After his wife left him at the bridge to return to the fairy realm, the grieving MacLeod chief returned to his castle with his baby boy. Read on…..
The young MacLeod chief was inconsolable for he loved his fairy wife very much indeed and could not imagine a life without her. “And I will keep my promise, little one... I will take good care of you and never will you have to cry,” he whispered to the baby in his arms.
The MacLeod chief grew sadder with each passing day and all his clansmen worried about his well being. They decided to organise a feast on his birthday to cheer him up. It was a grand affair. Wine and ale flowed; pipes, harps and fiddles filled the castle with music. Everyone was in high spirits and soon the reluctant chief too joined in the celebrations.
The nurse who was taking care of the baby, hearing the music and laughter downstairs, went to have a look leaving the sleeping baby in his bassinet. But shortly after, the baby awoke and began to cry, kicking off the covers. His cries were drowned in the din downstairs but someone in the fairy realm heard his piteous cries. His mother rushed to his side in the form of a spirit mist. Since she could no longer hold him in her arms, she wove a magical green shawl with soft silken threads over his bassinet to keep him warm.
Softly she began to sing a fairy lullaby and the baby went to sleep once again. Hearing the hauntingly beautiful song, the nurse returned but just as she came in to the room, the fairy mother vanished.
The nurse saw the new green silken cover and alerted the chief. When she faithfully reported what had transpired, he knew it was his wife who had visited the sleeping baby. He stroked his son’s sleeping head fondly and sighed.
The nurse maid had memorised the song she heard and even today that lullaby is sung to put babies to sleep in the Isle of Skye. It is called the Cradle Spell of Dunvegan.
As the MacLeod chief’s son grew older, he recounted to his father how his mother had come to him that night. “That shawl is magic! In times of any danger that may befall us, all we need to do is wave it as a flag and the fairies shall come and save us.” The chief believed him and they had the silken shawl placed in a special casket. “But we can seek help only three times,” said the boy, “after that the flag will go back to the fairies.”
The flag has since been used twice to this day. The first time was hundreds of years later when the MacLeods were waging a war with their bitter enemies, the MacDonalds. They attacked the island on a Sunday, burning down a church with people praying inside it. The remaining MacLeods rushed to the beach and the flag was taken out of the casket and waved thrice. Their band of warriors grew in size miraculously and vanquished the enemy clan.
The second time was at the time of dreaded cattle and sheep plague and as all the MacLeod livestock lay dying. The flag was waved and the fairies rode up and gently touched the dead animals with their swords and they came back to life healthy. The flag has not been used since and you can still see it in the castle Dunvegan if you were to go there today.