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Carmina Gadelica, Volume 2, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900], at

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'SIAN' or 'seun' is occult agency, supernatural power used to ward away injury, and to protect invisibly. Belief in the charm was common, and examples of its efficacy are frequently told. A woman at Bearnasdale, in Skye, put such a charm on Macleod of Bearnaray, Harris, when on his way to join Prince Charlie in 1745. At Culloden the bullets showered upon him like hail, but they had no effect. When all was lost, Macleod threw off his coat to facilitate his flight. His faithful foster-brother Murdoch Macaskail was close behind him and took up the coat. When examined it was found to be riddled with bullet-holes. But not one of these bullets had hurt Macleod!

A woman at Bornish, South Uist, put a charm on Allan Macdonald of Clanranald when he was leaving to join the Earl of Mar at Perth in 1715. But Clanranald took a lad away against the will of his mother, who lived at Staonabrig, South Uist. The woman implored Clanranald to leave her only son, and she a widow, but he would not. Then she vowed that 'Ailean Beag,' Little Allan, as Clanranald was called, would never return. She baked two bannocks, a little bannock and a big bannock, and asked her son whether he would have the little bannock with his mother's blessing, or the big one with her cursing. The lad said that he would have the little bannock with his mother's blessing. So she gave him the little bannock and her blessing and also a crooked sixpence, saying, 'Here, my son, is a sixpence seven times cursed. Use it in battle against Little Allan and earn the blessing of thy mother, or refrain and earn her cursing.' At the battle of Sheriffmuir blows and bullets were showering on Allan of Clanranald, but he heeded them not, and for every blow he got he gave three. When the strife was hottest and the contest doubtful, the son of the widow of Staonabrig remembered his mother's injunction, and that it was better to fight with her blessing than fall with her cursing, and he put the crooked sixpence in his gun. He aimed, and Clanranald fell. His people crowded round Clanranald weeping and wailing like children. But Glengarry called out, 'An diugh gu aichbheil, am maireach gu bron,'--'To-day for revenge, to-morrow for weeping,' and the Macdonalds renewed the fight. Thirsting for revenge they fell upon the English division of Argyll's army, cutting it to pieces and routing it for several miles.

When Clanranald's foster-father was asked whom he wept and watched, his only reply was, 'Bu duine an de e'--'He was a man yesterday.'

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Allan Macdonald of Clanranald was called 'Ailean Beag,' Little Allan, in contradistinction to some of his predecessors who had been exceptionally big men. If apparently short of stature, he was exceedingly broad and powerful, active, gallant of bearing, and greatly beloved by his people.

After the failure of Dundee in 1689 Clanranald lived in France for several years. There he made the acquaintance of Penelope, daughter of Colonel Mackenzie, governor of Tangiers under Charles II. Clanranald married Penelope Mackenzie and brought her home. He also brought a French architect, French masons, and French freestone to build a new house at Ormacleit. The house took seven years in building and was occupied for seven years. On the night of the battle of Sheriffmuir, when its owner was killed, the house was burnt to the ground through the kitchen chimney taking fire. Some days previously Lady Clanranald had told some guests that she had had a vision that her eyes melted away in scalding water and that her heart burned up like a live coal, and she feared some dire double disaster was to befall her.

'Tota mhor Ormacleit'--the great ruins of Ormacleit, stand high and picturesque on the monotonous far-reaching machairs of the Atlantic side of South Uist. The gables are high-pointed, and the wings being at right angles to the main building, the ruins show to admirable advantage in the long level landscape.

The freestone forming the corners, doors, and windows is of peculiar hardness, and of a blue tint.

The farm of Ormacleit had been tenanted during many years by Mr John Maclellan, whose wife was Miss Penelope Macdonald, a kinswoman of Flora Macdonald and of her chief Clanranald. Mrs Maclellan was a lady of great beauty, excellence, historical knowledge, and good sense. She had the happiness, a few years before she died, of handing to her chief and relative, Admiral Sir Reginald Macdonald of Clanranald, some jewellery that had been found in the ruins of the castle. The jewellery in all probability had been the property of Penelope Mackenzie, the lady of the gallant Clanranald of the ’15, and for whom Penelope Macdonald had been named.

[pp. 28-31.


Next: 134. Charm Of The Lasting Life. Sian A Bheatha Bhuan