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Foula landslides


Foula lightning strikes

There are two parallel scars in the peat on the face of the hill below the Ouvrafandal Loch, about 50 yards north of Quivrigill and at about 400 feet asl. The scars are about 3 yards wide, 30 to 40 yards long and about two feet deep. The rock is exposed within the scars, though much is now overgrown. I was told by several people that these were caused by lightening strikes.

A ridge of small knowes stretching from north of the Burns croft up to Skiordar is known as Da Riven Knowes as they were hit and torn by lightening. This is an area of deep wet peat and no trace of scaring remains.

I was also told by Tom Umphray of Gravins that lightening had struck and torn the ground on Durga Ness. Which brings me to the paragraph below. This was written in his diary by Einar Seim, after visiting Foula in 1934. Durga Ness is the Dorganes of his tale.

“A thunderbolt.
One can learn of many things when one moves among the people in this way and gets well known. From the old folk at _ _ _ I got a thunderbolt which had dropped from the sky in a severe thunderstorm and hit Kodlifjell as it fell. Such a stone is a great treasure. That I knew before, but a still better realization of the fact came to me through this specimen of the _ _ _ folk. For one thing, thunder never strikes down on a house where they have such a thunderbolt (it is the thunderbolt that strikes down – not the lightning, according to the old folk). But it is a safeguard against many and many a thing also – against the Kraken and the sea-serpent, against trolldom and devilry and I know not all. They had two such thunderbolts at _ _ _. I got the finest. How I could have been so shameless …………………… have the one themselves – for the safety of house and home and people and animals. To console me for the thunderbolt I didn’t get she gave me two pairs of spectacles – they must be 250 years old she said. A still finer thunderbolt than that I got from _ _ _ I saw afterwards in another house in Fula. That, however, I never once dared to ask for : the man who owned this treasure had it carefully rolled up in silk paper and well knew what a valuable thing it was. He had found it on Dorganes, the thunder had once struck down there.”

Are his ‘thunderbolts’ meteorites? I remember one rolled around the Ham ayre when I was young. I asked my father what this strange dark round heavy stone could be and he said it was a meteorite. As he was a research physicist at Oxford University and interested in astronomy, I presume he knew what he was talking about, though I still remember my boyhood astonishment at how casual he was about the stone – as if it was an everyday object.

JGH 19/04/05