Sunday, 22 November 2015
Stornoway on a Sunday is a quiet wee place. Our town, population 9,000, falls quiet on the Day of the Sabbath. Those so inclined go to church, at 11 am and at 6 pm. Those without transport and not able to walk the distance are taken to church by minibus, driven by volunteers. Otherwise, the public bus service does not operate at all. Until 2006, there was no ferry in Lewis or Harris; it was in that year that the Leverburgh to Berneray ferry commenced Sunday sailings. The Stornoway to Ullapool ferry began Sunday operations in 2009, with Tarbert to Skye commencing a few years ago. When you go for a walk around town on a Sunday, the streets will be deserted. The shopping precinct, which stretches along Cromwell Street and out to Bayhead, as well as along Point Street, Francis Street and North and South Beach, are shuttered and empty. Fishing boats sometimes do put to sea, or come in, but otherwise it's utter calm. Even the supermarkets are closed; the only shop open is a filling station which has a wee shop on the premises. In summer, tourists can be seen wandering the streets, looking for a restaurant or a pub to open. Restaurants open from late afternoon; pubs also open in the afternoon. The sports centre is closed, leading to acid comments that you can get drunk on the Sabbath, but not do anything healthy. Is anything likely to change? In the 11 years I've been here, there have been subtle changes, and more will come. Are shops likely to open on Sundays in the near future? I don't hope so. Not out of religious fervour, but just to have one day where everything is quiet. The ferry leaving port at 2.30pm, and returning at 9pm, does not bother anybody.