Fairy Flag

dunvegan.jpg
Dunvegan Castle

Scotland's most famous fairy legend is centred around the MacLeod Clan and the ancestral home of its chiefs, Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye.

The Fairy Flag, or "Bratach Sith" in Gaelic, is reputed to have magical properties which safeguard the MacLeods against their enemies.

For a supposedly magic flag it is disappointingly moth-eaten and drab in appearance, a mustardy brown square with patches of red, which is kept in reverence at Dunvegan to this day, although never, never, never waved in public.

With good reason. The legend states that the flag must only be unfurled if the clan is in the direst danger, in which case it will summon supernatural assistance to come and save the day.

farflag.jpg
A section of the moth eaten remains
today. The tatty bloody thing would
fall apart if it wiz ever flown

But, like all good free lunches, there's a catch. The flag, it is said, may only be used three times, with the further caveat that a terrible punishment would befall Skye if it were unfurled for any "trivial" reason.

To date, the flag has been brought out twice in desperation. On both occasions, in the Middle Ages, it certainly did the trick, first by helping the MacLeods to unlikely victory against their enemies the MacDonalds, despite being hopelessly outnumbered by at least 3 to 1 and then later by miraculously resurrecting to full, beefy health the entire MacLeod herd of cattle which was dying or had died of plague, so saving the clan from certain starvation.

Such is the enduring belief of the MacLeod clan in this talismanic rag that, during WW2, family and clan members who took part in the Battle of Britain allegedly carried photographs of the flag into the air with them. Guess what? They all survived.

The Chief of Clan MacLeod even offered to bring the flag south to England and wave it from the White Cliffs of Dover should the Germans attempt to invade. Churchill, thankfully, was never forced to unleash this secret weapon on Hitler and so, with one last magic trick still left to perform, who knows what kind of MacLeod-rescuing circumstances will see it unfurled again?

Ally MacLeod, the manager of the ill-fated Scotland Football team at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, probably wishes he'd had it with him. But that's another story.

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