Sùil nam Bràthan

This sculpture symbolically returns quern stones which were taken from the Staffin crofters back to the location from where they were used as an essential part of past everyday life in the area; the home. Visitors will enter an enclosed space to reflect on a particular aspect of Staffin’s history.

The proposal has in part been inspired by sculptor Henry Castle's response to being shown the ruins of a particular cottar’s house in the cleared township of Herishader, not easily accessible to the public. The aim is to bring a significant structure and design from a very hidden part of Staffin to a very public site; one which will evoke the ghostly presence of the past.

There is the strong opportunity here for a community led build involving local people playing a practical role in realizing a memorial to their ancestors’ past, which will be of great educational value. This possibility has already been enthusiastically responded to.

Inspiration came from this former home near Cùil na Cnoc.

The structure will create a contemplative shelter in an exposed site, which is wholly sympathetic to the landscape. The exterior of the structure will resemble the ruin of a stone built black house as first seen at Herishader, but once entered there will be an unexpected element, which tells the story of the Staffin quern ban. The black interior, references the soot created by the open fire. The black interior walls will carry negative castings taken from the quern quarry at Rubha nam Bràthairean; each casting representing a township in Staffin. These castings symbolize the absence of the quern in the home, reinforcing the idea of the quern ban and the absence of the quern within the crofting community in the 1880s, which impacted on both their day to day life and on their culture.

Within the space will sit a stone plinth or table on which will sit a bronze plaque naming the townships of Staffin, and two bronze quern stone fragments; one fragment found beneath a house in Ealaiseadar, the other found at the house once owned by the author William Mackenzie, and discovered by a subsequent owner, whilst digging his garden in Bhaltos It gets a mention in Mackenzie’s book, ‘Old Skye Tales’.

‘There is a cave by the seashore in Valtos called Uamh nam Brath, where these were concealed. The writer has one which he found as acairs {anchors] on a black house , with upper stone, however, broken in two.’

These are significant artefacts as they appear to have been broken on purpose, perhaps as a symbolic act of the time. The Bhaltos quern is made from a very similar rock to that found at Rubha nam Brathairean.

Quern Fragments from Bhaltos and Ealaiseadar

The origins of the two fragments also connect to the chosen site, as Kilt Rock was used as an open air meeting place for the townships of Bhaltos and Ealaiseadar during the uprisings in the 1880s. Meetings had to take place outside so that no single family could be persecuted for holding such an event. The proposed structure symbolically gives back a safe shelter in what was a significant place in Staffin.


The interior walls and foundation would be cast in black concrete. The rubber moulds taken from Rubha nam Brathairean would be fitted into the shuttering, which forms the walls, creating the negative castings integral to the walls.

The exterior would be clad in local stone, to create the sympathetic form of a black house ruin. Coping stones on top of the walls finish the transition between stone and concrete. The interior floor would be natural flag stone and the township plaque cast into bronze along with the bronze castings of the Bhaltos and Ealaiseadar quern fragments.