You are here
Love Story of Ishbel Maciver and Macaulay of Luachair
Love Story of Ishbel Maciver and Macaulay of Luachair
There is a long deserted village called Strome. It lies at the head of Loch an Strome just east of the entrance to Little Loch Roag, about three miles north of Scaliscro Lodge. Sometime before 1841 most of the people who stayed there were cruelly evicted.
Our story takes place in the early 19th century and concerns the Maciver family, in particular Ishbel who was described by many at the time as the most beautiful girl in Uig. Her father was Domhnull Ban An t'Strome. She had a number of sisters, and it was with them that she spent a few months each summer at the sheilings. The Strome airigh was many miles away, close to Loch Langavat.
Most of the sheiling stories suggest that the girls had very happy times there. Many of the daily chores were left behind, and there was new scenery and the sociability of it all. The men would accompany them out, carrying equipment and some three months later would return to help with the journey back. The main task was to tend the cattle, and this included milking, skimming off the cream and making butter and cheese. When the work was done they often visited the lochs and streams for salmon and brown trout, as long as all evidence was hidden in case the gamekeeper came visiting. Often the girls would gather at one sheiling or another, and while away the time talking, joking and story telling. Sometimes a couple of boys from their own village, or another, would make a visit. There was much laughter and banter, and often flirting too. Many a life long relationship had its beginnings at the sheilings. It was a classic place for couples to meet and start their courting.
One day at the sheilings, Ishbel met a shepherd boy, who had strayed far from his normal haunts. He stayed in Luachair, North Harris close to Kinresort but his family (Macaulay) originated from Bostadh, in Bernera. He seemed to be very attentive, and Ishbel knew that this was the man she wanted to marry one day. Her natural modesty prevented her from expressing her true feelings but her heart was already his. Of course they lived many miles apart, and it was only at sheiling time that they were able to meet. In those days there were few roads, and Luachair was over thirty miles from Strome by sea.
Unknown to Ishbel, her parents, with the best of intentions, were talking to a farmer who had a house and some land. They felt sure that married to him, she would have a happy and secure future. There would be no fear of destitution, starvation or eviction. Without consulting her they agreed that when she came of age she would marry this man. It was only after all the arrangements had been made that she learned of their plans for her future. She knew the man in question, but had never dreamt of marrying him. Her heart was already taken and she wanted to settle down with her shepherd boy from Luachair. However, she dare not go against her parent's wishes. What was the poor girl to do?
She endeavoured to get a message to the Macaulay boy in Luachair. This was not easy and it seemed to have failed because she received no reply. Had he got her message? Was it a sign that he did not return her affections? Anyway the day of her wedding was fast approaching and she sent another, more desperate message. This time she implored him to come to her rescue; if he did not come she would know that he did not love her. She would then have to resign herself to becoming a farmer's wife.
Soon it was the day of the wedding, and everyone but the bride, was eager to leave. She was painfully slow getting herself dressed. The boat was ready for the sea journey to Miavaig. They would then travel on foot to the old thatched church at Baile na Cille, for the ceremony. Walking reluctantly down to the shore, she searched the skyline with desperate eyes, but there was no sign of a rescuer, he had obviously forsaken her! The boat trip was uneventful, but Isabel was bravely trying to hide her misery.
Meanwhile the Macaulay boy had received the message and had managed to slip away, but not in time to cross the moor before the boat left. When he arrived at Strome the houses were empty and the only boat left was old and rotten. He quickly made a fire, heated some pitch and mixed it with moss. With this he was able to patch the holes in the hull, as best he could. He launched the leaking wreck and alternately rowed and baled as fast as he could. In this way, he proceeded slowly towards Miavaig to find on his arrival, that the wedding party had long since departed. For all he knew the ceremony was probably over. Nevertheless he began running along the track to Baile na Cille.
Some time earlier the wedding party had finally arrived within view of the church, but Isabel suddenly announced that one of her gloves was missing, saying that she must have 'accidentally' dropped it some way back. A search party was sent to look for the lost item of clothing. Some of the younger ones ran ahead and quickly found the glove. In the church the Groom was growing ever more anxious, where on earth was his beautiful bride? Putting on her glove, Ishbel took one last longing look down the track and finally realised that there was no hope. She must accept that her shepherd boy was not coming for her.
In no time at all she was before the Minister. Beside her was the farmer, and he was making his vows. Suddenly, there was a disturbance at the back of the packed church, and in rushed a dishevelled, red-faced and sweating shepherd boy dressed in his working clothes. "Will you take this man?" the Minister was asking, but everyone had by now turned to see what was happening at the door. Isabel realised that it was her lover who had made such a disturbing entrance. "No I will not," she declared, " I will marry him", and she pointed to the back.
There was a lot of commotion, protest, and anger. Isabel was adamant; the only one she would marry that day, or any other day, would be her Macaulay boy from Luachair. The gathered company agreed that as all the preparations had been made, it would be a shame not to have a wedding. So Ishbel defied her parents, and disappointed the farmer, and married her shepherd boy after all.
The story does not tell us of the identity, or the feelings of the farmer, although they are not difficult to imagine. The couple however, lived happily together first in Luachair, and then later in Aird Asaig.