There are many different stories of how the Fairy Flag came into the possession of the McLeods of Dunvegan. Otta F. Swire, in her book “Skye: The Islands and its Legends” shares one of them. According to lore, marriage between human and fae folk was not terribly unheard of during the early Middle Ages. And so, as befitting a strong clan chief, it was either the third or fourth McLeod chieftain who married an ethereally beautiful fairy maid.
As is common in human/fae marriages, one of the stipulations to their betrothal was that McLeod must promise to allow his beloved to return to her own folk at such time as they deemed appropriate to beckon her. And so it came to pass that the young couple was very happy, and very much in love. But, when their first child was born, the young fairy mother heard the fae pipers calling her home. She had no choice but to obey. Her husband was able to walk his bride part of the way, but they must say their goodbyes at Fairy Bridge.
After the two lovers parted, McLeod returned to Dunvegan Castle to begin preparations for the customary celebratory feast that accompanies the birth of every new heir.
The festivities were so merry that the guest of honor, the babe himself, was completely forgotten. His nurse had been enticed to join in the revelries and lost track of time. The bairn was therefore unattended when the wee thing wriggled of his coverings. Feeling the bite of the cold northerly air, the child began to cry. The merriment in the castle was so great that not one person heard his cry.
Not one human, that is. With the strength of love only a mother can possess, enhanced by her fairy senses, the fairy Queen of Dunvegan heard the cry of her child from all the way in Fairy Land. Though her hands may have been unseen, she reached out to cradle her young lad, and draped his cold body with the softest cloth of the fairies. A choir of otherworldly voices filled the chamber, singing a soft and most angelic lullaby. Soon the sweet child drifted gently back to sleep. The blanket draping the McLeod bairn’s wee body would be known forever as the Fairy Flag.
In both instances the Flag was not used until absolutely necessary. And, in both cases, when the McLeod Clan was on the verge of defeat, the wave of the Flag summoned legions of otherworldly soldiers to the battlefield. Needless to say, these battles ended in favor of the McLeods.
It was said that as recently as World War I, members of the McLeod Clan carried photographs of their beloved Fairy Flag on their person to give them nerve and luck in battle.