Monthly Archives: June 2014

Mingulay Boat Song

In my book I write:

After getting the train into Glasgow Central Station we went to the toilets to change in a cubicle and then deposited our uniforms in a left luggage locker and reversed the process going back to the ship. In the pubs of Glasgow we were introduced to beers called “heavy” and “light” and a pint of heavy became my favourite drink while we were there. On the second night Legs and I found a folk club where a singer called Matt McGinn entertained us with some lovely songs about life and politics. There was also a duo who sang a number of songs including one called the “Mingulay boat song.” I had never heard of Mingulay until a couple of weeks ago and now as well as being told I was to visit the island I had discovered that there was a song about the place too! The folk singers encouraged us to sing along with the chorus and the entire audience at the folk club seemed to know the song by heart so before long we were all singing the “Mingulay boat song” together.

 

Singing to the Puffins of Mingulay

In my book I write:

Between dinner and tea I went off with Legs in search of fresh water. We both carried two empty jerry cans on our backs and our binoculars around our necks as we set off in search of water that we knew was available on a hillside about a mile from our base. To get to the hill we had to walk over a natural sea arch and as we did we looked a long way down at waves that crashed and swirled against the rocks below. I was certain that if we had slipped off the arch we would fall to our death so I took great care in getting from one side to the other. On the other side of the arch I noticed another mass of Puffins on a hillside and I sat down with my binoculars to watch. This was a beautiful site, Puffins are such lovely creatures and as I watched them the words of a song by Dusty Springfield’s old group, the Springfields, came into my head that I thought suited the occasion admirably. I asked Legs if he knew the song and he did, so together we sang out loud to the thousands of Puffins on the hill the words to the “Island of Dreams.” They seemed impressed.

 

Finding Skye

In my book I write:

Over the coming weeks our mission was to survey the islands of Skye, Mull, Rum, Eigg and Islay and we set sail on 24th May up the River Clyde en route to the Isle of Skye. As I was duty cook the next morning I had to be up at 04.00 to prepare breakfast. In the middle of the night whilst I was in bed fast asleep the ship anchored off Portree, the largest town on Skye.

Daylight came early this far north and after opening up the galley and making myself a cup of tea and a piece of toast I wandered onto the upper deck to see what Skye looked like. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

Standing on my own the view before me made me feel that I had been transported to some sort of paradise. An early morning sea mist was rising over the island giving it an eerie but magical quality.

Looking down into the calm still water I saw the heads of several seals bobbing up and down and in the sky a sea eagle flew over the mountains that were rising from the mist. Everything before me was painted in beautiful shades of green and blue; breathtaking was an inadequate word to describe what I was witnessing. I had been amazed at the beauty of Bermuda but this picture before me took beauty to another level. In fact the two most wonderful views I ever saw were both waking up to see the Isle of Skye before me, this time looking towards Portree from the ship and a later time rising one morning to see Skye from the Kyle of Lochalsh.

I was conscious of the fact that apart from a few people in the boiler room and a couple on the bridge I was one of the few people onboard who was awake and I was on my own on the upper deck so I could sing as loudly as I wanted to without anyone hearing. I remembered some words I had been taught at school to the “Skye Boat Song” with which I serenaded the mystical island before me:

“Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing, onward the sailors cry.”