Thursday 14 July 2011

Otters and Eels

Otter / Bèist D(h)ubh or Dòbhran
It is perhaps not a well-known fact about Alexander Carmichael that he planned to publish a natural history of the Hebrides. Somewhat like a few of his other plans, this project for whatever reason never saw the light of day. Every so often Carmichael took the opportunity to note down something about the beasts and creatures that he would encounter on his ‘beat’ around Uist as well as other islands. A typical example of this is a short note concerning the reproductive cycle and animal behaviour of otters and was probably taken down from the recitation of Anthony Campbell (1825–1907) who belonged to Kentangaval in Barra:

Otters bring forth end of Sep[tember] or beg[inning] of Oct[ober]
two pups – a male & female each time.
In swimming about pups go on each
side of dam. They eat muca-rua – eels
they prefer. They have the head half of the
eel & eat the tail half. They catch the
eel by the tail & allow it to drag the otter till
the eel gives up dead. The eel lives in a faic[he]
in a cairn with a clear morghan in
front & round it. Faic[he] = sloc under
a big stone in a sea cairn. The same
with the lobster.

CW108/16, f. 6r.
Image: Otter, called Bèist D(h)ubh or Dòbhran in Scottish Gaelic.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]