The name John Lorne Campbell provokes reminiscences in all sorts of people. Donald Macinnes, chief executive of Scotland Europa, mentioned the book at the members’ meeting in Glasgow and one of the participants approached me at lunchtime.He was active in the Islands Book Trust and knew of John not only through his own books, but the works of others he published or rescued. These included the work of Fr Allan Macdonald of Eriskay, the Coddy’s stories from Barra, the life story of farm worker Angus MacLellan, originally from South Uist, and the memoirs of an English schoolmaster, catapulted from the Midlands to the very different world of the Hebrides in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the books John first published at his own expense have been republished by Birlinn, my own publisher.

Donald himself gets an acknowledgement in the book as one of my guides in Gaelic. Being born on the island of Scarp, he speaks perfect Harris Gaelic. I don’t speak the language at all, but Donald says that would still put me ahead of most Lewismen.