Using local plants for healing is a tradition that has never died out in Sutherland. Mary Beith, who lived in Melness, did much to preserve this knowledge. Her life-mission was to study traditional medical practices of the Highlands and Islands. She talked to communities who still knew ancient cures and treatments. She also researched old Gaelic texts. She shared her findings in the West Highland Free Press and on the radio and TV. Her work has lessons for us today. Organic remedies for some illnesses might be just outside our doors.
Mary Beith talks about the Gaelic medical tradition
According to legend, a man called Fearchar became one of the first Gaelic healers. A royal charter from 1379 seems to support this. It shows that King Robert II granted lands in Melness to ‘Ffercado medico nostro’ (Fearchar our physician). A Medical College founded there trained people in the healing properties of plants, seaweed and lichen. Today, no traces are left of this once famous institution.
You can hear more about Fearchar as part of our traditional medicine exhibit in Strathnaver Museum.