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Where does the name Islay come from

First of all, Islay is pronounced as Eye-la. Now we have that sorted out we can continue. There are several ideas where the name Islay comes from. Some think it comes from "Island divided into two" with Loch Gruinart and the Gruinart Flats being the dividing line. There are also ideas that it means "the law island", but is is also suggested that the name derives from a Pictisch princess called Ile, who lived around 650-700 AD. It is of course also possible that the name has emerged without obvious reasons.

According to Domhnall MacEacharna, who wrote the book The Old Parish Church Kildalton and The Lands of the Lordship: The Romance of Islay's names, the earliest known reference to the island comes in Adamnan's biography, Vita Columbae, of the Irish Saint, Columba, written in about 720 AD. St Columba visited Islay on his way north, prior to setting up the famous monestry on the island of Iona, of the south-west tip of Mull. Adamnan wrote it as "Ilea", describing it as an inhabited island, "Ilea insula habitabat", and also as "green, grassy Islay", a phrase which is still used in the Gaelic, "Ile Ghorm an Fheoir".

In a text in 740, it is spelt "Ili", while by 1095 it had become Yle. From then on, it is commonly Ila, Yla and Ilay. The present spelling was not widely adopted until about 1800. It is as if more modern writers were unhappy with Yla or Ilay and added an 's' to make it look more like the word "island". Islay is the anglicised spelling; in Gaelic the island is still spelt Ile.

Peggy Earl, writer of the book Tales of Islay, which is still available at C&E Roy in Bowmore has a different theory. Her favourite theory, however, concerned a Danish Princess called Iula, or Yula, who left Denmark with an apron full of stones of different sizes. As she proceeded on her journey some of the stones fell out, one becoming Ireland, another Rathlin and a third Texa. The remainder of the stones fell out and became the string of islands from Ardbeg to Kildalton. She perished in the soft sands off that coast and was taken to Seonais Hill above Loch Cnoc and buried there. What was described in the Statistical Account of 1794 as the grave of "a daughter of one of the kings of Denmark" is marked by two small standing stones about 10 meters apart, though there is no good evidence to support this tradition. Islay is said to have got its name from this lady, or perhaps she may have taken her name from Islay.

The memorial near Sanaigmore Bay

When you drive from Carnduncan to Sanaigmore Bay on the B8018 and park at the road end you will find this monument. The monument is erected to commemorate the Irish victims that were killed in 1847 when the "Exmouth of Newcastle" was wrecked on the Islay coast. The text on the monument is in Gaelic (below), not my best language i'm afraid, but I happen to know someone who knows his way around in the Gaelic language and he was kind enough to supply me with a translation:

This memorial is dedicated to the memory of 241 Irish emigrants who lost their lives on the 28th April 1847, when the brig 'The Exmouth of Newcastle' out of Derry and bound for Quebec Canada at the time of the great famine, was wrecked on the N/W coast of Islay. 108 bodies, mostly women and childeren (63 under the age of 14, and 9 infants) were recovered and are buried under the soft green turf of Traigh Bhan.

May their souls rest forever in the Peace of Christ.

Gaelic Text on the monument: T�gadh an leacht seo i gcuimhne na 241 deora� �ireannach a cailleadh ar an 28� l� d'aibre�n 1847, nuair a briseadh an long the exmouth of newcastle ar an toabh thiar thuaidh d'lle agus � ar a bealach � dhoire cholmcille go qu�bec ceanada, le linn an drochshaoil, fuarthas 108 corr�n-mn� agus f�ist� a mbunus (63 acu faoi bhun 14 bliana d'aois agus 9 naioman) - agus cuireadh iad faoi mhachaire glas na tr� b�ine, mar a luionn slad inniu faoi shuaimhneas agus faoi shiochain bhuan chriost.

Ardbeg is releasing 40 YR old Malt Whisky

This week 269 bottles of 40 YR old Ardbeg 1965-Vintage malt will go up for sale. The price of each of those bottles is £2,000. Each bottle is made of hand-blown glass and includes a numbered wax seal to prove its authenticity. 100 of these bottles will be sold to Harrods in London. A real collectors item according to Harrods but way out of my league. Campbell Evans, of the Scottish Whisky Association, added: "The person buying this can expect a smoky whisky with an aroma of the sea." Interesting fact is that earlier 40 YR and older bottlings were sold for almost £4,000. If you think this is expensive what about this: A Macallan Fine and Rare Collection, 1926 60 YR old for the price of $38,000 but it is sold out. There is however a hotel in the US where you can still by a single dram for $ 3,300. If you are still in the market for an expensive dram try this one: The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection, 1939, 40 YR old for as little as $10,125 :-)

Finlaggan - Home of the Lords of the Isles

Finlaggan was the home of the MacDonald chiefs for almost four hundred years, from the 12th to the 16th century. From Finlaggan, the Lord of the Isles ruled the Western part of Scotland from Kintyre to Lewis. They gained control from their Norse overlords, adopted their maritime skills and improved on them. And from Finlaggan they met the kings from Scotland, England and France on equal terms.

The earliest mention in written history of Finlaggan dates back as far as the 14th century, concerning reroofing of the chapel on Eilean Mor. The first descriptive account of the Lordship was written by Dean Munro about 1550. Some relics of Finlaggan's occupation remain. A few carved graveslabs help to substantiate the traditional opinion that the wives and children of the Lords were buried on Eilean Mor, while the Lords themselves were interred in Iona.

One of the better preserved stones, the warrior effigy, probably dates from a period later than the occupation by the Lords of the Isles. It is thought to be a 16th century stone. The inscription on it could still be read clearly last century, but this is no longer possible. All the stones have suffered from being badly positioned and exposed to the elements, and the Finlaggan Trust has plans to have them placed under a shelter on Eilean Mor.

From archeological and historical evidence it is clear that the islands in Loch Finlaggan have been used by man for a very long time. Eilean na Comhairle (the council island) and another small island, Eilean Mhuireill, are crannogs (man made islets) dating from prehistoric times. Eilean na Comhairle, whick is linked to Eilean Mor by s stone causeway, was where the Lords of the Isles held meetings of the Council of the Isles. Recent excavations have shown that a stronghold had been built on it in the Iron Age.

Finlaggan has a visitor centre which is opened on certain days from spring to autumn. Finlaggan is located outside Ballygrant on the road to Port Askaig. More info can be found on the Finlaggan Trust Website. More info on Islay's History and Timeline can be found here

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