Scots Roots

October 31, 2014, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , ,

Machair 2Machair, a Gaelic word which means fertile low lying grassy plain, is one of the rarest habitats in Europe occurring only on the western coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

In the Outer Hebrides, Machair habitats run along the western shores of Uist, Harris and Lewis.

It is formed by sand being regularly blown ashore by Atlantic gales.

Machair 1Over time the calcium rich sand and traditional crofting land practices have led to the development of fertile grassland habitats renowned for wildflowers, birds and insect life.

Machair habitats are threatened by changes to the way the land is managed – a reduction in the number of crofters means a reduction in the amount of grazing taking place – and by increased erosion due to rising sea levels.

Machair 3


Commonwealth War Graves – Ashaig Cemetery, Isle of Skye

Ashaig CemeteryThe Cunard White Star liner RMS Queen Mary left New York in September 1942 carrying 10,000 troops bound for the Firth of Clyde in Scotland.

On 2 October 1942, near the north west coast of Ireland she was joined by the escort ship HMS Curacoa, a 4,000 ton British light cruiser, for the final part of the journey to the Clyde. To make themselves less of a target for torpedoes from U-boats, both ships zig-zagged through the water. However, this course of action brought the two ships perilously close to each other.

Each captain thought the other was bound to take evasive action. Neither did.Ashaig Cemetery

The Queen Mary was huge compared to the Curacoa and ploughed straight through the middle of the smaller vessel, cutting it in two. The Curacoa sank within minutes along with most of its crew. The Queen Mary carried on to Gourock with some damage to its bow. Wartime regulations meant that she was not permitted to stop to help any survivors from the Curacoa because she would then have been vulnerable to U-boat attack.

Of the 440 crew of the Curacoa, 100 men survived . Most of the rest went down with the ship but in the following weeks bodies were washed up on various shores around the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides. Around 20 of these seamen were washed up on Elgol and Sleat on the Isle of Skye and were buried at Ashaig Cemetery near Broadford.

The wreck of the Curacoa, lying off the north west coast of Ireland, remains a war grave to this day.

Ashaig Cemetery


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