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  Eynhallow - The Holy Isle

Folklore and tradition

Away from the archaeology, Eynhallow, had, and still has, an important place in the traditions and folklore of Orkney.

From the accounts of Jo Ben, allegedly written in 1529, through to the "vanishing tourists" in 1990, the island remains steeped in "magic".

Buffeted by wind and wave, the Eynhallow of Orcadian tradition was an otherworldly place of sea-monsters and magic, appearing and disappearing out of the shifting mists until mortal man finally claimed it.

But Jo Ben, in his Descriptio Insularum Orchadiarum, was keen to stress to his readers that he did not believe in such "fabulous traditions".

He wrote:

"It is of old times related that here, if the standing corn be cut down, after the setting of the sun, unexpectedly there is a flowing of blood from the stalks of the grain; also it is said that if a horse is fastened, after sun-down it will easily get loose and wander anywhere during the night."

"Here you may discern the futitious and fabulous traditions of these people."

Eynhallow, the island of the Finfolk, where no rat, cat or mouse could thrive. An isle captured from these preternatural beings by an Evie farmer out for revenge.

The Guidman o' Thorodale seized the island, one of Orkney's two legendary vanishing isles, after a Finman abducted his wife. Aided by his sons, Thorodale cut nine crosses in Eynhallow's soil and circled its shore three times, sowing nine rings of salt.

"And so the Finfolk's Hildaland was cleared of all enchantment and lay bare. Empty and clean to the sight of man and heaven. Then it was called Eynhallow - the Holy Isle - and a church was raised there."

On this otherworldly place, surely there was no better place for an ecclesiastical settlement - isolated by the raging roosts that spawned the Orcadian rhyme:

Eynhallow fair, Eynhallow free
Eynhallow sits in the middle o' the sea
A roaring roost on every side,
Eynhallow sits in the middle o' the tide.