The Island of the Old Woman


Today is the feast of Saint Kentigerna, an eighth-century anchorite, said to be buried on Inchcailloch, the ‘island of the old woman’, on Loch Lomond. She was widow of a king of Dal Riata, daughter of a King of Leinster, mother of Saint Fillan and sister of Saint Comgan.

Loch Lomond, its shores, banks and islands, tug at the heart.  This is another wild region echoing with the legends of saints and ancient battles.

Here is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem written about the Falls of Inversnaid on the banks of the loch.


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left, 
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


And, naturally, the loch is also celebrated in song!

Oh! ye’ll take the high road and
I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Island image rights here. Falls image rights here.

This entry was posted in Music, Poetry, Saints and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Island of the Old Woman

  1. Pingback: There’s Always Something To Do At Loch Lomond -

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