Island delights

The lights in the Universal Hall are down low so that we can easily see the slide show that greets us as we take our seats, eyes and smiles fixed on the screen as familiar images stir emotions.

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Traigh Bhan, looking towards Mull

In her usual style, our host Liza Hollingshead welcomes us warmly to celebrate, sort fact from fiction, and reminisce in this tenth Foundations of Findhorn evening. Tonight we hear about Traigh Bhan, the Foundation’s retreat house on the sacred isle of Iona, and our satellite community on the nearby island of Erraid. The familiar images on the screen evoke memories for anyone who has ever visited these wonderful places, and murmured conversations start as memories come flooding back…

Rosie Turnbull and Craig Gibsone, both long-term Findhorn community members, start us off with the story of how Traigh Bhan came into Foundation custodianship. It was owned as a summer home by Jessica Ferreira, although she had established it as a place of sanctuaryislands017 rather than simply a holiday home, and was keen for it to continue as such. She had an on-going relationship with Peter Caddy, Robert Ogilvie Crombie and others as part of a group of spiritual seekers, and was reading the early print runs of the book God Spoke To Me by Elixir, Eileen Caddy’s then pseudonym. Jessica wanted the inner work she had started on Iona continued by the young people of Findhorn and, in 1972, she gifted Traigh Bhan to the Foundation. The intention then, as now, was to provide a space for inner work – peace, quiet and spiritual replenishment – and planetary service.

As the Foundation celebrates it's 50th birthday this year, so we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of Traigh Bhan custodianship. You can find more information about Traigh Bhan, and how to visit, on our website here.

islands024Following extensive refurbishment through the 1980s, and the addition of the big front porch in 1993, today Traigh Bhan is a popular retreat house for Foundation staff and guests almost all year round, and the sanctuary is open to all visitors for meditation every Wednesday at 12 noon.

In 1977, five years after the Foundation acquired Traigh Bhan, the island of Erraid came into Foundation caretakership as well. A Dutch family had bought the island of Erraid and, aware that the Foundation had custodianship of Traigh Bhan, asked if we’d also like to caretake the island. In 1978, with pioneering spirit much like all subsequent residents, Angus Marland and a few others went to Erraid to live.

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Looking towards Iona with the lighthouse observatory in the foreground

“It’s not a place to put down deep roots, rather a place to learn and move on,” mused Angus and other past residents who had braved the elements and challenges of living on a small rustic island off the west coast of Scotland. But, unanimously, all spoke fondly of their time there, feeling blessed with how much the experience had contributed to their later life.

The sense of adventure that seems to pervade all who are attracted to live there is steeped in the island’s history. In 1866 the Northern Lighthouse Board proposed the building of a lighthouse where the notoriously treacherous Torran Rocks lie. islands038The contract to build was won by David and Thomas Stevenson, two members of the famous lighthouse keeping Stevenson dynasty responsible for the majority of lighthouses around the Scottish coast. The two men decided to use Erraid as the base for operations, quarrying granite and ferrying it to the construction site. They also built the cottages, outhouses and lighthouse observatory on the island.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the son of lighthouse builder Thomas Stevenson, visited the island and was inspired by the wild beauty and peace he found there. It is said it was during one trip to the island as a young man that he first wished for his dream of being a writer to come true. The ‘wishing stone’ on which he stood is now regularly visited by others hoping their wishes might also be granted.

Both his novella The Merry Men (1881) and chapter 14 of his epic adventure story Kidnapped (1886) are set on Erraid.

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The wishing stone 'in action'

Very rustic… very elemental… strong connection with nature… a place to learn and grow… building community… these seemed to be the common themes as past residents recalled their experiences of living on the island. Thirty years later little seems to have changed, the island still offering deeply satisfying times for all who visit. Long-term Foundation programmes include a week on Erraid, and it is also open to guests for retreat weeks most weeks of the year. You will find more information about the island of Erraid, and how to visit, on our website here.

Chris Brown

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