The timeless Isle of Jura
Diùra in the Gaelic and originally
Dyr øy in old Norse
Is a great place to trace the tracks of human history.
Stone age, Bronze age, Iron age
And more recent steps in
the human endeavour are all recorded here
In stone – the whitish grey, hard and durable pre-Cambrian Quartzite.
I like the speculative notion
Odysseus might have visited Jura, as the island of Ogygia,
And that the legendary whirlpool Charybdis was the Corryvreckan.
But there is no doubt
That Jura and
the Hebridean Isles were occupied and fertile
During bronze-age Britain and at the time of the ancient Greeks.
Mesolithic flints, Neolithic burial chambers,
Bronze-age standing stones, hut circles, cists and cup-marked stones
Record an era of productive farming, fishing,
religion and warfare on Jura.
island’s crescendo came
With the Iron Age and the arrival of the Gaels – the Kingdom of Dalriada,
incursions of the Vikings and the rule of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles.
The Norwegians gave up their claims
But left their names and their genes with
the clansmen of the Western Isles,
Along with the tale of Prince Breakan who braved the Corryvreckan for the love
of a local lass.
Sailors will understand how
The Lords of the Isles (Angus Og, Good John of Islay) ruled a maritime
Using a fleet of birlinns – adapted Viking ships with a square sail, oars and a rudder.
Since those days the noble art
Of farming reached its zenith,
with cattle rearing, crofting, fishing and hunting;
Up to 1300 humans, 1500 cattle and 6000 deer lived on Jura in the
Emigrations to the new continents, the toll of two world wars
And George Orwell’s 1984 –
a warning of a future that none of us wish for.
These then are the times of Jura;
But it took a visit to the kirk on Sunday to remind me that human endeavour
is timeless, and that compassion lasts longer than strife. Gràdh is gu bràth.