Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Rabbit islands

The little island nearest is Talmine Island but the ones in the distance are called Rabbit Islands. There are three maybe five of them depending if count one as being split by a cleft and another by a sandbank both of which are dry at low water. In fact the map shows a tidal sandbar connecting the nearest island with the mainland. The traditional Gaelic name is Innse Gall or Strangers’ Islands but they became known as the Rabbit Islands after the Chief of the Mackays at Tongue introduced rabbits there as meat for his table. But the new name was not universally used. Sailors and fishermen had taboos on many words thought to bring bad luck. In Buckie, a fishing village a few miles east along the coast, rabbits was one such one word, and a euphemism was said to avoid its use. They referred to a rabbit as ‘the Gentleman’ hence to the fishermen of Buckie Rabbit Islands are known as ‘the Gentleman’s Islands’.

Another interesting snippet I’ve discovered. The rocky headland on the right is known as Ard Skinnid and on 17 April, 1746, the day after the battle of Culloden, a sloop named the Hazard carrying gold for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite army was chased into the Kyle by a naval frigate. The Hazard was wrecked at Ard Skinnid while the frigate ran aground on the other side of the Kyle. The crew of the Hazard and 120 French soldiers escaped across moors, hotly pursued by the British and overpowered near to a Lochan Hakon. One variation I have heard, not officially, is that the French threw the gold into the lochan before they were captured. Now I need to locate this lochan.

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