Jeopardy! category: CAVES (20-5-2015)
$2000 clue: The waves in Fingal’s Cave in these inner Scottish islands inspired Felix Mendelssohn to write an overture
The gist: Typical Romantic. In 1829 at the age of twenty, Mendelssohn, already an accomplished composer and musician, visited England and Scotland, including the Scottish islands known as the Inner Hebrides. While visiting Fingal’s Cave, he was inspired, like many Romantics, by the sounds of nature there. The cave has a naturally arched roof which amplifies and echoes the sounds produced by the waves, and its acoustic properties are immortalized in its Gaelic name, which translates to “the melodious cave.” He wrote the opening to what would become his overture The Hebrides on a postcard and sent it to his sister in Germany, completing the original work in 1830 and expanding it in 1832. It’s not become an orchestral standard.
The Inner Hebrides are an archipelago on the west coast of Scotland, closer to the mainland than their sisters, the Outer Hebrides. The two groups are separated by the Little Minch Strait (and the regular Minch strait separates the northern Outers from the rest of Scotland). The largest of the Inner Hebrides is Skye, which has a population of about 10,000, more than half of all of the islands combined. Over their inhabited history, they’ve housed, like the whole of the British Isles, many different groups, from the indigenous Picts to the Dark Age kingdom of Dal Riata to the Norse conquerors in the ninth century. The 13th century would see the islands ruled by the Scots, with the most powerful Hebridean clan being Clan MacLeod. Today, the islands are known for their lush grasslands and striking seaside landscapes, the use of Gaelic as an everyday spoken language, and for their tradition of whisky-making.
The clue: As far as a clue about the Hebrides goes, this is as easy as they get, going right out and saying both Scotland (as opposed to, say, the U.K.) and the word “inner,” a huge clue. Still, they’re pretty obscure islands overall, so knowing that they exist in the first place is not a given. A fine $2000 clue, and the added bit of culture was a nice touch as well.
In Jeopardy!: The Hebrides are in 24 clues in the J!Archive. The Outers beat the Inners, but only 11-6, so a good chunk of the clues aren’t concerned with which half. Naturally, Scotland is mentioned in most of them. Mendelssohn gets a respectable six, while the Minch Straight is in four. There’s also the “New Hebrides,” the former name of the current nation of Vanuatu (capital: Port Vila), but that’s in just two clues. Most of the time, you’ll get either Scotland or Outer/Inner. Just don’t get them confused with the Shetland Islands, another Scottish archipelago that’s the northernmost part of the British Isles and known for its little horses.