Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Answers

The House of the Dogs, Ewan of Argyll's hunting lodge, where King Alexander may have eaten his last meal.
The results of the Spring Quiz have been published in this week's edition of the Toberonochy Slate, the Isle of Luing's oldest English language newspaper, but for those who may have difficulty finding it in their local newsagents here goes.

1 What is the origin of the name Toberonochy?

Tober is Gaelic for a well. Donnchaidh or Donnachaidh translates as son or descendant of Duncan, who was the king of the Scots from 1034, when he was 33. "Unlike Shakespear's portrait, which presented him as a wise old man, Duncan was young and rash, and not particularly able; he lasted six years as High King. He proved himself incompetent, losing four major battles in endeavours to expand his territory. Contemporary chroniclers describe him as a vicious, bloodthirsty, selfish tyrant." He died on 14 August in a battle with Thorfinn, the Jarl of Orkney, Shetland and Caithness, probably killed by his own men. MacBeth wasn't actually there. Other forms of the name Duncan include Donnachie, Duncanson etc.
2 When you travel from the Cuan Ferry to Toberonochy you pass an old water mill. Who or what live(s) there? And what must you leave to pacify him/her/them? Get both right for a point.
Elves. You must leave one of the hairs from your head for them.
3 Apart from boat musters what was the main activity on Luing in former times (economically productive that is, not drinking etc).
Luing is one of the so-called slate islands, whose quarries roofed countless thousands of properties in Scotland and far beyond.

4 South east from Toberonochy lies the Dorus Mhor, the great door in Gaelic. Who or what came to grief there on 15 December 1820? For what was he/she/it famous? Both parts for a point.
Bell's Comet, first sea-going steamship in the world, built in 1812, ran aground on the point in a gale and was wrecked. All aboard were able to scramble ashore and the engine was salvaged.
5 West south west from Toberonochy is the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Who was Vreckan (otherwise Breackan) and what is said to have happened to him?
There are various versions of the legend of Prince Breackan. Here is the main one, courtesy of my friend Mike Murray, whose website has a great deal of fascinating information, here, www.whirlpool-scotland.co.uk

A Scandinavian Prince, Breakan, fell in love with a Princess of the Island, whose father consented to the marriage, on condition that Breakan should show his skill and courage by anchoring his boat for three days and three nights in the whirlpool.

Breakan accepted the challenge and returned to Norway, where he had three cables made... one of hemp, one of wool and one from maidens' hair. The women of Norway willingly cut off their hair and plaited the rope. It was believed that the purity and innocence of the maidens would give the rope strength to stand the strain.

Breakan returned and anchored in the whirlpool. On the first day the hemp rope parted, but they survived the night. On the second day, the woollen rope parted in a strong wind, but they survived the night again.

On the last day they set the plaited cable of hair and all went well until a gale of wind broke the rope. The boat was sucked under by the currents and a surviving crewman and Breakan's dog dragged the body of Breakan ashore - he was buried in the King's Cave.

6 Which famous writer nearly drowned there in August 1947?
George Orwell, while out with his family in a small boat with an outboard motor, which capsized.
7 Many Australians visit the islands of Mull and Ulva each year, because the fifth governor of New South Wales Lachlan Macquarie came from Ulva and is buried on Mull. What tragic event happened on 7 May 1845 which might make them want to visit Craignish Castle as well?
Lachlan Macquarie Junior fell down the stairs while enjoying a party with his relatives the Campbells of Craignish and broke his neck.
8 Historically islands such as Luing had great importance, in an age when almost all travel was by sea and many visitors stopped over in Toberonochy. Who is said to have stopped here on 5 or maybe 7 July 1249? Bonus point, must get all three, (a) why had he come? (b) why was his mission doomed? (c) what happened to him the next day?
King Alexander II of Scots travelled here with a company of marines in a fleet of ships to meet Ewan of Argyll, the local ruler of the isles. He probably stopped in Kilchattan Bay, as the ancient church bears on its walls some graffiti showing Scottish ships. Ewan wasn't there, as he didn't trust Alexander and had gone to Stornoway (taking with him the young king of the Isle of Man. The next day Alexander died at Horseshoe Bay on Kerrera.
9 These islands were often visited by the Vikings and tried to maintain their independence from both the Norwegian and the Scottish kings. The ships used by the Scots and the Norsemen had one major difference which gave the Scots an advantage in local waters and the Norsemen an advantage on the open sea. Name what it was.
The Scottish ships had rudders, while the Vikings used a steering oar.
Scottish birlinn, showing rudder at right

10 Who won the Battle of Largs?
Generations of Scottish schoolchildren have been taught that the Scots won, but the Norse chronicles show that the Vikings felt they had successfully recovered a supply ship that had blown ashore with relatively little loss of life, so the best answer is probably that  it was a draw. Peace did not come until the Treaty of Perth in 1266.
Finally two easy questions for sailors who don't know any local history

11 What causes the whirlpools at the Corryvreckan?
Underwater cliffs causing sudden reduction in depth of water plus  islands getting closer to the mainland as you go North with the flood tide.
12 What is an amphidrome, or amphidromic point? Bonus point, name the location of one nearest to Toberonochy. And if you can explain in simple language how they come about you deserve more than to win this quiz.
 An amphidrome or amphidromic point is a place where there is virtually no rise and fall of the tide. The nearest one is at the skerries South-east of Islay (difference 0.6 metre at Springs). As you get further away the range gradually increases, hence at Gigha it's only about 1.2 metre.

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I'm learning a lot of trivia from you. Anything about corryvreckan? We have plans for corryvreckan boat trips and it would be nice to deliver those trivia to set the mood.


The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water