UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Second Sight

Well-spun tales of Gaelic spectres unfold in new film

By Patricia Clarke

Second Sight
Produced and directed by Alison McAlpine

It could be described as one of the “thin places” between this world and the next. The mists, the craggy hills, the lonely vistas. Scotland’s Isle of Skye seems a place where spirits might slip from one world to the other and show themselves to people who have the time to wait.

Today, the gift of “second sight,” or involuntary visions, is fading — like the last generation of Gaelic storytellers, like the island way of life itself. Second Sight is an elegy from Canadian poet and dramatist Alison McAlpine to that way of life and to its last survivors.

The stories told by her great-grandmother, who had the gift of “second sight,” inspired McAlpine’s film. On Skye, she meets Donald Angus MacLean, an 80-year-old preacher who introduces her to other elderly folk who tell of other-worldly visitations: a drowned child, a message of impending death, a ghost car looming out of the mists. (All are men; perhaps women have no leisure to commune with spirits.)

Why are so many people on Skye able to see things? Perhaps because they take the time. Perhaps because they grow up in a close community, without electricity or television, where the evening entertainment is gathering to tell stories. Some are more believable than others, depending on the reputation of the teller. Who could doubt Constable Ian Morrison, who claims on three occasions to have chased the ghost car?

The scenery is gorgeous, evoking a spirit-haunted land. It should inspire viewers to see it for themselves. But if you go, beware. On the one-lane road, on a misty evening, you too may meet that black ghost car.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image