Tha iasgair iteach air a chuimhneachadh ann an Loch an Iasgair / Loch an Iasgair means ‘loch of the fisher’ but it’s not the human variety.
‘Iasgair’ nan Loch
Anns an dùthaich mhonadail, gharbh air cùl Pholl Iù, tha loch ann air a bheil Loch an Iasgair. Tuigidh gu leòr de dhaoine an t-ainm le bhith a’ beachdachadh air daoine le slatan is maghairean a bhios a’ falbh air thòir nam breac a tha pailt ann. Gu dearbh, bha an t-Suirbhidh Òrdanais dhen bheachd gum b’ e sin ciall an ainm nuair a tharraing iad ri chèile a’ chiad mhapa aca. Ge-tà, bha iad ceàrr, oir tha an t-uachdaran Osgood MacCoinnich ag innse dhuinn anns an leabhar aige A Hundred Years in the Highlands, gu bheil e a’ ciallachadh ‘Loch na h-Iolair-uisge’.
B’ e sin dùthaich nan iolairean (bha an iolaire-mhara ann cuideachd), oir tha an t-uabhas de lochan ann, agus bha am Fionn Loch, beagan deas air Loch an Iasgair, gu math ainmeil airson cho pailt agus cho mòr ’s a bha na bric ann. Anns an Dàmhair agus san t-Samhain, bhiodh muinntir an àite a’ glacadh bhreac le sleaghan anns na h-uillt air an oidhche, agus iad a’ dèanamh solas le leusan de ghiuthas-blàir. Sin cho lìonmhor ’s a bha na h-èisg!
Tha Osgood ag ràdh gur e ‘Ailean Iasgair’ a chante ris na h-eòin, agus gur e sin as coireach gur e Loch an Iasgair a th’ air mar ainm. Anns an leabhar, tha e ag innse dhuinn mu thachartas duilich (timcheall nan 1860s no 1870s), nuair a nochd dithis Shasannach à Suffolk ann an Taigh-seinnse Pholl Iù – am Morair Huntingfield agus companach aige. Nuair a chuala iad gu robh iolairean-uisge a’ neadachadh aig Loch an Iasgair, chaidh iad ann sa mhionaid. Lorg iad an nead, a bh’ air mullach staca cas aig an robh a bhonn san uisge. Shnàimh sgalag aca a-mach chun an àite, ghoid e an dà ugh às an nead agus shnàimh e air ais gu tìr, leis na h-uighean ann am bonaid air an do chùm e greim le fhiaclan. Aig an àm sin bha an iolair-uisge air a dhol à bith ann an Sasainn mu-thràth, agus cha robh fada aice ri dhol ann an Alba (thathar a’ smaoineachadh gun deach i à bith an seo ann an 1916). Gu fortanach tha sinn beò ann an linn nas fheàrr, agus tha an iolair-uisge air ais nar measg a-rithist. Ach co-dhiù tha i air tilleadh gu Loch an Iasgair, chan urrainn a ràdh.
The ‘Fisher’ of the Lochs
In the wild country to the north-east of Poolewe in Wester Ross, there is a body of water called Loch an Iasgair. Many people probably take a quick look at a Gaelic dictionary and translate it as ‘fisher’s loch’, reaching the same conclusion as the Ordnance Survey when they first mapped the area. If catching wild brown trout is not your thing, then the place might have minimal attraction. However, there is an interesting story behind the name, for it refers, not to anglers of the human kind, but to a famous bird for which fishing is its very means of existence – and what a paradise it would be for such a species, as the country is peppered with freshwater lochs. In particular, the nearby Fionn Loch was long recognised as having a very healthy population of large trout. The fish were so plentiful that locals at one time would spear them by bog-pine torchlight in the burns and rivers in the autumn.
The bird named in the loch is the osprey – known variously in Gaelic as iolair-iasgaich ‘fishing eagle’, iolair-uisge ‘water eagle’, iasgair-còirneach ‘hooded fisher’ and Ailean Iasgair ‘Allan the Fisher’. Loch an Iasgair is actually ‘the osprey’s loch’ – and we know this from Osgood Mackenzie’s account of the locality in his book A Hundred Years in the Highlands.
Mackenzie, who was an enthusiastic hunter of avian prey, relates an unfortunate story about the fate of ospreys living there in his day (probably around the 1860s – 1870s): ‘How well I remember the excitement over the arrival at Poolewe Inn of Lord Huntingfield and a Mr. Corrance – both, I think, from Suffolk – the first egg-collectors who ever came to this country. Hearing of the ospreys, they made at once for the loch, where the nest was built on top of a high stack of rock rising sheer out of the water. Their valet swam out and returned with the two eggs safely in his cap, which he held between his teeth’. The osprey was already extinct in England, and only had a few decades left in Scotland before it disappeared here also. Thankfully, we live today in more enlightened times, and this beautiful bird is back fishing in our lochs once more.