A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

This is complicated and I am beginning to wonder if it is that important nowadays as the world has become so mobile and people move around so much to visit and live. A few comments have emerged over the past few weeks that made me think over a number of instances, some unpleasant and others pleasing. There are many interpretations of local and some can go back 3 or 4 generations. My family came over from Harris in the 1890s to the Crowlins, islands to the south of Toscaig. They came from Leac a Li ,a poor area of the island and they thought the Crowlins were a step up as they did not have a croft back “home”. Due to the generosity of the Toscaig inhabitants at the time they were able to establish themselves on the mainland during the first 20 years of the last century. My dad left Toscaig when he was married in the 50s and I was born and brought up in Inverness and Kyle. I came back to Toscaig in the 80s and been back almost 30 years even although I spent many holidays over here when at primary school. I have to say when the Kyle boys came over on The Golden Rule and beat everyone at 5-a-side football I was definitely from Kyle!! My point being am I a Hearach (Harris), or from Kyle , from Toscaig or does it really matter. When I hear the local argument it is usually at the end of a losing discussion and justifies the defeated, “oh well he/she is not local”. Rural areas in the west  have been depopulating for over 200 years,(3000 people used to live on the peninsula) and certainly here I think we are very close to danger point in being a working/viable community. I have been told that we are the smallest medical practice in terms of numbers on the mainland, our PO hours are constantly under threat, the shop has a constant battle in being a service to the community and being viable, the numbers living here mean that we struggle to provide care for the elderly. In the past there were larger family units that stepped in. Now elderly people who do not have this support system have to leave to receive the care they deserve within the community. Questions such as how many children at the school are local are no longer relevant. What is relevant is how many kids are at the school. At the last meeting both the Trust and the Community Company were in agreement that there needs to be more people living here. I am not going to mention the numbers because they will immediately be taken out of context and possibly frighten those of a more traditional bent.  Going back to the local question, I think it is what you do and not where you come from that makes you local. It is far harder to come into a community than be born in it and those that are already there have a duty to carry on the tradition of Highland Hospitality. Thank you for visiting/living in our beautiful land and in helping keeping or improving it. Without the help of those from outside Applecross we would already be dead in the water but with the people already here the future can be bright and actively encouraging new people to live here can give the area a fresh impetus. I think we desperately need more people to live here.

There was a post on Facebook that attracted my attention and it was an experiment an anthropologist carried out in Africa. He put a basket of fruit under a tree and told the children that who ever got to the basket first could have all the fruit. The children then all took each other by the hand  ran to the tree and shared the fruit. When asked why did one not take all the fruit the reply was why, if everyone else was unhappy in not getting any.This is summed up in the principle of Ubuntu and is ” I am because we are” and it reminded me the way the crofting system used to work here when the men of the village would gather the sheep together on the same day, shear or mark lambs at the fank and it would be so much easier everyone there doing everything. There was a sense of community that is lost now as there is on average only one working crofter in each village now who has sheep making it hard work to gather and shear. Although some of this “crofting community” was driven by sheer necessity and I am sure they had their scraps too it is something to aspire to where every one comes together to help every one. The one positive I love about being sort of local and that is spending time with an elder of the community, some one who has a wealth of stories and an irreverent humour, where time does not matter and you hear names you have forgotten as you only knew them as a boy on his holidays.

Tuesday saw me heading off to Srathcarron to meet up with a couple of fishermen from the south and an official of Marine Scotland. Unfortunately Kenny did not make it as there was a fatality at the stables, a biker losing control and leaving the road. The meeting in itself was not very productive but again Marine Scotland got the message that there is a group of fishermen wanting to conserve and bring back lost fisheries but we need help. I have this abiding desire to be among the first fishermen on the west coast to leave a fishery better than I found it. There is growing talk of the inevitable re introduction of the 3 mile limit as one of the ways to help us in our cause. We then can carry out our own conservation  ideas without the fear of them being towed away. Viv from Kishorn Seafood bar was saying exactly that tonight on telly.

Today was an Inverness trip and a Thai massage, badly overdue and gratefully received. Making sure I am MCA legal meant picking up a medical kit,ordering fire extinguishers and smoke alarms for the boat at Gaelforce and making sure there is food for Dougal’s return tomorrow. Some beautiful autumn scenes on the way after Achnasheen.

After a really chilled out afternoon in Sheildaig, not only the massage but a positive and relaxing chat about what is good about life and people, the colours coming over the Hill this evening were stunning.

By the time I arrived by the Inn and returned Judith’s “Flight mode” mobile phone there was a last hurrah of the sunset.

And finally just to note that Cuba arrived in style this week, in fact he did not want to leave.

Comments on: "The importance of being “Local”?" (2)

  1. Your comment about the old crofting ways struck a cord with me. I grew up on a large sheep farm in Sutherland in the 50s, and that is exactly how I rememberer life. My old man had a “puckle” of sheep, he worked for the factor but had his own wee crofty, He shepherded for 50 years in the same place. I remember as a wee laddie being in total awe of these big strong weather beaten men, lashing sweat as they cut the peats, or hand sheered the sheep, or gathered the corn harvest. They got through a 12 hour, sometimes 15 hour shift that would see most of today’s men in bed for weeks. They laughed and cracked jokes and ribbed and played pranks on each other, but the work was completed in good order and to the highest standards. And each received the help of the others according to his needs, no payment was ever given or expected. All you had to do was give of your labours and be fed and watered handsomely, with the finest and freshest of fare.
    There was an old crippled man who was known then as being “crupach” and having the “lumbago.” We would now understand as having arthritis in his hips. He told stories at dinner times and ceilidh’s that had every one silent and spell bound, he spoke of the old days and the harvest and the bad winters the struggle to survive, the peat cutting and the sheep dipping, and clipping. He spoke to of how the crofters and farmers were totally self sufficient and processed and stored their own food from the sky the land, the seas and rivers and their own fields, the butter churning, the crowdie making, the fish and meat salting, the women baking on open fires, he told of the craftsmen and blacksmiths and the roving cattle drovers, the fiddle players, the pipers and poets, even when he finished a story, these strong able men were sitting in silence listening for more of his fine careful words. I can still hear his clear strong lilting voice, I could listen to him forever. He often broke in to the Gaelic which was his first language but we all knew what he said. He worked unflinchingly from dawn to dusk, using his stick he made himself, as he went to and fro. He rolled the wool at the sheep clippings, he weeded the neeps with a hoe, he earthed the tatties the same way. He stacked the peats as the younger ones carted them home. He taught us all so much. He mended gates and fences, he would even re sole the shepherds strong leather boots. He rebuilt the fallen dykes. He got down on his knees when he had to and did what ever he could, he never stopped until the day he died at 94, his wife lived a few years on and she knitted socks and scarves and baked beautiful light as feather scones for anyone who passed her way until the day she also died. They were decent honest God fearing people the kind that you would feel privileged to know. I think of them often. I greatly admire people such as yourselves who strive to keep these communities together, so much has been lost over the years, good luck to and and God bless you.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      When I first started this blog, I spoke with a friend who was an author about why I was going to write. He give me a few pointers but you have given me another one. I enjoyed your comment immensely and it so happened I was in the company of friends down from Rogart this weekend who had left here because they could not get access to land, a family with 4 children. They are now working crofters and carrying on a good tradition. Although I have a croft I have not used as I should have being more involved with the sea and land, for me , is secondary but your comments brought lots of my memories back. Although my dad lived in a council house in Kyle we went “up the back” to cut peats. I don’t think it was a necessity but possibly keeping a connection to his past. Spending time with those folk is time well spent and thanks for your kind comments.

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