The Piper’s Cave/Cave of Gold (con­tin­ued)

The Oban Times - - LETTERS - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­

‘… The piper boldly burst out through the door of the warm house and into the dark storm with the move­ment of a man on a righteous mis­sion. He was fol­lowed with­out ques­tion by his faith­ful dog and he held his pipes like an in­stru­ment of war.

‘From out­side, he called to those in the crowded house, “Who among you will come with me? Who will wit­ness the great pip­ing con­test with the king of the fairies at the Great Cave of Kenevara?”

‘At first, no-one moved, as they were ter­ri­fied of the evil mis­chief that the fairies could in­flict upon them. All were rooted to the spot in fear, but a brave, wise and aged bo­dach from Bale­phuil said: “For the sake of our fel­low man we must go af­ter the piper and dis­suade him from this fool­ish and doomed en­deav­our.”

‘So out they went in pur­suit and by the time they caught up with him he was half way across Traigh Bhì. Fol­lowed still by his ever loyal dog, he was march­ing with vigour and his pipes were skir­ling above the wind and rain and with the beat of a great drum the sea was crash­ing like thun­der on the shore. At the end of the beach he even­tu­ally cut the tune and put the pipes down, thus giv­ing his com­pan­ions a chance to rea­son with him and to coun­sel against his in­tended course of ac­tion.

‘Noth­ing they could say could dampen his blind de­ter­mi­na­tion to make for the Uaimh Mhòr on the far side of the hill. Even the wise words of the aged bo­dach, telling of the wicked and pow­er­ful ways of the fairies, could not con­vince him to change his course.

‘The party, who were now fran­ti­cally plead­ing with him, hur­ried along­side and in cir­cles as he climbed up the hill. On reach­ing the sum­mit, a strange still­ness sud­denly came on the night. The wind dropped, the rained stopped, the clouds cleared and the light of the bright full moon brought land and sea alive in the lu­nar glow. “This is a sign,” said the piper. “Even the moon and stars are out to watch me win the pot of fairy gold!”

‘He set forth with no fear down the western side of Kenevara and made the per­ilous de­scent to the mouth of the Great Cave. Af­ter climb­ing nim­bly over the large bolder that guards the mouth then jump­ing the fi­nal gully, he landed at the en­trance of the cave, pipes in hand and dog at his side.

‘By this time his com­pan­ions had given up hope of per­suad­ing him oth­er­wise and gath­ered as near as they could safely get to the cave in the hope that he would re­turn. To his friends, the piper gave a proud wave de­liv­ered with the con­fi­dence of as­sured vic­tory.

‘With that, he struck up his pipes, tuned his drones, turned and marched forth into the dark depths of the cave, dog at heel. Out of the cave and across the calm sea the boom­ing sound of the pipes echoed beau­ti­fully. As the time passed the mu­sic grew fainter and fainter un­til at last not a note could be heard.

‘Those wait­ing did not see the piper reap­pear that night, nor in the morn­ing nor in the days to come. How­ever, some days later at the top of Dùn Mòr a’ Chao­lais, at the other end of the is­land, from a hole in the ground, there ap­peared the piper’s faith­ful dog with not a hair left on his body.

‘The piper was never seen again, and lore tells that he was so fine a player that when the fairy king heard his mu­sic, a spell was cast upon him that meant for eter­nity he was cursed to play the bag­pipes and never again to see the light of day.

‘On quiet moon­lit nights, at cer­tain times of the year, it is said that if you lis­ten care­fully, the piper can still be heard play­ing, for­ever wan­der­ing in the deep tun­nels be­neath Tiree, still un­der the curse of the fairy king.’

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