Dunvegans Fairy Flag, Isle of Skye
Dunvegan Castle on the Isle Of Skye; brooding, poignant, remote. Where better for a community of fairies to live in undisturbed exile?
An island of extremes, dominated by the Cuillins, and dramatic escarpments. Carved by that natural auteur of the Scottish Highlands – the glacier. With Dunvegan Loch nearby, Dunvegan Castle, seat of the clan MacLeod for over 700 years, enjoys a really magnificent setting, almost Tolkein in its other-worldly atmosphere. But what about its fairies?
The legends of fairies have long been married into Celtic culture. The Sidhe were the fairy peoples of Irish folklore, living in secret beneath the hills, descendants of Tuatha Dé Danann. At Dunvegan, the MacLeods have a relationship with fairies that is as long as the clan’s history in the area.
A huge part of Dunvegan Castle’s history is enshrined in the legend of the Fairy Flag. Made from yellow silk, of possibly Middle Eastern origin, the flag has been a totem of the MacLeod family for centuries. There are a number of tales associated with the flag. Some say that it is tangible evidence that these puckish people exist, living in clandestine harmony with people and, on occasion, sharing their magic with the mortals.
The Fairy Flag, a physical link to the metaphysical, is said to summon a Fairy army. This legend dates back to the early history of the MacLeods. In battle with the rival clan MacDonald, the imperiled MacLeods waved the flag and defeated the MacDonalds. This was not to be the last time that the MacLeods’ fate has been restored by the flag. On another instance, when their herd of cattle was dying and starvation loomed, the Fairies delivered their cattle back to health, stopping the risk of famine – a familiar scourge to the people of the Scottish Highlands . The MacLeods’ history has many tales of inter-marrying between Fairy and clan chief. Some say the flag was a shroud for a child born of fairy-MacDonald parentage. Whatever the truth, it remains a sacrosanct family relic.
And so there remains one more charm left in the flag. One more chance for the MacLeods to call on their Fairy army for help. It was nearly used in the previous century. Had the Luftewaffe overpowered the RAF, and the Nazi war machine put boots on the soil of the British mainland, 28th Chief, Dame Flora MacDonald, would have waved it over the cliffs of Dover – a final, desperate call for intervention. Thankfully, it remains at Dunvegan. The Fairy army forever reserve, waiting for the call to aid their mortal allies.
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