Long an Iaruinn: the Ship of Iron

Sgeir an Iaruinn

Dolly Doctor, in Tales and Traditions, tells of the wreck of a ship at Carnish in 1775. In the picture Sgeir an Iaruinn is the small island in the middle of the picture, with Shielibhig in the distance on the far left.

All night the people round Uig Bay had listened to the cries of woe and frightful screaming from the crew of the ship gone aground, as piece after piece broke away from the ship and the crew were being washed overboard; but they could do nothing to help them, for no boat could live in those awful waves and the night was inky black. She was a big ship, and had come into Camas Uig the evening before, seeking shelter in the lea of Sgeir Sheilibhig, putting out two anchors for futher safety. The wind began to get stronger as night came on, and by midnight it was blowing a howling gale right into Uig Bay. She began to drag the two anchors until she scudded before it, gaining momentum all the time, until she struck on a sunken bogha with such for that she gave off a loud clang as of metal being struck, so that all the houses in Carnish and Crowlista heard the noise. This was a mortal blow for it ripped part of her timbers off, then she scurried with renewed force onto the sharp fangs of the skerry at Carnish Point, where the mighty billows kept on tearing her asunder, but she was well out from the land and no human being could get to her on such a night of doom.

Most of the crew perished, but as any survivors were rolled up on the beach they were immediately taken up by the Uigeachs above the wave’s force, as much water shaken out of them as possible, and if any sign of life showed, they were chafed and rubbed and wrapped in blankets and carried up to the houses in Carnish, where they were laid on pallets of straw, which had been prepared for them in front of big blazing fires. They seems to be of different nationalities, and among them was a handsome black man who cause much admiration and astonishment in the village that morning, yet on recovering they could not make themselves understood, for none of the survivors could speak either English or Gaelic. The ship is one of the mysteries of Uig folk lore, for her name was never found out, nor where he had come from, nor where she was going.

For several days the sea kept giving up the bodies of the unfortunate seamen, for many more were drowned than were rescued. They were gathered together and taken to a very ancient cemetery within the bounds of Timsgarry, not far from Bailenacill, called Cladh a’Ghàraidh Mhòir, and were all buried in one big grave. There they lie, looking across the great sands of Uig with Mealisval and the hills of Ardroil in the background. They could not have been buried in the consecrated ground at Bailenacille as the Daoine Uasal Uig, th emales of the Clan Macaulay, looked upon this cemetery as their own sacred private burial ground, and when they insisted that their own womenfolk should be buried in Valtos, they were certainly not going to have the bodies of drowned strange foreign sailors interred with that special sacred acre of theirs.

The wreck on the skerries of Carnish disclosed that she was loaded with iron, hence she is handed down as Long an Iaruinn and the sunken rock which caused such a metallic crash is called Bogha an Iaruinn, and the sharp fangs of rock off Carnish Point upon which she was beaten to pieces belong to Sgeir an Iaruinn.