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THE CUILLIN OF SKYE

The Cuillin mountains on the isle of Skye are by far the most rugged mountains in Britain. They are made up of three main groups of peaks. The Black Cuillin running from Sgurr nan Gillean in the North to the Southern peak of Gars bheinn. The red Cuillin are very rounded peaks and lad on to Blaven. On the side of the Cuillins is the remains of a ruined castle. It was called Dunscaich and was built by the chief Cuchullin. Legend says that Cuchullin and his followers who where huge men built the castle in a s ingle night. Cuchullin was a great hunter and ferocious warrior. He personally could defeat large numbers of attackers and his deeds were sung off at feasts by his minstrel named Ossian.

One day Ossian was walking in the Cuillins and he heard music being played. He followed the sounds and found them coming from a brightly lit grassy area. He sat down to listen to the music and fell asleep listening to the enchanting music. As soon as Ossian was asleep the ground on which he was laying opened up revealing the secret world of fairies. He spent that afternoon and evening dancing and frolicking with the fairies and in the morning he was allowed to return. When he awoke he was a grey haired old man, as the afternoon and evening spent with the fairies was a hundred human years.

During this hundred years Cuchullin and his followers had all died and a race of dwarves called men now ran the land. Ossian became weary of singing his songs to himself and married the daughter of a shepherd whose sheep roamed the hills. He had a daughter, who when she grew up married a man who followed the new religion of Christianity. He was called Peter of the psalms as he was always singing hymns and psalms. By this time Ossians wife had died and he went to live with his daughter and her husband. P eter of the psalms was a hunter and when he came home at night Ossian would tell tales and sing songs of his youth and of the large people who followed Cuchullin.

Peter of the psalms listened to all of these stories and carefully wrote them down in a book. One day Peter came home from his hunting with a large stag. They prepared a leg for the evening meal and after they had eaten all of the meat on the leg bone Peter asked Ossian if he had ever killed a stag as large as this one. Ossian picked up the bone and replied "This bone, which you think so big could be dropped into the hollow of one of Cuchullins black birds." Peter was upset by this and started swearing. He said that he would not write up any more of Ossians lies and threw the book of stories into the fire. At this Ossian groaned and wished to be spared the stupidities of man. When he went to bed that night he implored the ancient Gods (For he was a heathen and considered the singing of psalms and hymns no better than the howling of dogs.) to bring back for one hour the hounds and stags and blackbirds of his youth.

When he woke he found that his prayers had been answered and his favourite hound stood by his bed. He got up, called for his grandson and went out with the hound. When they came to a peak Ossian told the child to put his fingers in his ears or else he would become deaf. The boy did this and Ossian whistled so load that the sky rang as if it had been the roof of a cave. He then asked the child if he had seen anything. "Oh, such large deer" said the child. But Ossian said that it was only a small herd and he would let it pass. Soon the child called out again and this time Ossian let the hound go. The hound soon caught the deer and pulled down seven of the largest. Ossian skinned the deer and then waded out into a large lake and found Cuchullins kettle among some reeds in the lake. A fire was lit and the seven carcasses were cooked in the kettle. When the meal was ready Ossian sat down to eat. He was very large and he used to hold folds in his stomach up with nine wooden splints. As he ate his stomach expan ded and the splints were thrown away one by one. Button after button burst on his jacket until at last the kettle was empty and he lay back on the grass completely satisfied. He then gathered the bones together and set fire to them making the sky as black as the roof of a turf hut. Ossian then told his grandson to tell him what he saw. "A great bird is flying by" said the child, and immediately the great black bird landed and Ossian caught it and strangled it. The bird was carried home and eaten for dinner . After it was finished Ossian called for the stags leg bone which had been the cause of the quarrel. He then dropped it into the hollow of the black birds leg much to the astonishment of Peter of the psalms.

Ossian died that night after his triumph and all that is left of his songs is the volume which Peter threw into the fire and from which when half burnt was retrieved from the fire by Peters wife.


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