Angus MacPhail: The Piper’s Cave/Cave of Gold (continued)

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‘… 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 council 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 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 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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