View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday 8 October

A brilliantly sunny and warm day, with the mercury at the dizzying heights of 18C / 64F at 4pm. Some high-level cloud is drifting over, but otherwise it was warm enough to sit outside for lunch. I had already put the garden chairs away, but I was more than happy to put them back again. 

Spent the afternoon transcribing more evidence from the Napier Commission in Orkney, and it contains some pretty harrowing stuff - unexpected perhaps. The island of Rousay, northwest of the archipelago's capital Kirkwall, was owned by a General Burroughs. He exercised his law-enshrined powers as landowners to such an extent that his tenants referred to his conduct as "wanton and inconsiderate inhumanity", only marginally diluted to "[being treated in an] utterly inconsiderate and unrighteous manner". The island's minister, Archibald Maccallum, spoke on behalf of most of the island's crofters, followed by an interrogation of others. James Leonard requested an assurance from the landowner that none of the evidence given by him or others would lead to 'consequences' - an assurance that General Burroughs refused to give point blank. In fact, he rebutted the request by saying that if anyone was not happy, they should just go away. The case, presented by Georgina Inkster, was a good demonstration of the general's high-handed attitude. Another exampled was quoted by James Leonard:

A woman [lived] in our island whom the proprietor visited, when she was on her death-bed. She had a small croft, and he would have to leave it, because he was going to give it to another person—a stranger. She said she would never leave it until she was put to a house from which no man could remove her. He said—What house is that?—and she said—' Where I will be buried;' and he struck his stick on the ground and said, ' Would you like to be buried here on this floor?'

Thursday 7 October

Today, I was pleased to meet with a well-known writer from the West Highlands, Roger Hutchinson, whose books include Calum's Road. This tells the tale of a man from Raasay, Calum Macleod, who single-handedly built a road to his village when Inverness-shire county council declined to do so. By the time the road was made, only Calum himself was left at Arnish, Raasay. Roger is attending a conference in Stornoway about the way forward to develop the economy of the Western Isles, which uses the model of the co-operative. Spent a couple of hours in Roger's company, alongside with a mainland-based facilitator, which made for a most enjoyable afternoon and evening.

Picture courtesy Flickr-user Raasayweb, who have released the image under a Creative Commons License.