Fourteen centuries ago, Irish saints brought the Word of God to the Hebrides and Scotland’s Atlantic shore. These ‘white martyrs’ sought solitude, remoteness, even harshness, in places apart from the world where they could fast, pray and move closer to an understanding of places where they could see angels. Columba, who founded the famous monastery at Iona, was the most well-known of these courageous men who rowed their curraghs towards danger and uncertainty in a pagan land, but the many others are now largely forgotten by history. In this book, Alistair Moffat journeys from the island of Eileach an Naoimh at the mouth of the Firth of Lorne to Lismore, Iona and then north to Applecross, searching for traces of these extraordinary men. He finds them not often in any tangible remains, but in the spirit of the islands and remote places where they passed their exemplary lives. Brendan, Moluag, Columba, Maelrubha and others brought the Gaelic language and echoes of how the saints saw their world can still be heard in its cadences. And the tradition of great piety endures.
Alistair Moffat is an award winning writer, historian and former Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Director of Programmes at Scottish Television.
Moffat was educated at the University of St Andrews, graduating in 1972 with a degree in Medieval History. He is the founder of the Borders Book Festival and Co-Chairman of The Great Tapestry of Scotland.
Somewhere between travel writing and a history of the saints of Western Scotland, this book is actually quite interesting and informative and performs well in both regards. It could probably do with a section of pictures, but overall is a good introduction to the subject. The author talks at length about Gaelic, and whilst this is relevant and interesting, I did think it detracted from the flow a little.
A good read, giving a nice overview of some of Scotland's early history and influence of the Church in Scotlands development. The author visits a number of islands and places and gives his experience along with an overview of the early history of the place. He often gives insight in to Scottish culture and feeling as well. Worth reading beforehand if visiting Oban, Iona, Lismore, Applecross etc or if you just want to learn about some Sottish islands.
The thought of travelling from Ireland to Scotland in a flimsy boat made of wood and cowhide may now seem foolhardy but it was a normal and regular means of travel for Irish monks many centuries ago. Moffat follows the trail of these 6th century monks who were seeking solitude or wanted to spread the gospel. His research is extensive and he gives a good understanding of the trials and experiences of these monks. He also provides some general information on the history of Scotland and describes the people he meets. The book is informative and balances his historical research and his own travels effectively. He provides vivid descriptions of the terrain and scenery of Western Scotland. I particularly enjoyed his description of sleeping overnight on the sand in Iona and his drive over Bealach na Ba into Applecross.
Poetic and beautifully written. I've always got a soft spot for these works which intertwine history and story with the author's reflections on a given landscape.
Moffat's obvious love for the Isles comes through and helps ground the narrative. For this looking for a more standard history, the author also supplies a helpful bibliography of sources to further explore.