By Gia Volterra de Saulnier
There is a song that we sing at our Renaissance Festivals called “Mingulay Boat Song”. The piece was originally written by Hugh S. Roberton in 1938. The piece goes something like this:
Heel ya’ho boys, let her go, boys
Bring her head round now all together
Heel ya’ho boys, let her go boys
Sailing homeward to Mingulay!
What care we tho’ white the minch is
What care we for wind and weather?
Let her go boys, every inch is
Wearing homeward to Mingulay!
Wives are waiting on the bank, boys,
Looking seaward from the heather.
Pull her ‘round boys, and we’ll anchor
‘Ere the sun sets at Mingulay!
A/N The actual island of Mingulay does really exist. It is now called Barra Isles; however, it is now just a field that is owned by Scotland as it has been declared uninhabitable as of 1912. You can still take a trip there, through this site http://www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/our-islands/isles-of-barra-and-vatersay/mingulay .
Here is a short story that I wrote about this mysterious island. I’ve never been, but I hear that it’s amazing and hauntingly beautiful.
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Ah, the sound of the ocean crashing upon the shore as I sit in my lawn chair all ratted and torn. I sit here, looking at this vast ocean and thinking of how I ended up here. On this beautiful ocean side, sun smiling down upon me.
My mom thought it would be best if we left Scotland, my mother, bless her soul, was a hard working woman, what with 10 of us to take care of, well now, I think she even bragged a bit. My father, well, he was a good man, a strong drinker, but a good man. I know how much she missed him after he died.
My brother Jimmy, well now, he left in 1910 or so, right about the same time that everyone else left. It was just me and him you know. Ah, he was a good bit of fun, Jimmy was. He mostly had the girls over you know, all trying to get his attention. Well, what did I care as long as I had my Jenny by my side. Oh, Jenny, she was a wild one, but she liked me for whatever reason. Jimmy was mad about that though, he wanted Jenny for himself, but she wouldn’t have it. No, she loved me now, don’t get me wrong, but she also at the end had to leave the island. There was no vegetation, no stores to buy things at, no fields to plow, no money to make. She loved me, but at the end, she left with my brother. I know now that it was really for my own good. I still was too young to travel at that time, what only 14 and still thought I knew it all.
Jenny? Well, she was a bit older than me too, so I could understand why she went with Jimmy. Did I like it? No, can’t say I did, but well, they are both gone now, aren’t they. I can still remember her dark brown hair against her light skin and her red ruby lips just like the stones themselves.
My other brothers and sisters well, they all left one after the other. With me being the youngest of 10, I had to still help my mother who was really afraid of me going on the boat, but I think the truth was that she didn’t want to be alone. She always told me that this place, this wondrous, amazing place was still my home. No matter how far I traveled, no matter where I went, this would always be my home.
I had to take care of my mother now, didn’t I. Well, being the youngest, I really needed to do that. She got really sick at the end, talking to no one in particular, not remembering things. That can be hard, trust me, I am always forgetting things now at my age too.
I still hear the sheep calling me to come and watch them graze. But I do miss my sister, Wanda, she was my favorite. Wanda was my oldest sister, but at age 17 she was already married to John. Not that John was a bad man, mind you, he just liked the drink just like my dad.
Oh you have questions for me now, do you?
How long have I’ve been living here? My whole life I suppose.
What do I eat? Well now, I eat what I can for an old man. I grow some vegetables, being the oldest man here.
Am I lonely? My family is all gone and what I have left is the sheep and the coast of this beautiful shore that sits here in front of you here, but that’s enough for me now a days.
I suppose I’m boring you now. Take it from an old man like me, that you can never go back to a desolated place, but you will always have it in your heart. I’m going to take a nap now, it’s hard being over 100 years old. Enjoy the beach of Mingulay while you can, it can be where you want to live forever.