Am Bratach Sith (The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan) is one of the clan MacLeod’s most treasured possessions. Probably from Syria or Rhodes and woven of silk in the 4th century AD, legend has it that this sacred clan banner has miraculous powers. When unfurled in battle, the clan would invariably snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The traditional tales about its origin can be split into two distinct themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact and often come about as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can be linked to the only scientific information we have about the Fairy Flag’s origin. When Sir Reginald MacLeod of MacLeod (27th Chief) had the Fairy Flag conserved and mounted in its sealed frame by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, he listened while Mr Wace (one of the V&A’s experts) set out his theory about its origins, including the historical evidence that the Norseman Harald Hardrada (one of the early ancestors of the Chiefs of MacLeod), while on an expedition to plunder the pilgrim routes of the Middle East had brought a famous banner back to Britain where he was killed in 1066. Reginald listened politely and then said: “Mr Wace, you may believe that, but I know that it was given to my ancestor by the fairies”, to which Mr Wace replied “Sir Reginald, I bow to your superior knowledge”.