Ian Drury - Sheil Land Associates Ltd. - 52 Doughty Street - London WC1N 2LS

Friday, 12 March 2010

What I'm Looking Forward To

We've got our main holiday booked for this summer - a week at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull.

Usually, we'd head straight for the Isle of Iona, where Kim and I got married in 2002, but this year it'll be the neighbouring island we'll mostly be exploring - if, that is, we can tear ourselves away from Calgary beach.

But one place that's top of my agenda to visit is the island of Ulva, just off the coast of Mull. It was once the family territory of the Clan MacQuarrie or 'Sons of Guaire'.

Guaire (meaning 'hair') is a name to conjure with if, like me, you're fascinated by the historical Arthur and his brethren. Arthur's nephew Gawain (originally, Gwalchmai) was supposedly the son of 'Gwyar', a version of Guaire rendered phonetically into Welsh.

Guaire himself appears in the seventh-century 'Life of St Columba' as the 'strongest layman' in Argyll in his time and a man who died in a rather curious way, reminiscent of the Celtic triple-death sacrifice. In the 'Life of St Columba' he was referred to as 'Guaire son of Aedan', making him brother to Arthur (Artuir mac Aedain) and Muirgein.

Finally, in Taliesin's funerary poem for Arthur, Preiddeu Annwn ('The Treasures of the Cauldron'), Guaire is the only person to go into the grave before Arthur. Go back a few blogposts and you'll see this grave.

So, Guaire was fairly important, in the Arthurian scheme of things. I suspect that his real name, as it were, was Owain, and that he was the prince of North Rheged (Cumbria), as well as being Arthur's nephew (the son of his half-sister Muirgein) and an adoptive son of King Aedan. St Columba tried to convert him to Christianity, which may explain the need for his sacrifice after Arthur's last battle - because Owain had betrayed the faith and, directly or indirectly, caused the death of Arthur.

The island of Ulva was seemingly colonised by Owain/Guaire's descendants - Gwalchmai or Gawain included - after their true spiritual home was denied them by Columba's monks. They were the Sons of Guaire, forerunners of the Clan MacQuarrie.

I can't wait to set foot on the island of Gawain.

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