John Lorne Campbell’s first year on Canna in 1938 ended well. He began work with Sir Alexander MacEwen on Act Now for the Highlands and Islands – a visionary pamphlet which called among other things for the creation of a development board, although one was not set up for 30 years.
When I was researching John’s story I came across unopened bottles of long-forgotten brands of whisky in his desk, relics of the SS Politician which foundered on Eriskay in 1941. Now, revising The Man Who Gave Away his Island for a new paperback edition, I am intrigued to find how often whisky works its way into the book. Perhaps that’s not surprising. As Addicted to Pleasure, Brian Cox’s diligently researched documentary records, Scottish history is saturated with uisge beatha, which no doubt accounts for the potent blend of fact and fantasy in so many stories. Continue reading
A view of Florence from Fiesole
The No 7 bus takes only 15 minutes to climb the hairpin bends from Florence to the hilltop town of Fiesole, but when you arrive you are in a different world. The heat and bustle of the city are left behind and although the market square is busy, the Via Vecchia Fiesolana, a narrow lane between high walls a few yards away, is quiet and cool.
Two years ago the final chapter was full of hope.
Happy news for me – The Man Who Gave Away His Island has nearly sold out in hardback and large format paperback and will reprint next year as a standard paperback – is tinged with sadness with the decision of Aart and Amanda to leave the island.
The resourceful Chris Holme of the History Company has unearthed a rare find in the British Council film archive of life in the Hebrides in the 1940s.
Very disappointing news from Canna that Graham and Olivia Uney are to leave the island after less than a year. Their blog, Leaving Canna, gives brief details. I don’t know enough about the facts to comment on their individual circumstances, but since this is the fifth family to leave in two years, surely the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island must ask itself some hard questions.
As I explained recently, my new book (Hubris: how HBOS wrecked the best bank in Britain) has nothing to do with Canna but John Lorne Campbell would forgive me borrowing space here – the FSA report on Peter Cummings has arrived before my brand new Hubris blog is ready to go live! – injustice was something he detested.
We watched the sun set on Rum as a wavering television set broke news of Lehman Brothers collapsing on the other side of the world. A mere two weeks earlier Alistair Darling had given his all-too prophetic interview with Decca Aitkenhead, predicting that the global crisis had a lot further to go. Continue reading
After an arduous journey by train and ferry, he arrived at Lochboisdale, at night to be met by the redoubtable Fr Allan McDonald, who set off at a brisk pace to walk the three miles to where Rea was to sleep for the night.
Island life was never for softies. I wrote previously about the conference exploring the negative impact the Education (Scotland) Act 1872 had on the teaching of Gaelic. But other legislation around that period had a more positive effect on the islands. The true story of the innovative young English headmaster on South Uist offers a fascinating example.
I’m grateful to John Humphries (no, not that John Humphries, but the publisher and editor of Scottish Islands Explorer) for drawing my attention to the conference to be held later this month on the impact of the Education (Scotland) Act 1872, which introduced compulsory schooling for children across Scotland, but excluded the teaching of Gaelic. Continue reading