Mac An t-Stronaich’s Cave

16 11 2008

The walk around the River Creed in Stornoway’s Castle Grounds is surely one of the finest on the island. Of the many sights that can be found on a ‘cuairt’ around the Creed, the most intriguing is the mysterious cave lurking in the shadows at the mouth of the river.

One of Stornoway’s most infamous sons was the outlaw Mac An t-Stronaich.  For many years he terrorised the islands with his campaign of murder, extortion, sheep-rustling, salmon poaching and parking his horse on a double yellow line when he went in town for a dram.

Mac An t-Stronaich always managed to keep one step ahead of the law. No matter what cunning plans the local magistrates and militia put into practice, the devious outlaw always managed to slip through the net. (And it was invariably an old fishing net they used as the local law enforcers were not known for their imagination – and could get plenty of nets from the quay). 

Mac An t-Stronaich was helped by the fact that he used several remote locations as hideouts and so could always slip off into the night if he spotted that one sneak-hole was being watched. These hideouts ranged from dank caves high in the Uig hills, to run down airighs on the desolate Barvas Moors. In much the same way that Bonnie Prince Charlie is purported to have slept in every single cave in the Highlands and Islands (meaning he must have been on the run for 37 years if he had spent a night in each one), every area of Lewis is said to have had a Mac An t-Stronaich hideout.

The only one that could be said to have housed the outlaw with any degree of certainty is the cave at the mouth of the Creed. And the reason that we can be sure of this is from old historical records that show that Mac An t-Stronaich had applied to the Town Council for Planning Permission to extend the cave. 

His Planning Application set out proposals to extend the cave to include a guest bedroom (for members of his gang), a wooden terrace with patio, one of these new fangled outside toilets and double glazed skylights. It was the skylights which caused the Planning Application to be refused, as the Town Council Planning Committee felt that they would detract from the aesthetic lines of the cave. 

The members of the Planning Committee all met with mysterious accidents over the following weeks, some involving walking backwards onto large rusty knives or ending up underneath bales of wool which ‘accidently’ fell from the roof of the Town House.

The local militia eventually realised who the Planning Application was from and swiftly set about capturing the outlaw, catching him red handed as he was about to bump off a local builder who had provided a quotation not to Mac An t-Stronaich’s liking.

The cave was taken over by the Town Council and was used as a council house right up until 1898.

 

Mac In Stronich's original Planning Application for his cave

Mac In Stronich

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