View along the rocky coastline at the southern end of the Isle of Eigg towards the Massacre Cave, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
Apart from ascending An Sgurr, the other essential thing that I had to do during my first time on the Isle of Eigg was to visit the infamous Massacre Cave. During the sixteenth century there was a lengthy feud between the Macleod and MacDonald clans. According to traditional accounts, in 1577 a party of MacLeods staying on the island became too amorous and caused trouble with the local girls. They were subsequently rounded up, bound and cast adrift in The Minch, but were rescued by some clansmen. A party of MacLeods subsequently landed on Eigg with revenge in mind. Their approach had been spotted by the islanders who had hidden in a secret cave called the Cave of Frances (Gaelic: Uamh Fhraing). The entrance to this cave was tiny and covered by moss, undergrowth and a small waterfall. After a thorough but fruitless search lasting for three to five days, the MacLeods set sail again but a MacDonald carelessly climbed onto a promontory to watch their departure and was spotted. The MacLeods returned and were able to follow his footprints back to the cave. They redirected the stream and lit a fire at the entrance so that the cave was filled with smoke thereby asphyxiating everyone inside. Three hundred and ninety five people died in the cave, the whole population of the island bar one old lady who had not sought refuge there. Human remains in the cave were reported to have been found, but by 1854 they had been removed and buried elsewhere.
Massacre Cave sits in the back of a fault-like crevice under a steep rock face near where this photo was taken just around the point south of Galmisdale. It was one of the most eerie places that I have ever visited, and as I crawled along the very low claustrophobic passage into the cave my imagination was vividly reconstructing the horrific event from many centuries ago. I had to crawl for about 7 metres before it opened out into a larger chamber where it was impossible not to feel their presence, and to hear their choking and screams
- © 2012 Duncan Murrell
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- From the Isle of Mull to the Small Isles via Coll and Lunga