Saturday, April 07, 2007

Inverewe and Gille Dubh

I AM ACCUSED of starting too many topics and not following them through! Well here is a follow up to Osgood Mackenzie, creator of Inverewe Gardens and author of 'A Hundred Years in the Highlands', a charming account of the life of a Highland Laird in Victorian times. It is in part about the life of landed gentry, but more interesting are the accounts that are rooted in the land. I particularly like this one about the hunt for Gille Dubh, a black fairy who had apparently been causing some mischief.

"Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch invited Sir George Mackenzie of Coul, Mackenzie of Dundonnell, Mackennzie of Letterewe and Mackenzie of Kernsary to join him in an expedition to repress the Gille Dubh. These five lairds repaired to Loch a Druing armed with guns with which they hoped to shoot the fairy. Most of them wore the Highland Dress with dirks at their side... They spent the night at Loch a Druing, and slept in John Mackenzie's barn where couches of heather were prepared for them. They went all through the woods, but they saw nothing of the Gille Dubh!"

In 1862, aged twenty, Osgood Mackenzie acquired Inverewe, a barren peninsular of rock and peat, jutting into the Atlantic; the only tree was a stunted dwarf willow. By the time he died in 1922, it was an internationally acclaimed garden, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

Yesterday I stood in some awe looking at a wonderful Magnolia tree (below and top right) planted there by Osgood Mackenzie in 1914. It seems to me, this Easter Saturday, that it would look more at home in Jerusalem than in Wester Ross.

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