The new postscript should not be the end of the story

‘Alone in his attic study John Lorne Campbell made an astonishing discovery. Painstakingly going through old papers, he uncovered the family secret which had caused an unbridgeable emotional gap with his father and burdened his early years with heavy debt.’ Continue reading

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Men and Women of Rock

A chance meeting with Denise Walton at an Edinburgh farmer’s market calls to mind the man we have in common – James Hutton. Continue reading

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Public keep out!

The news that a millionaire absentee landlord is to close the island of Sanda to the public shows how little has changed in attitudes to land – and islands in particular – in the last 50 years.

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Kay Shaw’s incredible Pan Am Clipper journey

“Life for most of us may begin at forty, but let no-one worry if a few more years go by before the real excitement sets in.” With these words Margaret Fay Shaw’s sister Kay begins her account of an epic and adventurous journey to visit Canna in 1939.

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History repeats itself – with the potential for tragedy

It is nearly 40 years since John Lorne Campbell fought his battle against the small boat scheme. He realised then that the proposal to withdraw the CalMac ferry serving the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and his own island of Canna could spell the death to the islands as inhabited communities.

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John and Margaret’s first Christmas on Canna

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.

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Canna whisky tasting

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

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A return to Fiesole

A view of Florence from Fiesole

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.

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Re-writing the last chapter

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.

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Wartime waulking and Western Isles in glorious Technicolor

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.

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