From The Madeira Island Web Site

The legend of "Machim"
By Jorge Barbosa
Mar 2, 2000 - 10:07:21 PM

The legend of Machim and the possible first discoverers of the island of Madeira.

The legend goes that in the reign of King Edward III (1327 -1377) a young commoner Scotsman, Robert Machim, living in London besotted himself over a young gentlewoman, Ana de Arfet, from the English aristocracy.

King Edward III defended England from various Scottish Attacks.
Their love for each other became apparent to the parents of the young lady and it was hence forbade her to make any contact whatsoever with her disapproved young suitor. Indeed, the parents of the young gentle lady made quick preparations to court her with a more suitable candidate for husband from the English Royal Court. These arrangements met the approval and endorsement of the King of England himself, who had an eager interest in not having any one of his gentry mix into the hoardish Scottish blood from up north. King Edward spent much time battling the Scots and their leader King David II. The Scots were despised.

Robert Machim was never to see his dear Ana again. Their love had been strong for each other and their promises made to each other to never love another forced them to rupture themselves from the good society of London and possibly elope. In desperation Robert Machim mustered some of his friends up and kidnapped Ana to Bristol. Plans had been made for a voyage to France and a boat was made ready for their escape upon arrival in the port city. With a couple of the close adventurous friends they set sail at night - avoiding any undue attention that may reveal their true identities. They headed out towards their destination unawares of the immediate dangerous events to occur in the days ahead.

The discovery of the island

A couple of days of successful sailing had passed when suddenly they were thrown into a vicious storm over the Atlantic. They lost their course and with the constant blanket of clouds over their heads the young abductee and her lover were unable to determine their position on the oceans. The roaring seas leads Robert and Anna to stare into the face of death...The lack of the guiding stars, the provisions becoming more and more scarce, and the somewhat inexperience of the sailing crew lost out on the ocean led to panic and hopelessness. The young couple who fled the claws and clinches of the society that precluded their love now found themselves staring in terror into the ultimate thief of their happiness - the grim reaper, in the shape of roaring waves and flooded clouds flung across the firmament.

After several days of deep despair the young crew woke up one morning with the seas assuaged and a calm breeze wafting the torn sails of their boat towards the horizon. Soon in the distance they saw, to their utter disbelief, land ! A golden light shone around the skies and the island glimmered in greens and golds. The land they had encountered was the drier south eastern edge of the island we know today as Madeira. They approached the enclave where a small basalt pebbled beach rose out of the waters to stretch into the valley where rare forest woods and green foliage grew verdejante and lush along trickles of crystal clear streams. They maneuvered their boat ashore and upon touching the soil of the land rejoiced and rejubilated their rescue from despair by the mysterious island. Flocks of birds having never seen human beings flew about them freely and without fear of being caught. In the waters sea lions would submerge and pop up again to investigate closer the young group of sailors. Robert and Ana had through their escape from England set passage to the entering of a jeweled paradise that theretofore had never been imagined.

The group knew that although they were free from the storm and the pursuit of any family members for Ana or Robert that soon enough the paradise they had encountered would outlive its novelty and prove insubstantial to maintain a healthy existence for a long time. tranquil streams on the newly discovered island. They decided to break up into two groups, one to remain on the boat and repair the damaged sails and equipment. While the other group would investigate and search for food and collect fresh water. Robert and Ana joined the group on the excursion to find food. When Robert, Ana and their companions returned from their trip to find food and water did they discover to their disbelief and shock upon reviewing the bay area that their boat had disappeared. They soon realised what seemed to be the separation of the boat by natural forces from its moorage. The tide had carried the boat out with the group of unfortunate and unskilled seafarers aboard.

The legacy left behind.

The legend goes further to say that this party of men that found themselves helplessly lost out at sea would eventually find themselves washed ashore on the African coast of the moors.

There they were captured by Moorish pirates along the coast and enslaved, but not without their adventurous story and discovery of a green jeweled isle made heard public. First to their Moorish overlords, and then to representatives of the Portuguese court who rescued them from the moors in a battle.

Meanwhile the couple who were left stranded on the island lost hope of being rescued and the now melancholic and sad Ana de Arfet sank into deep despair. The grief of which she would not recover. Robert watched in deep sorrow as his beloved Ana waned away. Under unendurable pain at the loss of the fair Ana to the grave he still manged to carve a cross out made in cider wood upon her grave. He too died soon afterwards. The other surviving members of the stranded group on the island racked a cross out of cider wood and placed it upon the sepulture of the deceased Robert. Upon this cross they inscribed the word "MACHIM" and invoked the future reader to submit to consideration the building of a chapel or a church in the name of the lovers on the spot where they were laid to rest.

The remaining survivors of the island managed to built a raft from the excellent wood available on the island and set route out to the east and around the island. They eventually managed, very much like their colleagues before them, to arrive on African shores. Soon after being enslaved by their Moorish captors. While in capture the surviving group of sailors repeated their story to countless others, including a Spanish scribe who would escape back to Castille and reorate and publish the story of the mysterious and magnificent isle that lay westward to the Moorish coast. Thus the legend passed down through the realms of Spain and Portugal, eventually kindling enough interest for the Portuguese sailors and men to set sail and make discovery of the high seas and its mysteries.

Machico as it is today
When Gonçalves Zarco the Portuguese envoy on the discovery of the south seas along the African coast in the early 1400's found the island he was to eventually set foot at the very bay where the unfortunate lovers were to find their resting places. Upon finding their graves Zarco noticed the rough inscription of "Machi...". Zarco, by authority of the Portuguese court declared the bay the name as he saw it from the inscription in the cedar wood: Machico.

And such is the legend that lent the name of its principal protagonist to the now bustling small city of Machico in the south east of the island. Although the verdejante nature of Machico today is not as robust as the legend has claimed it still is blessed with an impressive flora population and plant diversity.

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