For us, the “bonnie boat” was a beautiful ferry crossing to Skye from Mallaig – not the difficult crossing of the young heir Charles of the bloody Jacobite wars, told by this old Scottish song. In Callander, on Friday night at the Lade Inn’s pub, the group sang it, and invited the public to join – we gladly did (the pub had booklets with the lyrics so you could easily sing along, especially in the chorus parts).
Folk music, in many different forms, pervades Scotland, to a degree I had only imagined possible in Europe in places like Lisbon or Athens or Dublin. There is still a strain of resistance against the English, against what is perceived as invasion or imposition of many ways into Scotland by England. It resurfaces through song – song of lost battles, of lost causes, of emigration, of fighting in the battlefields of Europe under many different leaders but always dreaming of the lochs, the glens, the mountains of Scotland “covered in mountain thyme and heather”. Travelling through Scotland one is literally soaked in music – in folk songs of the battles (against the English, between the clans, or of Scottish soldiers in the Tirol or in France), in musics sung in Gaelic or in English with very strong Scottish twinges, vowels and rolled r.
Over the sea to Skye seems to have a rather longish history.
For us, again, the crossing was a beautiful and dreamy event. Skye is one of the strangest, most beautiful places I have had the chance to see. Although we were there several days, it always seems that you could explore Skye for hundreds of days and always be surprised.
These photographs capture (very barely) what Skye (and the nearby islands Rùm and Eigg) look like when seen from Mallaig, before crossing. One of them is on the ferry, during the crossing, over the sea to Skye.
I really don’t know if the pictures can capture the odd feeling of watching islands that looks like enormous whales or other living beings, in the distance. That was the impression I constantly had: the islands were about to move, slowly like cetaceans.
Mallaig (the last point before the ferry) is a very small town, a harbor (where the quality of seafood is amazingly good). It is also the main filming place for the movie Breaking the Waves. And yes. We did go in the late evening (after 9 or 10) to walk on the seashore (full of white sand and coves) during the long sunset, and the movie was there. The fishermen at the local pub could (alas) have been any of the boys who hypocritically were all having sex with the woman and judging her for her actions, in their minuscule religious mind. Of course, modern day Britain seems to have very much left those extremes, but the landscape (and the faces of the sailors and fishermen) still seemed the same.
The crossing on the ferry was beautifully documented by MC – I hope she will post the videos at some point.
And here is yet another wonderful example of the sort of music you do hear in those pubs of Scotland (notice here the incredible voice – almost Eastern European or Finnish to my unaccostumed ears, and also enjoy the singing in Gaelic):