View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tuesday 17 April

The day started very wet, but dried up during the morning. The sun even came out around 2pm. Not warm by any means, although a bit warmer than of late with the thermometer at 8C. I have spent the day transcribing parts of the 1902 Crofters Commission Report, but will need to continue with another couple of pages before chapter 6, about education, is complete.

As I just said on Twitter, the residents of the Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna) appear to have discovered the art of microblogging. Rum is the largest island, measuring 8 miles by 8 miles, with mountains rearing up to 2800 feet above sealevel. It also hosts a place called Harris, population zero.

The edifice you see is a mausoleum, containing the remains of the last private owner of Rum, Lady Monica Bullough. She passed away in 1957, and was laid to rest beside her late husband, Sir George. The island was bequeathed to the nation. Scottish Natural Heritage have managed the island since, maintaining a herd of red deer there for the purposes of study. Recently, the village of Kinloch (where the ferry docks) has gone into community ownership. The community trust aims to increase the population from 30 to 80, apportioning crofts and building new homes. Rum lost its last indigenous people in 1826, when they were all cleared from Kinloch, Harris, Guirdil, Kilmory, Dibidil and Papadil. Lord Salisbury tried to harness Rum's prodigious rains (100 inches annually) with a dam below Ard Nev, but the dam was broken by - excess water.

My association with the Small Isles dates back to 1989, and I was a small contributor to the community buy-out of the isle of Eigg [above] in 1996/7. Although I haven't been back there since 2004 (apart from a visit to Rum in 2007), I keep a beady eye on proceedings - being quite pleased with what I see going on. The community buy-out of Eigg is something that the residents of Pairc, in Lewis, can only dream of. They have been bogged down in a legal quagmire, created by their unwilling landlord, which has delayed their buy-out by (at time of writing) 8 years.