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‘Spiorad’; Gaelic for Spirit!

Dedicated to ‘Star’

I was so sad to hear of the passing of ‘Star the lynx’ today from the Five Sisters Zoo- the most stunning creature I have ever set eyes on.

As a young art student at Edinburgh College of Art one of my most fondest memories were my free day passes as a first year student to Edinburgh Zoo- spending endless hours drawing animals in their gardens or sitting five feet from a Gorilla between a single pain of glass with my drawing board and pencils.

But on a visit with my children a few summers ago to the Five Sisters Zoo- I was captivated by one new animal I had never seen in real life before.

The most graceful creature I have ever met.

So beguiling that she became the inspiration for one of my Young Adult fantasy books ‘The Game Keepers’ and one of my leading characters ‘Spiorad’.

For those of you who visited ‘Star’ or have never had the pleasure of seeing such a stunning creature as the great Lynx this is my tribute to one of most stunning creatures that once roamed the Highlands of Scotland.

Extract from ‘The Game Keepers’ Chapter 3 ‘A’Geamairean’

............Without realising I soon nodded off to sleep and
some time later awoke to a fireplace full of cinders and
ashes and the noise of Polly whimpering at the kitchen
        I noticed from the old clock on the fireplace that
it was close to midnight and opened the door to let Polly
outside, only to hear the same eagles call echoing from the
standing stones. As I stood in the doorway and before I
could reach for Polly’s collar, she began scampering down
the hill in the direction of the stream. Instantly I
grabbed her dog’s leash slipped on my football boots and
threw mums old Mackintosh jacket on, carefully closing the
cottage door behind me before I began sprinting down the
hill after her.
        Amongst the darkness I followed the light from the
full moon down and across the shallow stream, carefully
treading over the large boulders and outcrops of stone.
Luckily Polly became startled and stopped frozen in her
tracks on the other side of the stream. As I reached the
clearing before the standing stones both of us stopped and 
stared as the hypnotic purple haze emerging from the field,
captivating us and beckoning us to come closer. But this
time it wasn’t just the sound of an Eagles call we could
hear but an orchestration of different creatures and beasts
bellowing, howling and whistling in unison like a tribal
         As I approached the clearing of the standing
stones I could feel myself being drawn into the centre of
the circle while Polly started barking fiercely at the
largest standing stone. I looked up from the centre of the
stone circle to the sky just as the full moon and sun
crossed each others path. Instantly I felt the earth below
rumble and shake as the standing stones began to dislodge
from their roots and a frantic haze of colours began to
circle around us as if I we were in the centre of a
tornado. One at a time each of the stones gradually
transformed from solid outlines to giant hazy autumnal
silhouettes. Confused and disorientated I fell to my knees
pressing my eyes closed. Terrified and fearful that the
world was about to end I franticly held on to Polly with
all my might.
        A few minutes passed which seemed like an eternity,
when eventually I built up the courage to slowly open my
eyes. As I stared at the ground everything suddenly stopped
spinning and slowly changed from darkness to daylight with
the warmth of a bright summer’s day slowly piercing the
back of my neck. A few seconds later I could feel the
shadow and breathe of someone hovering above me and then
the sound of a large rebounding female voice:
              ‘Welcome we are the Gamekeepers!’
        I took a seconds glance around me realising that
the six standing stones had disappeared and in its place
stood five giant silhouettes. For the first time in my life
I was speechless. I stood transfixed to the spot as I
realised that I was in the presence of one of Natures most
stunning creatures. I stared up at the poised oversized
Scottish Lynx towering above me at six metres tall with her
distinctive sharp triangular ears tipped with long sharp
fine tufts of hair extended like fine pointed peacock
feathers that reminded me of a regal female Chieftain. Her
short reddish brown topcoat and white silky undercoat that
extended from her stomach to her neckline were accentuated
by her exotic ruff facial whiskers which were like a sharp
pointed white beard shaven at the chin. Her beguiling
stillness and stature supported her reputation as one of
the largest predators after the brown bear and wolf. A
Wildcat my grandad spoke of often for its stealth, speed,
and ability to jump seven metres in one leap due to its the
athleticism with a short torso, long legs, short bobbed
tail and large furred feet with sharp strong hooked claws.
        Once again, in a loud powerful voice she
      ‘Welcome we are the warriors & protectors of the
Highlands I believe you are the one we have all been
waiting for!’