CASPAR HENDERSON: Residency, 2015

An Acrostic of Appreciation for Sweeney’s Bothy and the Isle of Eigg                                                                          Sweeney     In Seamus Heaney’s poem, Sweeney is  “wind-scourged, stripped/like a winter tree/clad in black frost/and frozen snow.” But the bothy has a warm hearth, the best designed garlic crusher on the planet, and a hot outdoor shower for use in rainstorm or starlight.

Wonder      “How strange,” wrote Hugh Miller, “that [these seas] should have once thronged with reptiles more strange than poet ever imagined…”

Echo     What creates those meanders across the surface of the sound on a calm day? The paths of breezes? The borders of different bodies of seawater? I was told they were the tracks of freshwater streams flowing out from the island.

Every flower, every rock, every moment.     In geological time, the cliff behind the bothy is a wave a thousand foot high. And it will come crashing down. (Elsewhere, Kathleen Jamie writes: “Wind and sea. Everything else is provisional. A wing’s beat and it’s gone.”)

Not known      What to make of great round stones in the rocks beyond the Singing Sands?  Giant fossilised bubbles? Fossilised stromatolites? What?

Exploration      “The feeling of intelligibility is like an ocean surrounding the small island of things we truly know…We are engaged in a fragile ongoing project of making sense.”

Yesterday      Imagining Rùm as it was: a volcano 10,000 feet high. Imagining Rùm as it was: under a mile of ice.

Story      Duncan MacClellan of Tigh an Sitheanan lost four sons to the Great War.


Bed      A platform lifted up like a nest on the branches of a tree. Good for sky dreams.

Oak      Scything bracken to allow the saplings some light, I took the top off an oak. Fxxx.

Tarn      Studying the tracks of the wind racing over the surface of a miniature tarn* on Beinn Bhuidhe. Beyond, across a wide blue sea, the Cuillin Skye-line.

Hebrides      You may go days without seeing them and then, over a blue sea or over a golden sea, 30 miles beyond the southern tip of Rùm, there they are: Barra, Vatersay and Sandray.

Yes      Skye Red and Skye Black, brewed by the Isle of Skye Brewing Co. and sold at the Isle of Eigg Shop, are both good beers. I didn’t get around to trying the others.



Caspar Henderson is the author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings. He is writing A New Map of Wonders. He stayed in Sweeney’s Bothy from 18 to 25 July 2015.

* Tarn – northern English dialect for small mountain lake. In Scots, a lochan I guess