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Seal-Folk and Ocean Paddlers: Sliochd nan Ron Paperback – March, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1874267393 ISBN-10: 1874267391

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About the Author

John MacAulay (fifty-seven) is a writer and historian who now concentrates his efforts on researching the cultural links between the Hebrideans and the Norse. A former shipwright and charter yacht skipper, this native Hebridean who is a fluent Gaelic speaker is well equipped for the task. Born to a crofting/fishing family on the Isle of Harris, and brought up during a time when oral tradition and folklore had not yet succumbed to the pressures of modern society, he now recalls the wealth of information imparted by a people to whom 'heritage' was an element of daily life. Living with his wife Cathy on the family croft (their two daughters live on the mainland) he enjoys the isolation and closeness to nature which island life affords. He is the author of a history of Rodel Church, Silent Tower (Pentland Press, 1993), and of Brlinn: Longships of the Hebrides (White Horse Press, 1996).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Boyhood on the rocky coast of the Hebrides naturally involved a close interaction with the marine environment. One learned to respect, not only the sea, but also what lived and moved upon and within it. The sea was partly our home. Even more so, possibly, than the island itself - all my forebears had lived in close harmony with the sea, reaping its bountiful harvest, partly of necessity, but mostly to satisfy the powerful yearning in the heart of the Hebridean to be at one with the very life-blood of Creation.

On long winter evenings gathered around the fireside, with both family and neighbours sharing in this domestic tranquility and safely sheltered from external uncertainties, we were introduced to the world of strange creatures of the sea: mermaids, seal-folk, and close encounters in 'the stream of the blue men' - Sruth na Fir Ghorm - and there are many gripping accounts of inexplicable events in the history of men and boats in these terrible tide-races where the ocean appears to have gone totally berserk.

Years later, I was to recall the story of the MacCodrum family (sliochd nan rn) for the benefit of Britt Sneltvedt, on holiday from Norway. Explaining how they claimed, not only descent from the seals, but also from the Kings of Norway, I was careful to relate every detail as well as I could remember from the older fishermen of Grimsay, with whom, years ago, I was privileged to share a season at the lobster fishing on Heisgeir - the Monach Isles. I told Britt how I found it hard to accept that anyone could exist on the barren rocks and islets - the home of sliochd nan rn, the seal-folk - to the west of the Hebrides, where they would be exposed to the full fury of the Atlantic Ocean.

Britt, in turn, explained her interest in the history of the Sea-Sami folk - the Sea Sami or coastal Lapps of Northern Norway and its offshore islands. She told me how these people survived quite comfortably in conditions where 'normal' people could not. Their home was the sea, and the sea provided all their needs. They had adapted to this form of existence and were quite independent of all other human requirements. 'What else could they possibly need?' Britt asked convincingly. I realised only then that there was an element of truth in the stories of long ago - sliochd nan rn were alive, and proving to be very real people. Britt had provided that conceivable link, something I had not been particularly looking for, but yet, something I can now share with those who, like me, are deeply intrigued by the mysteries of the marine world.

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