EIGG IN 25 OBJECTS
EIGG STANDING STONES: a massive Sgurr pillar of 52 million year old pitchstone lava stands above Pier Hill, moved into this conspicuous location to commemorate the island Community buy-out of 1997. A similar pillar stands by the road in the middle of the island, re-erected in the early 1990′s as a symbol of community resistance to absentee lairds. Both are thought to have been part of an ancient line of pillar crosses spanning the island.
ST DONNAN’S PILLOW STONE: the large oval shaped boulder that can be seen north of the roofless chapel dedicated to the island saint at Kildonnan, was once believed to be his pillow stone and the area around it was never ploughed.
THE EIGG PICTISH STONE: now on display in St Donnan Roman Catholic Church, shows a hunting scene on one side and some fine interlacing on the other: dating back to the Dark Ages, it shows how Eigg was once part of the westernmost frontier of the Pictish kingdom.
ST COLUMBA’S WELL: one of the island’s many holy wells, this deep gurgling well situated in Cleadale never runs out and is said to have been blessed by St Columba himself.
THE VIKING SWORDHANDLE: this very ornate sword handle of cast silver is all that remains of a Viking sword found in a burial mound at Kildonnan, in the 19th century. It was buried alongside its owner, one of the Scandinavian colonists who made Eigg their raiding base in the 8th century.
THE EIGG SHEELA NA GIG: this roughly carved sandstone fertility figure can be found inside the ruined chapel at Kildonnan. In Medieval times, such figures were displayed on churches’ outside walls.
THE CARVED CELTIC CROSS: standing in the centre of the Kildonnan Graveyard, this finely carved cross of Loch Sween schist is typical of the late Medieval period of the Lordship of the Isles, a period of artistic flourishing when Eigg was at the centre of a Hebridean sea-kingdom.
THE EIGG MASSACRE CAVE BONE: When the islanders’ traditional hiding place became their mass grave during the feud that opposed MacDonalds and MacLeods in the early 16th century, their bones were left in the cave. When these were collected as souvenirs by 19th century tourists, the islanders gathered them to bury them in the island graveyard.
THE PIPER’S CAIRN: this small heap of stones on the Grulin road commemorates the resting place of one of Eigg’s most famous sons: Donald MacQuarrie the Grulin piper who loved there in the late 17th century and studied at the famous MacCrimmon piping school in Skye.
THE BROKEN QUERNSTONES: now ornamenting the terrace at the Earth Connection Centre – formerly the island lodge – these quernstones were the islanders’ hand powered grinding stones, which allow them to turn oats into oatmeal within hours of harvesting until they were broken on their chief’s order when a new watermill was built at Kildonnan in the late 18th century.
THE CLANRANALD PIER: in the early 19th century, the chief of Clanranald forced his Eigg tenants to build this substantial curving pier to enable his ships to birth safely when collecting the valuable kelp manufactured out of burnt sea-weed for export to England.
THUSDAL’S LIMPET HAMMER IN GRULIN: The largest of the huge boulders ripped by the ice off the side of the Sgurr ridge was named after one of the fighting giants who used to inhabit the land according to the Norse myths preserved in Eigg legends. It sits in the midst of the atmospheric 19th century Clearance village of Grulin, once a thriving farm settlement.
FR MACDONALD’S STONE: the small stone pillar by the roadside near the school marked the resting place of Fr. MacDonald’s funeral cortege. Fr. MacDonald was the longest serving priest in the Small Isles parish.
CÙL NAM PAIRC (THE CLEADALE CROSSROAD): was once the place where crofters used to meet to smoke their pipes in the summer evenings and chew over the day’s event. It now features the islanders’ war memorial and a timeline interpretation panel for the Crofting area.
TAIGH IAIN DHONNCHAIDH – CROFT 6: the last remaining “unimproved” blackhouse on the island, Croft 6 houses the island’s croft museum, dedicated to the presentation of crofters’ every day life in the 20th century.
THE FERGIE TRACTOR: situated outside Croft 6, the little grey Fergie is an example of the type of small but powerful Ferguson tractors that were widely used on the island from the mid 20th Century onwards, replacing the horse in all crofting tasks.
THE OLD SHOP: once the smallest cooperative shop in Scotland, the Old Shop now enable visitors to experience what the island shop used to look like before it was housed in the modern pier building and discover a little more about Eigg’s natural history.
THE DUMPLING: a Hebridean speciality., the traditional dumpling which was boiled for hours in a floured cloth is an unmissable feature of family events. Making it is a skill, which is now transmitted to the younger generations as seen in a documentary made by the islanders themselves, An Eigg Dumpling, featured on Youtube.
THE SINGING SANDS: unique in the Small Isles, the pure quartz sand at Traigh na BfgilT (the strand of the chirping in Gaelic) makes a small noise as you scuff your way through the beach in dry weather.
THE WHALES HEAD: installing a club room in an old stone byre previously converted into a generator shed, complete with circular pool table, dart board and unlimited wifi music is an example of the islanders’ ability to transform, recycle and create anew out of the old.
THE EIGG SCULPTURE GARDEN: in the garden around the community hall is another example of Eigg’s quirky and slightly off the wall genius. Starting as a Scotland’ year of the Artist project in 2000, it has been added to by various environmental projects set up to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the sea.
THE EIGG WINDMILLS: situated on the south side of the island and exposed to the dominant South Westerly winds are the most visible component of Eigg’s award-winning Green Grid which combines wind, solar, and hydro energy to power the island.
THE BUTTON BOX ACCORDION: coming out for a ceilidh on a winter’s evening or a summer session on Galmisdale Bay Cafe terrace overlooking the sea, the button box accordion has been and still is the islanders’ instrument of choice, as well as being an icon of the strong West Lochaber music and dance tradition which is taught at Feis Eige, the yearly youth Tuition festival in July.
EIGG PIERS: island social life is often defined by meeting the ferry at the pier: Eigg has 2 working piers, the old one built in the late 19th century out of Congested District Boards funds, from where the island flit boat would start to meet the Caledonian MacBrayne’s ferry in the open sea, and the new Pier, built with European funding to introduce at long last the RORO (Roll on Roll off) service which has brought modernity to island life.