Angus Martin seems to have been a memorable and intreaguing character. He was born during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots in a time of religious upheaval and political unrest. His family was an important one and affiliated to the MacDonalds of Sleat. Angus grew up and became 1st of Bealach, the tackman’s position was one of power and showed the trust the MacDonald placed in him.
He married twice, had many children and his second wife allegedly was a Danish princess. But he didn’t get on with his clan chief’s wife apparently because the lady repeatedly asked him to compose an ode to her, him being a poet as well as a sailor. He finally composed a few abusive lines in Gaelic for the lady and was forced to leave Skye afterwards. He went to Ireland to fight and only came back, when her ladyship had passed away and compoised another rude poem on her death.
Legend has it that on his way he had taken his gravestone from a Scottish King’s grave on the island of Iona and brought it to Skye for his own interment. This seems rather unlikely since the Scottish Reformation and the destruction of religious pictures and effigies as well as the dismanteling of monasteries had reached its peak already in the 1560s, i.e. around the time Angus Martin was born. There can’t have been many royal gravestones left by the time Angus was old enough to sail to Iona and take one home with him to Skye.
It is however a nice wee story, after all, he was called Angus of the storm, Aonish na Gaoithe. Not because he was the centre of a lofty story but rather for being a renowned sailor. And the stone has a beauty in itself, no matter whose it was.
sources and further reading:
William Mackenzie: Old Skye Tales. Traditions, Reflections and Memories. Edinburgh, Birlinn; 1934
The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.
My main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share my passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.