Clan Donald Magazine No11 (1987)
Online Oral Tradition of Goraidh Crobhan and the
by Arra Fletcher
Ciamar a tha sibh, worldwide fellow
Clansfolk, and to the ones who actually visited us within the last
few years a particularly warm "Hello".
As one whose ancestors first arrived in Islay centuries ago, I have
heard many tales of Clan Donald, and I would like to share this one
with you, perhaps it will spark some interest somewhere in someone -
and who knows what could happen?
When the mighty Norwegian King Harold
Hardrada was killed in battle in 1066, his Chief of Staff was
Goraidh Crobhan (Godred of the white hand), who escaped and made his
way to the Island of Islay, where his reputation as a clever and
fearless warrior had gone before him. Men flocked to join him, and
he was victorious in his battle with Fingal, King of Man and the
Isles. He also fought successfully against Malcolm Canmore.
History speaks well of Goraidh Crobhan, but in Islay he is best
known for killing the dragon, so here is the tale as my father told
it to me:
At this time in Islay, a dragon had eaten most of the cattle and
quite a lot of the people in the area surrounding its lair at
Imraconard, many had tried to kill it, and all had perished. Goraidh
Crobhan, home from the war heard of the dragon and made plans
First he got huge, sharp spikes driven into a great many barrels,
then anchoring his ship in Lochindaal he put the barrels between the
ship and the shore. Placing a fresh horse every two miles along the
road he boldly rode up to the dragon's lair and threw a spear at it.
Turning his horse, and followed by the dragon he made off at top
speed to the first of his fresh horses. Dismounting, he leapt upon
the fresh steed and galloped off towards the next horse, the dragon
stopped only to devour the tired horse then gave chase to where
Goraidh Crobhan had again changed horses. Riding up to the barrels
he dismounted, and running lightly betwen the spikes he boarded his
ship just as the dragon came rushing clumsily over the barrels, the
spikes penetrated its body killing it instantly.
At his death in 1095, Goraidh Crobhan would have been buried in full
regalia, as befitted a Viking Chief, and I heard a few years ago
that a pilot, flying his plane low over Islay, thought he could see
the outline of a Longboat in the peatland near Port Ellen. Perhaps
some day we may learn more about that, but at present our Warrior
Chief, progenitor of Clan Donald lies neglected and forgotten under
a huge, solitary white stone standing in moorland among sheep and
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