The Truth about St Kilda is a unique record of the isolated way of life on St Kilda in the early part of the twentieth century, based on seven handwritten notebooks written by the Rev. Donald Gillies, containing reminiscences of his childhood on the island of Hirta. It provides a first-hand account of the living conditions, social structure and economy of the community in the early 1900s, before the evacuation of the remaining residents in 1930.
Based on a childhood in Harris – wonderful story-telling from the well-known broadcaster, Finlay J MacDonald.
In this well-illustrated booklet, Donald John Macleod brings together his own personal memories of life on the island, together with a series of anecdotes and contributions which vividly illustrate what it was like to be a resident of Scarp during the last century. It will be of absorbing interest to all who have visited this now depopulated island, or have gazed wistfully across the narrow sound of water near Husinish, Harris, to the clearly visible buildings on a green strip of land which once formed a living community.
Sea Room describes – and relives – a love affair with three tiny islands in the Hebrides which the author has owned for the last twenty years. The Shiants (the name means the holy or enchanted islands) are a wild and dramatic place, with 500 foot high cliffs of black columnar basalt, surrounded by tide rips, filled in the summer with hundreds of thousands of seabirds and with a long and haunting history of hermits, shipwreckers, famine and eviction. Adam Nicolson’s father, Nigel, bought them as an Oxford undergraduate in 1937 for £1,400 and gave them to his son on his 21st birthday. They became the most important thing in his life, not only an escape but as the source of a deep engagement with the natural world in some of its most beautiful, alarming and all-encompassing forms.
Calum Ferguson employs an unusual narrative technique, drawing on his mother Màiread’s reminiscences, and presenting her experiences and conversation in the first person. Màiread herself was most at home speaking Gaelic, though she never learned to read or write in that language, but only in English, the compulsory language at school.
This is a fascinating account of a culture in transition; it records and preserves for twenty-first-century readers traditions and ways of life which have now gone for ever. In the early years of the twentieth century many crofting families in Lewis lived in great poverty. This book describes that life: the limited diet, the seasonal round of work, the hardship, but also the richness of the culture, the storytelling, music-making, dancing, and the sincere religious faith that sustained the islanders through their trials.
An eye witness account of mid 19th century life on the Island of Lewis by the Factor to Sir James Matheson.
The Guga Hunters tells the story of the men who voyage to Sulasgeir each year and the district they hail from, bringing out the full colour of their lives, the humour and drama of their exploits. They speak of the laughter that seasons their time together on Sulasgeir, of the risks and dangers they have faced. It also provides a fascinating insight into the social history of Ness, the culture and way-of-life that lies behind the world of the Guga Hunters, the timeless nature of the hunt, and reveals the hunt’s connections to the traditions of other North Atlantic countries. Told in his district’s poetry and prose, English and – occasionally – Gaelic, Donald S. Murray shows how the spirit of a community is preserved in this most unique of exploits.
ISBN: 9781841586847 Imprint: Birlinn
Writing under the pseudonym ‘Aimsir Eachann’, the late Hector Macdonald scribed a brilliant weekly column that gave a voice to the Scottish Gael at the end of the 20th century.
Inspired by the great Irish writer Brian O’Nolan, who published novels under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien but wrote for the Irish Times as ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’, Aimsir Eachainn commented for more than fifteen years from North Lochs, creating an array of unforgettable characters, eccentric scenarios, magnificent satire and enraged comment, all of which were entwined with an effortless humour and grace.
Born in Ranish on the Isle of Lewis in 1945, Hector Macdonald worked for the Met Office for several years before beginning a career at the Stornoway Gazette in 1979. This was the first outlet for his weekly columns before he was poached by the West Highland Free Press. Under the tutelage of Brian Wilson he found a true home for a style of writing that could be described as thought provoking, sometimes irreverent, but nearly always funny. Over a period of more than fifteen years he wrote in the region of eight hundred columns for the West Highland Free Press under the guise of Aimsir Eachainn before his death in 1995.
ISBN: 9781841586304 Imprint: Birlinn
Positioned at the uppermost tip of Britain and facing the battling winds of the Atlantic, the Isle of Lewis has always had a strong identity of its own. A community defined by tradition for hundreds of years, the twentieth century presented huge challenges to its way of life, leaving it completely altered by the arrival of the millennium. Lewis in the Passing is a form of time-capsule, containing twenty-one autobiographical sketches of Lewis natives, all born before the Second World War. From crofter to musician, house-wife to clergyman, the selection spans the spectrum of Lewis society. Theirs are lives which have experienced these great changes, from economic disaster in the 1920s, to mass emigration in the 1930s, the ‘obscenity of battle’ during the Second World War, and afterwards the decline of the Gaelic language and the slow demise of crofting. All are interviewed by fellow islander Calum Ferguson, who presents his subjects’ stories and journeys, and understands how, in spite of the rainy climate and wind-blasted scenery, the island’s hidden magnetism continues to draw them all ‘back home’.
ISBN: 9781841585475 Imprint: Birlinn
Donald Macleod, who is professor at the Free Church College in Edinburgh, looks at the past and present. Written in the form of an exchange of letters between the author and a friend’s daughter, it will captivate all those who came to maturity in the Sixties, and act as a reminder of links between that time and the present, as well as recalling earlier characters and events familiar to many. Will be of interest also to religious historians and those reared in a religious ethos.
The main theme of the book is death – death of a father, of an identity, of a sense of self, of a language. In tandem with that, The Nessman is also about the agent of Colin’s personal destruction – alcohol.
Yet the book is not a depressing read. It is hilariously funny, brilliantly observed and written with an astonishing ear for dialogue and eye for character. Colin’s knowledge of himself as he spirals towards destruction is unsparing and unsentimental. The result is an extraordinary and moving portrayal of a people and a culture.
This is the first book in English of the people of Ness and it is one of the first novels in which a Gaelic writer has, with utter confidence, made English his own language too.
Calum MacLeod had lived on the northern point of Raasay since his birth in 1911. He tended the Rona lighthouse at the very tip of his little archipelago, until semi-automation in 1967 reduced his responsibilities. ‘So what he decided to do,’ says his last neighbour, Donald MacLeod, ‘was to build a road out of Arnish in his months off. With a road he hoped new generations of people would return to Arnish and all the north end of Raasay . . .’ And so, at the age of 56, Calum MacLeod, the last man left in northern Raasay, set about single-handedly constructing the ‘impossible’ road. It would become a romantic, quixotic venture, a kind of sculpture; an obsessive work of art so perfect in every gradient, culvert and supporting wall that its creation occupied almost twenty years of his life. In Calum’s Road, Roger Hutchinson recounts the extraordinary story of this remarkable man’s devotion to his visionary project.