• Tales of Aonghas nam Beann

    by  • 1 February 2011 • Church, Education, People, Tales & Traditions • 2 Comments

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    We’ve looked before at the remarkable Angus of the Mountain. The little stories surrounding his life and faith are numberous – here are a few more abridged from Macfarlane’s Men of the Lews (1924):

    His mental constitution was not of gun-metal. It was weak and of the wool-gathering order. People said he just mooned around. When the great Revival came to Uig (1824) it embraced Angus, and he was cast into the deepest spiritual concern. Then he went back to his native hills and spent days and nights there in prayer… He started the new life and continued in it on an extraordinarily high level, and became as fixed as if melted into it in a liquid state.  The regard and affection that were poured out on him were more than ordinary.

    Mr Alexander Macleod, the minister, had so high a regard for Angus [although he refused to allow him to become a communicant, on the grounds of intellectual capacity -Ed.] that he engaged a teacher to teach him to read. The teacher could make nothing of him. His memory for the alphabet was hopeless. He could repeat A; with much labour he succeeded in adding B, but there was no room in his mind for the third letter. With effort after effort to get C in, he had to abandon the task. Angus met all endeavour to instruct him by affirming that he did not see Christ in these letters. HE would rather be out of the hillside with Christ than filling himself up with this kind of learning.

    On one occasion in Stornoway there met him a man who was gomeril enough to say to Angus, “Oh, aren’t you the Uig fool?” Angus fell aboard ofhim with the reply, “The Bible says the fool is he who trusteth to his own heart,” which the Stornoway man was evidently doing.

    Angus was much in request for public prayer. His gift was remarkable, and when he prayed it felt as if the heavens opened and the Bethel Ladder came down. He did not always respond when called. “Angus! you lead us in prayer,” said the minister. “Oh no, minister, I cannot to-day.”  ”Certainly Angus, you can and you will.” “Not to-day, minister; I cannot do it.” “Yes, rise, Angus, Jonah prayed when he was worse off that you. He prayed when he was in the whale’s belly.” “Ah! but I have the whale in mine today!” When Angus rose he was like a ship in the trade-winds, he sped on with unvarying triumph, with everything right alow and aloft.

    Herding cows was thought to be a simple service which Angus could easily fulfill. Again and again he failed. Once his father was angered by his letting the cattle into the corn, and he chased Angus with loud threatening. “Lord, cause my father to stumble” rose from the lips of the son, and sure enough down when the father, and Angus escaped.  The minister entrusted Angus with his cows, and the same straying into the cornfield happened. When someone said to him, “Why, Angus, did you not pray that the cows might be kept from the corn?” he replied, with an injured look, “It would never do to put cows into the prayer.”

    Angus was given to soliloquy. Many of his words fell on ears in the passing, and were rehearsed eagerly through the parish. Here is a specimen: “Oh, my Saviour, the Black One came to me to-day. He was going to trouble me. Fire was in his eye. I told him You were coming and I expected You soon. Oh, You should see how he took to his heels.”

    There was one bit of soliloquizing that raised many a ripple of laughter. The banns of marriage were in his time all proclaimed in church.One day he was overheard going over his own banns. “There is a purpose of marriage between Aonghas ___ and Margaret ___, etc.”

    Although Angus was not one of those who spoke on Fridays of Communion, he ranked as one of the forces in the Island of Lewis. His faith, his simplicity, his warmth of love gave him rank. He found God in everything.

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    2 Responses to Tales of Aonghas nam Beann

    1. John Mackay
      24 July 2011 at 10:14 pm

      A story recounted by Domhnall Angaidh Maclean (Missionary to various areas in his lifetime in the islands) once told a story that the present site of the Church at Ceann Langabhat (whether the present Church or its predecessors – I cannot say) faces the way it does because of Aonghas nam Beann’s wisdom.
      When the Elders could not decide which way it should face, someone suggested that Angus make the decision. Reflecting for a moment, he took off his waistcoat (seasaidh-cot) and was about to fling it into the air, saying “Whichever way this seasaidh-cot lands is the way the Church should face.”
      As it happens it landed with the neck facing the Macdonald’s house and the Church was built with its front door facing that way.

      Another story he had was that Angus had acquired a new buttoned seasaidh-cot and one day whilst doing up the buttons, he missed the corresponding buttonhole at the bottom so ended up with a spare button at the top with nowhere to button it to. He was reportedly heard to mutter, “Taillearan an latha’ n diugh, cha dean iad fiu seasaidh-cot ceart.” (Tailors of today, can’t even make a proper waistcoat!).

      Ma’s breug bhuam; ‘s breug thugam e.

      It is such a shame we have lost so many of our story tellers of old who knew how to tell’em. With every passing one, we lose so much more than the person, as we have done with Fionnlagh Beag.
      Thank you for this site and everyone’s continuing contributions to it. Makes for fascinating reading.
      .

    2. doreen macdonald
      7 February 2012 at 8:27 pm

      I know what you mean; Fionnlagh was great. I remember when I was very little looking forward to a visit from a cousin (he lives in Aberdeen and will know who he is) as he had a fantastic sense of humour and brilliant stories and was someone I could never of listening to – there was probably quite a lot which went by me but we had sore ribs for ages afterwards.

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