When anyone is writing a family history, it is a good idea to break the monotony of names, places and dates with a few good tales. Therefore, when my wife and I visited Scotland, we sought out the tales and traditions along the paths and byways travelled long ago by my ancestors.

Fionn (Finn/Fin) MacCoul, as a legendary character, had origins with the Scots of Northern Ireland and he was imported along with his mighty band to Dalriada (roughly along the Western coast of today's Central Scotland) around the middle of the seventh century.

Fionn and his feisty band made very little headway until a son of a Pictish princess and a king of the Scots inherited both kingdoms in 845 AD through the Pictish matrilineal law of succession. He was Kenneth I (MacAlpin), the king of ancient Alba, who introduced an additional form of succession ..... that obtained by killing off one's competition. [It became a Scottish custom long before Macbeth, young ones.]

By the time that Fionn reached the North-Eastern part of Scotland, he was known as Fin Mac-Coul and his legendary band of warriors were called the Feinns (or the Feans).

Fin Mac-Coul's warriors habitually performed daring deeds and feats of strength. These heroes of ancient Celtic legends enjoyed competing against each other so much that it is never difficult to find proof of their exploits. At the base of the "Black Isle" near Dingwall, there is a lofty stone mount called Knockfarrel. One day the rowdy band climbed to the summit of the mount to see who could hurl a huge boulder the furthest. Fin Mac-Coul was challenged to a contest by his mightiest warrior, Black Iain. It was the only occasion that Fin was tied in such an event. Years later if you visited the old Parish Church at Fodderty, you could observe the two enormous stones beside the gate.

Now, it is well-known that Iain translates as John or Jack. Do you suppose this is also where Black Jack (vingt et un/ twenty-one/ Casino) originated? I wonder also if Iain belonged to the Dubh Clan. Maybe the Black Isle was named after him in the misty past? Hmmmmmm .....

As far as myths and legends go, there are too many sceptics and disbelievers out there. You should ask the locals about the folklore of the region. I checked this tale and other items with the Congregational Minister from Avoch (which was once spelled "Auoch" and is pronounced much the same as "Och"). He was the Reverend Skinner, if anybody really insists on checking things out. He will recall that he was walking his dog at the shore of the Drynie estate when we had our chat.

Pat and I had just walked through the fields below Taindore which was 400 feet above us on Craigie Howe ..... scattering rabbits (really witches in disguise) until we reached the shore and proceeded to Munlochy Bay. "Why?" you may well ask. At the very end of the cliffs hovering above the entrance to the bay, we spotted first a small cave and further, but next to it, a larger cave where the Feinns lie wrapped in slumber awaiting the call on the silver trumpet from their chivalrous leader, Fin Mac-Coul.

As I crouched twenty feet inside the entrance and peered into the pitch black recesses of the cave, the silence was overwhelming. According to legend, the waters of a well trickling through the roof of the cave were said to be a cure for deafness. I retreated to the cave's opening and my hearing returned. Two men and a boy simultaneously yelled, "Hey, the tide's almost in."

Let me tell you that it's great fun racing the tide. I swear that this is a true story. Not one of the Feinns woke up ..... but I didn't have my silver trumpet with me, did I?

Please use the BACK button of your browser to return.