Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

Musical Trips to the Islands

The islands of Scotland are wonders. Each has a different nature which is decreed partially by their physical environment and somewhat by the culture of the residents. Our search for a lighthouse home took me to many of the isles including Islay (Lighthouse at Port Charlotte, Islay, pictured here), Gigha, Lewis, Harris, Skye, Arran, Colonsay and Mull, Orkney and off course Shetland. Each island visit has created a beautiful "miniature memory picture" that is always available for viewing in my mind. Many things deliver these images to my awareness. Lyrics of songs are the grand openers of my island memories.

The most famous of the island songs is "Over the Sea to Skye." This one song is recorded more than any other Scottish island song. It's haunting score and the illusion of being transported over the sea to one of the world's most beautiful islands captures one's spirit. Many do not understand this song has a historic message because it often recorded without vocals. James Galway and the Chieftains even named an album after this song. Their beautiful rendition on the CD does not include words so no story is told. The chorus not only sets the mood but tells us the significance of the song:

Speed Bonnie Boat
Like a Bird on the Wing
Onward the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.

This song commemorates Bonnie Prince Charlie's ride by boat to the island of Skye where he meets Flora Macdonald. In all ways this beautiful song honors the island of Skye including its history.

My favorite of all of the island songs is entitled "Dark Isle." For many years I have wondered which island is the "Dark Isle." I even got my courage up once to ask a group whose concert I was attending, "Where is this Dark Isle you are singing about?" They had no idea. They thought it might be Ireland. At other times I have been told it is Bute and Skye. The song chorus gives very few clues:

Oh Isle of my childhood.
I am dreaming of thee.
As the steamer leaves Oban and passes Tiree.
Soon I'll capture the magic that lingers for me.
When I am back once more on the dark island.

Totally confused with so many answers, I finally heard the truth from a dear friend who knew the composer of the song. The "Dark Isle" is Scotland as you stare at it from one of the Hebridean islands on a murky day. Many times have I stared back at the mainland from the islands beholding dark and mysterious mountains. When I heard this, I knew why I was so attached to this song. It gave hope that people will return to their beloved Scotland. (The graphic here is Scotland seen from space).

Everyone should take a lyric tour of the islands of Scotland when they cannot take a real trip. There are many other songs which exalt the wondrous islands of Scotland, including Isle of Innesfree and the Mingulay Boat Song.

The preceeding words were written before we bought Eshaness Lighthouse. At that time the longest I stayed in Scotland was two or three weeks. As I write this I am in the US on book tour so once again the music and words of the Scottish songs mean a lot to me. The music of Scotland keeps me sane when I am away from the country and the lighthouse. It isn't the same as being there but it helps.

So for those of you who are far away here are some reminders from my dear friend, Moira Kerr. Dark Isle and Skye Boat Song. Moira has also written her own songs about islands such as Arran, the Island I Love and The Island of Tiree.


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Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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