10-Jul-2002 -- After having enjoyed the splendid panorma in the Sea of The Hebrides, we were keen to see how it goes on in the Northern Minch.
In order to reach this confluence we first had to pass the
central section of the channel between the Outer Hebrides and Scotland, the
The Little Minch is quite narrow and full of underwater rocks. After having
passed Dunvegan Head on the Isle of Skye with its
beautiful pastures we reached the narrowest point, where particular attention had
to be paid to strong currents. A lot of small rocky islets are around, too. They are all united under the name
Gaeilavore and Fladda-Chùain.
Then Chief Officer Sydorenko came along with a message just
"That just came in, Captain!"
"Let me see."
"It's about a military exercise in the area ..."
"I do know reading English myself! Military exercise, eh? So what?"
"We probably should ..."
"Negative. I did not make the long way here in order to get it screwed up
from these navy folks!"
"But íf they start shooting?"
"Guns, cannons, missiles, rockets ... "
"Crap! They have nothing to shoot with. Who will give them nowadays, when no
war is imminent, any money to shoot around just for fun? And furtheron they
may play their war war-game as long as they want, but they are not allowed
impede brave, hard working, harmless and lawful merchantmen, bringing
urgently needed food to Russia. We proceed as scheduled! And now take the
trouble and go the wheel, the point is coming close!"
Finally we reached the point without coming under fire.
The closest land is Cape Rubha Reidh - and there we
saw the navy, so largely-scaled announced: a few small patrol boats.
"Is that all?" the Chief Officer from the Ukraine asked.
"In all likelihood yes."
"And they do call that a major military exercise?"
"They call a major military exercise even far less - the military exercise
takes place ashore: a 30 admirals around a sandbox shifting to and fro
several hundreds model warships and enjoying it tremendously. And here out
at sea they are with just a handful of patrol boats, being more afraid of us
than we of them!"
"And the submarines ...?
"Chief Officer, what kind of submarines were these, if we could see them?"
"And the aircrafts?"
"Probably refuelling at the base since today early morning and now it is no
longer worth to take off."
The scenery in this area is extremely beautiful.
Along Scotland's West coast there are high mountains,
and in the West we saw Isle of Lewis, the largest of the
In our previous visit we began with Scotland's history and we arrived at
Mary Stuart's birth.
What happened then?
Mary Stuart was born when her father died in the Battle of Solway Moss in
1542. First several regents ruled in her place. The biggest problem was to
keep an equilibrium between the Catholics and the Protestants. But the
situation became more and more critical, due to permanent English attacks.
The Queen Mother and Cardinal Beaton ruled the country with the assistance
of French troups and the lever of numerous trials against heretics. The
Lords of the Congregation (the Protestant Party), began, however, to take
over the power, supported by reformists as John Knox, the agents of
Elizabeth I. of England and the fanatic urban population. Until 1560 they
plundered churches and monasteries and obtained the formal introduction of
the protestant religion.
Due to Mary Stuart's Catholic religion, her French education and the short
marriage with a French king the Protestant Party from the very beginning was
hostile to her. In 1565 she married her easy-going and rather intrigant
Henry Lord Darnley and after his assassination in 1567 she married again,
the Earl of Bothwell. The poeple was shocked and at the end of the year she
had to abdicate in favor of her little son. Her half brother, the Earl of
Moray, took over the rule. After an insuccessful revolt Mary fled to the
Elizabeth I., the cousin of Mary's father, however, was scared about Mary's
(not unjustified!) claim for the English throne, which she had kept upright
all her life's time. Elizabeth had Mary immediately arrested, and 19 years
later she signed the death sentence of the Queen of Scots.
King James VI. and the later Stuarts:
Mary's smart and cunning son, James VI., finally succeeded to bring peace to
this restless and stricken country, and in 1603 he took the English Crown as
well. But his descendants were again unlucky and soon they had lost the
tie to their Northern Kingdom.
The whole 17th century England as well as Scotland were stricken by a series
of civil wars. The conflicts, having political and economical reasons, were
throughout extremely bloody. The powers were quite equilibrated, until James
VII. (in England James II.) professed officially the Catholic religion, and
influential aristocrats thereafter appealed to his Protestant son-in-law,
of Orange, to come to England. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought the
victory for the
Presbyterian protestants and strengthened the Parliament.
The Church of Scotland until today has remained a strong Presbyteranian
Church. The Jacobites - the supporters of the banished Catholic
Stuart-Monarch James VII. - continued to exist almost only in the Highlands
and in Ireland.
The Union with England:
In 1707 a Union Treaty was signed. Its purpose was the creation of an
economical union. But for its realization, however, a nationwide
bribery-action was necessary. All wealthy citizens of the Lowlands had
invested such a lot of money in the so called Darien-Enterprise, (intended
for the foundation of a commercial colony in Panama), that it almost ended
in a complete state bankruptcy.
At this stage the English "generously" offered to compensate the Scottish
all losses, provided they agree on a Union Treaty. In this Treaty there was
included worldwide protection by the Royal Navy and a paticipation on the
expansion of the British Empire.
The Union Treaty set an end to the warlike conflicts between the Highlands
and the Lowlands, until the so called "Bonnie Prince Charlie" of the
Highlands (grandson of the removed Stuart-King James II.), tried again to
get the Brtish Throne for the Stuarts. Several Clans supported his project
and after several initial successes they marched towards South.
But he was forced to turn back, and in the battle of Culloden Moor his army,
far in minority, was completely defeated. The Prince, however, managed to
flee via the Isle of Skye to France.
The subjection of the Highlands:
After the victory of the house of Hanover over the House of Stuart at
cruel retaliation followed.
The fighting spirit of the Highlanders was broken by chasing and
expropriating them. The chiefs of the Clans were denied any power, the
carrying of arms and traditional costumes, even the playing of the bagpipes,
was prohibited. The gallows was well known in every valley, and within a few
years the Highlands were "pacified".
The end of the Napoleanic Wars brought a severe economical crisis. The
prices for fish, cattle and seaweed (the then basis for chemicals)
collapsed, and the local industry was almost completely destroyed. Only
sheep continued to bring profit, but there was not enough pastureland
available. Many landowners were forced to dismiss their tenant farmers, in
order to gain more pastureland for their own sheep. Still today in the
one can see the ruins of numerous abandoned villages.
The expelled ended up in the slums of the big cities and industrial regions,
and thousands emigrated to the USA, to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Galic language, however, is still spoken by minorities.
Between 1760 und 1860 an astonishingly busy intellectual and cultural life
developed. Edinburgh became a town of literature and science, followed by
Simpson's introduction of the chloroforms in anaesthesia and Lister's wound
treatment with antiseptica were important prerequisites for modern surgery.
In literature Robert Burns, James Hogg, James Macpherson, Sir Walter Scott
and later Robert Louis Stevenson became world famous.
In economics Adam Smith is unforgotten, and everybody knows the philosophers
David Hume and Thomas Reid, the physicist William Kelvin and the engineers
James Watt, Henry Bell and Thomas Telford.
The discovery of oil in the North Sea at the beginning of the 60-ies helped
to ease the consequences of the decline of the heavy industries, and 10
percent of the world wide PC production meanwhile come from the so called
"Silicon Glen", the area between Glasgow and Edinburgh.