Sweeney's Eigg, after Hugh Miller

the sun declined
half-way down
the western sky

the island basking
spread out at our feet
as a map

the gigantic Sgurr
dark beneath us
its one shadow

thrown from one
elevated wall
of rock

an immense dial
tall in the midst
its gnomon rising

colossal between us
and the sky
as if it were a piece

of Babylonian wall
or of the great wall
of China

only vastly larger
set down on the ridge
of a mountain

after Hugh Miller


given in exchange
for a pair of shoes

tanned with the roots
of tormentil

after Hugh Miller, who, in taking the islanders part,
was gifted a pair of shoes made on the Isle of Eigg.

"They were all around of a deep madder red color, soles, welts and uppers; and, though somewhat resembling in form the little yawl of the Betsey, were sewed not unskilfully with thongs; and their peculiar style of tie seemed of a kind suited to furnish with new idea a fashionable shoemaker of the metropolis. They were altogether the production of Eigg, from the skin out of which they had been cut, with the lime that had prepared it for the tan, and the root by which the tan had been furnished, down to the last on which they had been moulded, and the artisan that had cast them off, a pair of finished shoes. There are few trees, and, of course, no bark to spare, in the island; but the islanders find a substitute in the astringent lobiferous root of the Tormentilla erecta, which they dig out for the purpose among the heath, at no inconsiderable expense of time and trouble."

Miller visited the Isle of Eigg in 1844, exploring the island's
rich geology, and the 'Massacre Cave'. His account, The Cruise
of the Betsey, was published in 1858.

A guide to Sweeney's Eigg is published here.


Bothan Shuibhne | Sweeney’s Bothy

Alec Finlay & The Bothy Project

commissioned as part of Creative Scotland’s
Year of Natural Scotland, 2013


  1. I am delighted to see that the importance of Sweeney having roosted in a cave on Eigg is at last being recognised, along with the wells and the sithean. I wish you well in this project.

    1. Thanks Alastair, I hope you'll stay in the bothy someday.

  2. loving thisblog roll poemblog8.blogspot.com


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