View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pictures 15 July

Your average road in North Uist

Near Baleshare

Scolpaig Tower

Church at Balranald

Berneray to Leverburgh ferry, MV Loch Portain

Northton, Harris

Beach at Scarista, Harris

Harry Patch RIP

Thanks to Jeannette for flagging this up.

Harry Patch, the last remaining British veteran of the First World War has passed away at the age of 111, a week after the death of Henry Allingham at 113. A chapter is closed, and only indirect accounts and photographs remain to remind us of the horrors of the trenches and the senseless slaughter of thousands. It is a strange coincidence that I am currently digitising the Roll of Honour of the Isle of Lewis, now two-thirds done. At least Harry Patch and his mates are all back together again, swapping yarns up there.

Salute to them all.

Saturday 25 July

The day dawned bright and cloudless, but cumulus humulis have appeared and are obscuring the sun. The wind has also started to put in an appearance in the last half hour or so. A shower is possible, according to the forecast, but it should also be fairly warm (by our standards), with a max of 20C / 68F.

This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's bard, Robert Burns. In celebration, a Homecoming event has been organised for Scots abroad to gather in Edinburgh today. It will include a gathering of clans and Highland games. If I'm brutally honest, this sort of thing sets my teeth on edge. The history of the Scottish clans is far from memorable, and the demise of their power in 1746 was a disaster waiting to happen. Moreover, having lived in an outpost of Scotland for nearly five years, I have found the entire notion of clans barely relevant nowadays. Although there are plenty of surnames starting with Mac in this part of the world, they are rarely associated with the clan they designate. Usually, the name was adopted by those living on their land.

The history of the Highland Clearances is one that tends to be conveniently forgotten, or glossed over to hail the achievements of Scots in the diaspora. Absolutely correct, great things were wrought by those kicked off their home patch. But why weren't they allowed to build their lives and make great works in places like Skye, Rum, the east coast of South Uist or Sutherland? It is as a result of the Clearances that this whole Homecoming lark has come about. And as it was done under the noses of some of the Clan chiefs, it is hardly something to be proud of.