Thursday 29 May 2014

A Mysterious Light on Hasgeir: The Teine Mór or Big Fire - Part 1

Following on from our last newspaper column blog, we’re going to print two very different pieces from the Inverness Courier, about the same strange phenomenon: a mysterious light seen on the rocky islet of Hasgeir, eight miles into the Atlantic off the west coast of North Uist. We then hope to print a few accounts of the intriguing teine mór: if you don’t know the story of the ‘big fire’ yet, we can promise that it’ll be worth the wait!
Although the event the articles describe apparently took place some time in October 1867, both of them were printed in the same edition of the Courier, on 14 November. The first one – the more straightforward account – was reprinted in the Dundee Advertiser two days later, while the second was partially copied by the Elgin Courier the next day. To begin with, here’s the first article as it appeared on page 5:
North Uist. – A Mysterious Light. – A light having been seen for several successive nights on the rocks of Hasker, the general opinion prevailing was that a ship’s crew had been cast away there and had lost their boat. The circumstance of a number of fresh deals [planks of fir or pine] being washed ashore on the beach opposite to those rocks increased the current belief to such a degree that a boat should be sent to rescue any lives that might be there. Alexander Mann, and five other fishermen, volunteered to make the attempt. They started from the Bay of Hoglan [Bàgh Hogha Glan, beside Taigh a’ Ghearraidh], and succeeded in landing on the rock. These rocks are difficult of access even in summer, but no trace of any landing on the rocks or of any people having been there lately, was found. Whether the light was an unusual star, or the reflection from the lighthouse on the rocks in Hasker, is not known. The Rev. John. A. Macrae, minister of North Uist; Dr Macdonald, J.P.; and Capt. Macrae, J.P.; have recommended, by a memorial to the Board of Trade, that these hardy fishermen should be rewarded for the risk of their voluntary efforts in proceeding to the rocks, as the service occupied several days, and was performed at great risk. Mr K. Groom of Stornoway, receiver of wrecks for the Long Island, has forwarded the memorial to the proper quarter, after strongly recommending that the prayer of the memorial may be granted.
The boat crew were given a reward for the dangers they underwent: five pounds, ‘to be divided amongst them’, out of the Mercantile Marine Fund. Local genealogists might be interested in their names: according to information in the RCAHMS Canmore site, as well as Alexander Mann there were Roderick Macaulay, A. McLellan, L. McLellan, J. McDouglas, and A. McIsaac. We would be very interested to hear more about them.
In our next blog, we’ll print the second, much longer article that appeared in the Inverness Courier. Although it deals with the same event, it’s rather more colourful...

Inverness Courier, 14 November 1867, 5.

Hasgeir eight miles off Rubha Ghriminis [by Sean Morley,]

1 comment:

  1. Canmore has it that this incident involved Heisker/Heisger in the Monach Isles:
    Makes sense, since the lighthouse there had already been built. My great-great-grandfather Roderick Macaulay, b about 1818, was a farmer on Heisker at the time and I have often wondered if it was he who received this award..


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

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). [©]