“The Pool Where Finn Paddled and Darkened the Water”Liz Macrae Shaw
Although Liz was brought up in England, her mother was born and bred on the Isle of Skye and she was able to spend her summer holidays with her grandparents on the island. This gave her the opportunity to absorb Highland history, culture and music. Later when studying history at university she was shocked at the Anglocentric approach to British history. The Scots, Irish and Welsh were treated as bit players, nuisances and rebels. This left her determined to restore the balance.The inspiration for her writing comes from several sources – the history of the Highlands, including her own family history from Skye, plus the Hebridean treasure store of myth and story-telling. The ancient stories of Finn McCoul and the Fianna were kept alive for centuries by the travelling people. Fortunately they have been preserved thanks to the recordings made by Hamish Hamilton. The footprints of these tales survive in place names too. On Skye we have Fingal’s seat from where the hero surveyed huge herds of deer and the castle of Dun Sgaithaich where he learnt the arts of war from a witch. On the neighbouring island of Raasay the unusual summit of Dun Caan was created by the hero when he wanted a flat platform for dancing. Liz has incorporated some of these stories in her novel, ‘No Safe Anchorage’. The young Robert Louis Stevenson hears them while recovering from illness in the house of Janet MacKenzie on the island of Rona.