A Day In The Life Pt. IV

Apart from weaving, I do a bunch of other work to earn a wage, mostly to do with writing words for people. Which is pretty much a perfect paying pastime for me.

Broadband here is surprisingly good, I get 8mb speeds easily which is a huge relief as my previous abode in another part of the island was a super-slow 1.5mb which is barely enough to surf but impossible to download large files, stream film or music or do anything that most of UK takes for granted.

Some villages on the island struggle even to get those speeds, having to rely on a sort of wireless broadband which costs a lot and generally has a bad reputation. The importance of getting good broadband here should be the number one priority for any and all campaigns. Never mind wind farm and Sunday sailing debates, connecting to the rest of the world at decent speeds is vital if the islands are to have any chance of thriving in the future.

With good broadband you can do good work, young, creative folk can return home and set up shop, design, make music, do everything they can do in a city but from a far nicer place to live.

I digress. All this is for another post on another day…

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the desk, a huge plinth of beautiful wood on trestles in the window of the front room, a view overlooking fertile croft land and three big Highland Coos grazing dolefully. A nice shiny iMac sits there among fairly neat piles of random paperwork and a wall of books.

I write a couple of blogposts for the Harris Tweed Authority website and line them up to go live at set times. Some time is spent, as usual, exploring what waves Harris Tweed is making on various blogs and websites, Twitter and Google searches being plundered for anything of note. And anything that looks good is posted to the Harris Tweed folks’ social media, part of my monthly remit to keep their online presence active and interesting.

A few emails are batted back and forth with colleagues in Glasgow helping to organise this year’s Harris Tweed Ride event, enquiries from this blog are responded to, visits from documentary makers and a brand collaboration’s director booked into the diary for later on in the week. Since setting up here ne’er a week goes by without someone planning a visit to observe life in the back of beyond. I’m happy to share even though it does cut into weaving time, it’s great to have visitors and their enthusiasm always leaves me happy when they arrive and lingers after they leave.

I log time spent on various things in a notebook to keep track of hours to be billed to clients at the end of the month, usually erring on the conservative side, none of this feels like work but I have to top up the bank account despite enjoying the graft.

And then that’s it…working day done…

It’s around tea-time I think, I don’t have a watch these days and the only clock in the house is on the computer. Mac the Collie, my parents old dog who I’m looking after while they swan off sunbathing in warmer climes sits looking at me in his “I’m a good boy” pose, head cocked to one side, eyes implying he wants either walked or fed, preferably both and in that particular order.

The sun is much lower in the sky now, starting to crack the clouds which don’t look like releasing their rain so we head for Traigh Shanndaigh a long, wild, windswept beach just a five minute drive from here and probably my favourite place in world.


In the part pointed to the north is Lewis, along the coast quite frequently cultivated. It has four churches, one castle, seven largish rivers and twelve smaller ones in addition, all according to their size producing salmon: in very many places the sea penetrates the land and spreads into gulfs, all abundantly supplying herring. There is here great production of sheep, which wander freely on moors and in woods. They are each year driven into a narrow place or fold, and the inhabitants shear them in the old manner. A great part of the flat land consists of moors; in them the earth on top is black from the combination over many centuries of moss and rotting trees, to a depth of about a foot. This upper crust is cut into oblong, thin blocks, and dried in the sun. It is then collected to use for fire, and is burned in place of wood. In the following year the bare soil is manured with seaweed and sewn with barley. In this island such a large number of whales is often caught that sometimes (as older men relate) twenty seven, some very large and some smaller, have been offered to the priests as tithes. There is in this island a large cave, in which when the tide recedes water two fathoms deep remains; when it comes in, the depth is more than four. Sitting there on the rocks, a huge crowd of every class, sex and age indiscriminately take a great amount of fish by hook and line.



SY75 Pt.1

SY75 was the registration number of the boat “Island Home”.

It was bought by John “Booly” Maclennan aka Bays Of Harris, from John Mackenzie of Marvig and before that it was owned by Kenneth Macdonald (“Kenny Crofter”) father of Norman L Macdonald the owner of the SPAR Filling Station at the site of Mitchell’s old garage.

The “Island Home” shown above is alas no more. It was eventually sold on to a man in Valtos and she is now lies a wreck at Miavig in Uig, but the name continues on a small yacht and can be seen on the Stornoway Pontoons while the number SY75 lives on too, now gracing the boards of a lobster boat called the “Achieve” operated by the son of it’s previous owner.

It’s an important four digits to me and I’m happy to have tracked down the boat and the backstory.

More soon…


Spare a thought for our island cousins, the children of Iceland, who last night suffered a traumatising visit from Kertasníkir, or “Candle Beggar”, the thirteenth and final of the strange and somewhat sinister Icelandic Santas, or Yule lads, who are the children of the ogress Gryla. Most of them don’t seem to care if you’ve been bad or good – mainly they want to steal your food and wreck stuff.

The other Yule Lads:
Stekkjastaur - “Sheep-Cote Clod” – has peg legs, steals ewes milk.
Giljagaur – “Gully Gawk” – hides in gullies, steals cows milk.
Stúfur – “Stubby” – Steals scraps of food, also known as Pönnuskefill (“Panscraper”).
Þvörusleikir – “Spoonlicker” – Licks spoons.
Pottasleikir – “Pot Licker”, scrapes and licks pots.
Askasleikir – “Bowllicker” – hides under beds to steal food from bowls left on the floor.
- Hurðaskellir – “Door Slammer” – compulsively slams doors all night.
Skyrgámur – “Skyr Gobbler” – devourers vats of skyr.
Bjúgnakrækir – “Sausage Swiper” – devourers sausages.
Gluggagægir - “Window peeper” – He likes to watch.
Gáttaþefur – “Door sniffer” – Smells out your cookies and cakes and takes them.
Ketkrókur – “Meat hook” – Steals meat through the chimney with a hooked pole.


On the morning of the 5th of March 1885, the fishing fleets of Ness set off in calm weather. But by afternoon, 15 miles out to sea, they found themselves caught in a terrible gale and made for home. The Ness harbour, due to a low tide and heavy seas was inaccessible, and so while some boats made for Broadbay some 20 miles distant, two rounded the Butt of Lewis seeking shelter on the west coast. As these two Eoropie boats made for land and watched helplessly by the villagers who came out to help bring them in, they were grounded one after another and their crews taken by the waves.

Each boat lost their six men to the sea, all twelve from the village of Eoropie. The body of one man, Angus Morrison of 36 Eoropie, was washed ashore, the rest were never recovered. All, as men of Ness, were able sailors and experienced fishermen.

One of those men was my Great Great Grandfather Angus Campbell (Aonghas Thormoid Dh’ll Chaluim) of 24 Eoropie aged 42. Another was his nephew aged just 25, also Angus Campbell (Bràthair Mhòraig), who resided at the croft at 25 Eoropie and was cousin to my Great Grandfather.

The loss, still keenly felt in the village today, has been marked by a new memorial beside the burial cairn of Angus Morrison and last Saturday a wreath was laid by my Granny’s cousin Donald Smith following a capacity service at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis.

While a blog like this is no place to tell of such a tragedy, there may be some value in providing the details for others to find.

” Is fheudar do chàirdean dealachadh. “

You can find more detailed photographs of the memorial and images of the newspaper reports at the time below.

(Thanks to cousin Lex for the images and information.)


Thinking about building a new house on the island? Please read the following and avoid raising any more architectural carbuncles.

Outer Hebrides Design Guide.pdf



Population of Lewis in 1911: C. 30 000
Male population: C. 15 000
Number in active service: C. 6 000
Number killed between August 1914 and November 1918: C. 1 100
Number drowned HMY Iolaire 1919: C. 200



Currently reading The Secret Still about illicit whisky making in Scotland.

There’s also a good piece here about the history of Outer Hebridean whisky which is fascinating too.


Google Streetview


In the summer of 2009 Google Streetview car finally made it to the Isle of Lewis.

Despite no word of the vehicle being on the island until months afterwards I was positive I saw the damn thing roll by while I was camping out at the far end of Reef beach in Uig.

As it went live yesterday I thought I’d check out where I spotted it and lo and behold…

Here I am!

Funnier still was spotting Mom and Pops Croft loitering in their own garden with Charlie cat as the car rolled through Tong.