Am Baile/The Highland Council Planning Department

Location: Skye
gaelic culture

A shinty match, a meal and a dram

"In the 1930s I played shinty for Portree High School and I remember a game against Bernisdale. The laird at Skeabost then was Duncan MacLeod, a whisky magnet said to be worth £15m in 1915, having worked first of all as a crofter/fisherman in Breakish. He then became a whisky broker office boy in Glasgow and worked his way up.

"At the start of World War 1, between himself and Angus Robertson from Breakish, they had bought a lot of French wines and had control of a large share of scotch whisky production. MacLeod bought Skeabost Estate and had a large family. Most of the estate workers were from Bernisdale. We played them at shinty and they were very good. We were quite good as well.

"During the game, it looked as if we might have the beating of them. But one of the players known locally as Lachie Chaluim hit the ball into the Skeabost river, and the game had to be given up as a draw. Jack MacLeod, the son of the house, invited us all to Skeabost House for a meal. The school teacher in charge of us was Sam MacLean, the Gaelic poet, but he wasn’t at that time.

"On entering the dining room, a glass of whisky was given to all. We were 5th and 6th year boys. On the centre of the table was a big, round dumpling. After grace was said, all the boys went for the dumpling. And then, Sam MacLean said 'Go ahead - I’m not looking!' and we all sank our glass of whisky. Sam said 'Now boys, we’re going back to the school and remember, eat plenty of cheese!'. I suppose that was to soak up the whisky."

As told by the late Donald Robertson (Dee), resident of 15 Lower Breakish and later of Stirling, recorded by his son Duncan Robertson and contributed by his great-niece Iseabail Strachan

More information on visiting the area can be found here.