sake.'

Well, the years went by and Gormsuil's young son grew up. One day he was out on the hill with a friend, the son of a neighbour, when he met a stranger. The young men challenged him but the stranger refused to say what his business was and the argument soon turned to fighting. The neighbour's son landed a far harder blow than he intended and the stranger dropped dead. The young men ran home, fearful about the consequences of what had happened. But Gormsuil said, 'This is what we will do. My son will take the blame and I will go to Lochiel to remind him of the promise he made all those years ago to grant a pardon.' So, her son gave himself up and was taken to a dungeon beside Loch Arkaig to await trial, while his mother set out on foot for Achnacarry. Just about a mile beyond Gairlochy there's a stream and in one of its dark rock pools she saw a big salmon. This was too good a chance to miss - it would be food for a few days - and she called to some people on the track to lend a hand. But they hurried on; folk were still wary of her uncanny ways. So, Gormsuil waded into the pool alone, up to her ankles, and then up to her knees. Just then the spate rushed down the stream, knocked her off balance and swept her into the deep waters of Loch Lochy.

By the time word came to Lochiel that Gormsuil was on her way, and why, it was too late; her son was hanged. And for a while, they say, the stream was called by local people, 'Allt a'Bradan', the salmon stream, or by others 'Allt Gormsuil', the place where the blue-eyed one of Moy was seen for the last time in the country of Lochiel.'

[Bagpipes, 'The Braes of Lochiel']

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From Sea to Sea (17 of 19)

2000s

canals; waterways; Camerons; audio

The Highland Council

The Highland Council: From Sea to Sea

The following extract is taken from 'From Sea to Sea', an audio celebration of the history, people, landscape and culture of the Great Glen waterway - The Caledonian Canal. The project was created in 2001 by Bob Pegg and funded by Highland Council through the British Waterways 'Living Waterways Programme'. <br /> <br /> 'The Braes of Lochiel' (Narrative)<br /> <br /> 'The Braes of Lochiel at the west end of Loch Lochy lie in Cameron country. A young woman of the Cameron Clan once lived at a place called Moy, near where the old swing bridge spans the canal today. She was known in the whole district of Lochaber for her powers of witchcraft and the locals called her, in Gaelic, Gormsuil, the 'blue-eyed one'. The story goes that one day, Lochiel, the chief of Clan Cameron, was passing the cottage where Gormsuil lived. 'Where are you going?' she called from the doorway. 'What business is that of yours?' 'Well', said Gormsuil, 'GAELIC. Many a time the fisherman or hunter was non the worse for my blessing. They're usually lucky on the river, or the hill, if they first come to me so why shouldn't I wish good fortune to my own chief?' <br /> <br /> Lochiel paused and then sat down. And he told her that the Earl of Atholl had asked him to meet, to fix the boundaries of their lands, but that he must come alone, except for a piper. Gormsuil shook her head. 'No,' she said 'what you must do is this; go home, back to Achnacarry, gather a band of your best men, well armed, and hide them in the heather, near the meeting place. Tell them that if there is any trouble you will turn the scarlet lining of your cloak to the outside.'<br /> <br /> So, Lochiel did just as Gormsuil advised and, after concealing his men, he went forward to meet the Earl of Atholl. They talked long and hard but could not agree. And all of a sudden Atholl drew a silver whistle from inside his cloak and at its long, sharp blast a group of armed men sprang up behind him. 'Who are these?' demanded Lochiel. 'These are the Atholl sheep come to eat the Lochaber grass.' At that, Lochiel flung the scarlet lining of his cloak over his shoulder and his own men leapt from their hiding place. 'Well,' he said, 'these are the Lochiel dogs come to chase the Atholl sheep away from the Lochaber grass.' Atholl saw at once that he was outnumbered and gave in; the boundary would remain as it was. The Cameron piper struck up a tune in triumph and Lochiel, with his men, marched home. <br /> <br /> On the way home Lochiel stopped to thank Gormsuil for the advice that had protected his land and saved his life. He promised her any favour she might need. 'Yes,' she said 'I'm glad you listened to me but, despite all your kind words, one day you will hang my son.' 'Never!' said Lochiel in astonishment. 'You only have to come and remind me of this day and whatever your son has done wrong I will spare him, for your sake.' <br /> <br /> Well, the years went by and Gormsuil's young son grew up. One day he was out on the hill with a friend, the son of a neighbour, when he met a stranger. The young men challenged him but the stranger refused to say what his business was and the argument soon turned to fighting. The neighbour's son landed a far harder blow than he intended and the stranger dropped dead. The young men ran home, fearful about the consequences of what had happened. But Gormsuil said, 'This is what we will do. My son will take the blame and I will go to Lochiel to remind him of the promise he made all those years ago to grant a pardon.' So, her son gave himself up and was taken to a dungeon beside Loch Arkaig to await trial, while his mother set out on foot for Achnacarry. Just about a mile beyond Gairlochy there's a stream and in one of its dark rock pools she saw a big salmon. This was too good a chance to miss - it would be food for a few days - and she called to some people on the track to lend a hand. But they hurried on; folk were still wary of her uncanny ways. So, Gormsuil waded into the pool alone, up to her ankles, and then up to her knees. Just then the spate rushed down the stream, knocked her off balance and swept her into the deep waters of Loch Lochy.<br /> <br /> By the time word came to Lochiel that Gormsuil was on her way, and why, it was too late; her son was hanged. And for a while, they say, the stream was called by local people, 'Allt a'Bradan', the salmon stream, or by others 'Allt Gormsuil', the place where the blue-eyed one of Moy was seen for the last time in the country of Lochiel.'<br /> <br /> [Bagpipes, 'The Braes of Lochiel']