I’m not sure that the BBC’s attempt at ‘humour’ – or tongue-in-cheek anyway – in billing this film as a Halloween episode was entirely appropriate. Especially given that the main protagonist of the film, Donald Angus Maclean, died while making it.
Granted the story told by Donald was all about ghosts on Skye, but despite some levity – primarily though only proffered by filmmaker Alison McAlpine – there was little to laugh at in this quirky film.
But as interesting and fascinating as the ghost stories were, equally as captivating were the residents of Skye. But perhaps the subliminal direction – in the form of haunting music and ‘creepy’ mist rolling in – affected my opinion, it felt as though Skye was a hybrid of The Wicker Man and Deliverance.
An impression that I’m now sure is wrong; after all, the majority of the islanders are elderly people who, despite waxing lyrical on tales from the ‘other side’, would probably have been equally comfortable – and less spooky – if discussing the local bus service.
Their accents were thicker than the heather that lay in abundance but fortunately, for those of us not used to deciphering their Scandinavian-Celtic dialect, there were subtitles. But at the times when they weren’t offered, I found myself squinting at the telly – apparently I hear with my eyes – trying to figure out what was being said. Often I had options; for instance, the person speaking had either just said, “the host of montain was downed with her doubter” or, the more likely interpretation, “the ghost of the mountain was drowned with her daughter.”
Not a real quote there but you get the gist.
Donald was charming though and utterly likeable, but there were some seriously sad moments when he talked about his wife Nina and visited her grave. Donald was convinced of the existence of the ‘other side’, and I’m glad he was. He clearly drew comfort from the thought that he’d see his beloved Nina again, and whether he was right or wrong, if it made it even a tiny bit easier for him to bear his grief, it can’t have been a bad thing.
And certainly it was difficult not to be convinced when hearing the stories of ghost sightings from people so down to earth, they probably have soil running through their veins. Crofters, pastors, police officers – all had tales to tell of seeing ghost children, strange lights, headless women or the island’s most famous ghostie, a phantom car.
But it’s equally easy to imagine that if ghosts have any say in where they turn up, they’d most likely vote for Skye; it’s a place steeped in folklore, gloriously isolated and breathtakingly beautiful. And where you, as a ghost, aren’t likely to encounter someone casting you out or asking you to whistle or lob a stone.
The ghosts of Skye are guaranteed a welcome – or at least, they’ll be tolerated – and those who then recount the tales of seeing them will do the tale justice, speaking as they do with a matter-of-fact charm that can only add depth and intrigue to the narrative.
It’s a shame Donald didn’t live longer to continue collecting his stories, but on the other hand, as my Gran would’ve said, he “had a good innings” and at least he’s now resting with Nina. And who knows, perhaps his death hasn’t necessarily halted his existence on Skye.