Tha mòr-sgeul air cùl ainm-àite inntinneach ann an Loch Abar / A sadly fulfilled prophecy lies behind a fishy place-name in Lochaber …
Bàs Gormshuil agus Allt a’ Bhradain
’S dòcha gu bheil e na iongnadh do chuid nach eil am bradan (no am breac mar a chanas cuid) a’ nochdadh nas trice air mapaichean na dùthcha. Tha Eas nam Bradan ann, aig ceann Loch Aineoirt anns an Eilean Sgitheanach, ceart gu leòr, ach chan eil a leithid de dh’ainm-àite pailt.
Tha eisimpleir inntinneach aig ceann an iar-dheas Loch Lòchaidh, anns a’ Ghleann Mhòr, far a bheil Allt a’ Bhradain. Tha an t-ainm a’ tighinn à tachartas sònraichte a bha uaireigin ainmeil ann an Loch Abar, anns an robh a’ bhana-bhuidseach, Gormshuil na Maighe, an sàs. Bha i a’ fuireach sa Mhaigh, deas air Loch Lòchaidh.
Bha i na Camshronach tro phòsadh agus a sinnsearachd, agus bha i mar sin dìleas don cheann-chinnidh, Camshron Loch Iall, a bha a’ fuireach ann an Achadh na Cairidh, eadar Loch Lòchaidh agus Loch Airceig. Turas a bha seo, shàbhail i beatha a’ chinn-chinnidh le bhith ag innse dha mu fhoill na aghaidh aig Iarla Athall, agus an dithis cheannardan gu bhith a’ coinneachadh ri chèile ann am Bàideanach. Bha an Camshronach taingeil airson na comhairle, agus air an rathad dhachaigh, chaidh e a thadhal air Gormshuil. ‘A dh’aindeoin ur faclan coibhneis,’ thuirt i ris, ‘crochaidh sibh mo mhac latha air choreigin.’
Ist,’ thuirt an ceann-cinnidh, ‘chan eil agad ach tighinn thugam agus – eadhon ged a bhiodh do mhac airidh air crochadh – nì mi cinnteach gum bi e air a shàbhaladh.’
Ùine an dèidh sin, bha mac Gormshuil anns a’ mhonadh le dithis charaidean nuair a chaidh na gillean eile a-mach air a chèile. Mharbh fear dhiubh am fear eile. B’ e am murtair an t-aon mhac aig banntrach bhochd. Dh’iarr Gormshuil air a’ ghille aice fhèin a ràdh gum b’ esan am murtair, agus gun leigeadh ise mu sgaoil e, le bhith a’ bruidhinn ri Loch Iall. Chaidh an gille mar sin gu Achadh na Cairidh, dh’aidich e a ‘chiont’, agus chaidh a thilgeil don toll-dubh.
Chaidh Gormshuil an uair sin a bhruidhinn ris a’ cheann-chinnidh ach, mu mhìle gu leth goirid air an taigh mhòr, chunnaic i bradan ann an linne ann an allt. Chaidh i air a glùinean airson am bradan a ghlacadh le a làmhan. Aig an dearbh mhòmaid sin, chaidh maoim-uisge sìos an t-allt gun rabhadh, chaidh Gormshuil a sguabadh a-mach a Loch Lòchaidh agus chaidh a bàthadh. Agus, mar a bhiodh dùil, chaidh an gille aice a chrochadh, dìreach mar a thuirt i. Bhon latha sin, tha Allt a’ Bhradain air a bhith air an allt sin mar ainm.
The Burn of the Fateful Salmon
It probably surprises many people that the salmon – king of our beautiful rivers – is not more commonly named on our landscape. The Gaelic for the fish is bradan (dialectally breac), but it is not highly prominent on our maps. An example is Eas nam Bradan ‘the waterfall of the salmon’ at the head of Loch Ainort on Skye. Presumably, it is named for salmon making their way up the waterfall in their time-honoured fashion.
There is another example of a salmon toponym at the south-western end of Loch Lochy in the Great Glen – Allt a’ Bhradain ‘the burn of the salmon’ – but in this case, the name is reputed, not to come from observations of the fish, but from a famous incident which saw the demise of one of the great witches who lived in Lochaber – Gormshuil Mhòr na Maighe ‘Great Gormshuil of Moy’. Her name Gormshuil (pronounced approximately ‘GOR-OM-ul’ ) means ‘blue eye(s)’. She lived at Moy, which is now on the banks of the Caledonian Canal, south of Loch Lochy.
Gormshuil was in the Cameron clan and so pledged allegiance to the clan chief, Cameron of Lochiel, who lived at Achnacarry, a few miles away, between Loch Lochy and Lock Arkaig. On one occasion, possessing the second-sight, she saved the clan chief’s life by warning him of planned treachery by the Earl of Atholl at a meeting between the two men. On his way home, the Cameron called to her house to thank her. ‘Despite your kind words,’ said Gormshuil, ‘you will one day hang my son.’ The clan chief protested he would do no such thing, that she only had to speak to him, and he would forgive the son his misdemeanour, however serious.
Some time later, Gormshuil’s son was on the hill with two friends when this pair got into an argument, one of them killing the other. The guilty party was the only son of a poor widow. Gormshuil asked her own son to take the blame for the death, and she would have him released by going to Cameron of Lochiel. The lad went to Achnacarry, said he was the murderer, and was thrown in the dungeon.
Gormshuil then headed to the chief’s house to plead for her son’s life. Fatefully, when about to cross a burn a mile and a half from Achnacarry House, she spied a salmon in a pool. Being a fine food forager, this was too good a chance to miss and she stopped to guddle the fish. As she did so, a sudden torrent came down the burn without warning, and washed Gormshuil into Loch Lochy where she drowned. And, of course, her son was hanged by Lochiel just as she had predicted (sadly she had not foreseen the flash flood!) From that day, the burn has been called Allt a’ Bhradain. At least, that’s the story …