Looking towards the north, there was an unusually clear view of the islands. As Algy leaned back in the heather, he could see the famous ridges of The Cuillin of the Isle of Skye standing out against the sky in the far distance. To the left, the Isles of Eigg and Rum seemed larger and closer than usual, with the Sea of the Hebrides surrounding them with the deep blue of a fine autumn day. Algy couldn’t help humming the well-known “traditional” Scottish song he had learned as a wee chick, many years before he came to know the places it described:
A far croonin’ is pullin’ me away
As take I wi’ my cromach to the road.
The far Cuillins are puttin’ love on me,
As step I wi’ the sunlight for my load.
Sure, by Tummel and Loch Rannoch
And Lochaber I will go,
By heather tracks wi’ heaven in their wiles;
If it’s thinkin’ in your inner heart
Braggart’s in my step,
You’ve never smelt the tangle o’ the Isles.
Oh, the far Cuillins are puttin’ love on me,
As step I wi’ my cromach to the Isles.
It’s by ‘Sheil water the track is to the west,
By Ailort and by Morar to the sea,
The cool cresses I am thinkin’ o’ for pluck,
And bracken for a wink on Mother’s knee.
It’s the blue Islands are pullin’ me away,
Their laughter puts the leap upon the lame,
The blue Islands from the Skerries to the Lews,
Wi’ heather honey taste upon each name.
If you don’t know the song The Road to the Isles, listen to this fine recording by Canon Sydney MacEwan of Glasgow (ignore the introduction), or this one from the earliest archives by the famous Sir Harry Lauder, recorded in 1926.
This same lighthearted song was also played by the famous WWII piper Bill Millin on Sword Beach on D-Day, whose task it was to maintain the morale of troops under heavy fire during the Normandy landings: Piper, give us a tune…