IT IS almost two centuries since the renowned English artist William Daniell visited the island of Raasay, drawing the ruined Macleod stronghold Brochel Castle for one of his prints.

He revealed his sitting position by including himself in the sketch – alongside his servant and a dog.

Now the ornate sketching pencil he deployed has been found in the ground at the exact spot.

Its point was still sharp.


The brass encased instrument was made in India with a ceramic collar which depicts a Hindu bride. It is believed to have been commissioned by Daniell’s mistress.

Born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey in 1769, Daniell was orphaned by the age of 10 when his bricklayer-publican father died. He was raised by his uncle Thomas, himself a talented artist. When he was 14, the duo sailed to India via China, returning a decade later to publish successfully their prints of the two countries.

Daniell then embarked on his next great work, A Voyage Round the Coasts of Great Britain, from 1813-1823. The resulting eight-volume tome was a celebration of the rural coastline of Britain, with a collection of 308 aquatint engravings or prints. One was of Brochel Castle, on the north-eastern shore of the island, which lies between Skye and the mainland.

His pencil was found in May by the Skye-based chimney sweep Alex Hemming, who is an amateur archaeologist.

One of the first to see it was Andrew McMorrine, former principal teacher of art at Portree High School, who has studied Daniell and his work.

“Where the sheep had been lying, the earth and dust had been scraped away and Alex saw the tip of the pencil,” he said. “When he showed it to me we got out the print of Brochel and saw he had found it at the very spot where Daniell has himself drawing the castle with his servant and a dog there as well in the summer 1818.”

“If the sheep hadn’t disturbed it, it would have lain for another 200 years. It is still intact. Only the tip of it was showing. Thank goodness it was Alex who found it as he immediately recognised its significance to the Daniell story. Somebody else would have kicked it away.”

He said it dated to Daniell’s tour of India with his uncle. “In their journals there is a description of this pencil made by Indian craftsmen at the behest of his Indian lover, a Hindu woman.”

He said experts had confirmed it depicted a Hindu bride. “His lover is thought have given it to him as a farewell present, when he left to return to Britain. The finding of the pencil almost 200 years after Daniell last used it, completes what really is quite a poignant story,” he said.


Mr McMorrine said that permission had been given for him to display the pencil at the recent opening of the exhibition of etchings by him and his brother currently running at the Orbost Gallery by Dunvegan on Skye.

“There was great interest in it by from those who came to our opening.”

Canmore, the online catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage compiled and managed by Historic Environment Scotland, says that tradition holds that Brochel Castle was built by Raasay’s first Macleod chief, Calum (MacGilleChaluim) in the late 15th/early 16th century, and occupied until around 1671. It provided “a strategic base for a dynasty of reiving seadogs to control their mainland possessions and the Inner Sound.”

It continues that although Daniell’s view of 1818 depicts it as virtually intact, only footings survive of the tallest tower.

It is not clear where the pencil will end up, however there is speculation it may be bound for the library in Glasgow School of Art’s restored Mackintosh Building, where it would sit beneath one of Daniell’s works.