19833: Gealachos

The story of the abduction of a beautiful young girl by marauding sea borne warriors is a common one in many cultures. This is the version that was traditional in Bernera.

Gealachos (fair of foot) was the daughter of a priest who had the cure of souls in Little Bernera. This would mean that the event occurred at a time before celibacy was a requirement for priests. The men were Norsemen and their leader was called Sweyn so it could have happened at anytime between 800 and 1100AD.

Gealachos was apparently a beautiful lassie; who spent much time wandering over the beaches and hills of Little Bernera, which is one of the most beautiful of the small islands in Loch Roag. She was also, of course, much loved by all the people of the island. One morning she was sitting on a rock overlooking the temple beach on the north side of Little Bernera when she heard oars and men speaking in a strange tongue. She tried to run away but Sweyn had seen her and fallen instantly in love. He ordered his men to capture her and despite her cries for help she was carried to his vessel and taken to Lochlann. As she lost sight of her beloved island home she wept bitterly and was inconsolable. Sweyn tried to reassure her and make her understand that he had a great love for her, but to no avail.

When they reached Lochlann, she was made very welcome and everyone did all in their power to dispel her homesickness. Musicians and dancers made cheerful entertainment and Sweyn took her boar hunting. She could not forget her sadness and thoughts of how her own folk would be searching for her and their sorrow at her loss made her weep anew.

For seven years he kept her in Lochlann, hoping that she would come to love him and his home, but she constantly pined for her homeland and her own people. Eventually he saw that his hope for her love was forlorn and with a heavy heart turned again towards Loch Roag and Little Bernera taking his beloved back to her home.

There was huge rejoicing in the island when they saw her returning after so long and when they had long given up hope of ever seeing her alive again. She never married although many a young man would have willingly taken her as a wife, but she took up her old habit of wandering the beaches and hills and spent time caring for young and old.

No one knows what happened to poor Sweyn, whether he found happiness or at least some sort of contentment.

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Little Bernera

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