Thig crìoch air an t-saoghal, ach mairidh gaol is ceòl.
The world will end, but love and music will endure.
The Outer Hebrides, also known as The Western Isles, is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland. These islands are separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch, and the Sea of the Hebrides. There are five main islands, starting from the northernmost Isles of Lewis. If you head south you will reach Harris, North and South Uist, and finally Barra. The uninhabited and isolated Island of St. Kilda, positioned 64 kilometres west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean, is the westernmost island of the Outer Hebrides.
Many myths and legends have originated from the seas that surround the Outer Hebrides. The storm kelpies aka the blue men of the Minch, the water spirit, Seonaidh, who demanded a goodly portion of ale, and the fairies or Sithchean, a supernatural race of small people, are only a few of the narratives held safe in the folds of Hebridean history.
There is another story, more recent, that has been woven into the fabric of these unforgettable Islands: Our Lady of the Isles.
On the western slopes of Ruabhal, a hill near the northern end of South Uist, the statue of Our Lady of the Isles presides with serene compassion. She was commissioned in the late 1940’s in response to the announcement by the Ministry of Defence of their intention to establish a Rocket Range on the island of South Uist. At first, many believed this would bring opportunities for employment, but when the scale of the project was discovered, there was great concern. Uist would be forever altered, the way of life, language and culture would experience upheaval and families would need to move to make way for the new facilities.
Resistance to the proposals was led by Canon John Morrison, the local parish priest. He commissioned and raised funds for the construction of Our Lady of the Isles, which was completed in 1957 and dedicated in 1958. The statue was designed by Hew Lorimer, and sculpted from granite.
There was a happy ending…
In April 1959, only a few short months after the dedication of Our Lady of the Isles, the Ministry of Defence agreed that their development proposal was to be scaled down so that the language, culture, and beauty of Uist would continue. Now fifty years later, the revised project has provided employment opportunities as well as enticing service personnel to make Uist their permanent home.
Our Lady of the Isles is a testament that when we come together, in good faith, much can be accomplished.