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

Farr Conversations.

This is the sort of post you would really like to write in situ trying to capture the buzz of the evening but needs must and it was a long trek home but so worth the effort. By the time I was on the road on Friday all seemed well. Big improvement on the head front, tooth healing up nicely so with Dougal for company it was over the Hill in an easterly direction. Coming up to Craig the scenery was a good excuse to stop and take a wee shot.

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Obviously beautiful but peaceful as well with few cars passing. Dougal a little reluctant to get back in but I knew he had not long to go before his regular stop at Rogie Falls.

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He enjoys the new smells along the paths but does not like the bridge so have never made it across the Falls yet with him.

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He was happy enough to go up the river with me. Then it was to the vets where he was put on a light steroid for an irritated foreleg and also purchased an organic tick tablet lasting three months. Should have had him on a lead as he made an escape before getting up on the table. Rest of the day involved a bit of shopping and dropping off an outboard before meeting up with Alison and her dad, Raymond, a meal and out to Farr.

This was the main event of the day, the rest is just a west coast way of justifying a trip east by cramming in as much as you can. After another Dougal walk round the shinty pitch it was into the Hall with the other 300 and settle into an evening of music and chat.

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Lurach had the evening off to a fine start, well after the coffee and cakes which seems are a tradition at Farr. Fiddles and Whistles before Julie Fowlis and her man, Eamon, came on stage for an enthralling spell of Gaelic song from the Strathdearn and Strathnairn area.

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Interesting how she over rode her strong feelings to sing her native island songs and turned the evening to a project and research of songs of these parts. The voice and accompaniment have been reviewed by many people but suffice to say you could not hear a pin drop as the songs became part of you. The connection to the land is so powerful as is the sea and hearing this through music is the ultimate. The land is ours.

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Then it was Lesley’s turn and although I have now heard her speak on a few other occasions there is always another aspect to travel along. The land reform package proposed as well as the Community Empowerment legislation is not the most radical moves in the west, but the reaction to it tells a story. painting Sturgeon as a communist is laughable and it is more interesting to hear the story from Durness. There they have been told that there will be no “development” and the good reaction to that is a proposal to take control themselves. That is the people who are living on the land, not the new owner based in Liechtenstein. The psychology of land, land ownership and land is so hard to break into. The fact that some one distant owns land for decades or centuries does not give him/her the right to carry on in perpetuity especially when you wander across the Highland and you see land degraded in the extreme. You also know that this has only taken place in the last two centuries. A chat with Jim Hunter at Ullapool comes to mind when he told us that he is doing yet another study on Strathnaver, this time about the abundance of wildlife that coexisted with the then human population in the Glen. It shows up this new “wilding ” map where there should be a wilderness. If you superimposed another map on top of it, that is the pre Highland Clearance map of where folk lived, you find that this is a well populated area of rivers and glens. Where as Lesley pointed out if you walk along a certain river in Caithness you will be guaranteed to meet a water bailiff within minutes.

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The theme of “it is our land” was referred to time and time again and it is. Ours in the sense it no ones and every ones. Reminds me also of how far off track we have travelled and how careful new legislation has to be. Although LVT is not on the table at the moment it is an aim for many who see this as a means to stop land speculation. Side note why should land be so expensive? Why should the younger generation be excluded from owning a house through the unavailability or affordability of land? Going back to LVT, speaking to good friend on the Black Isle who could be caught in an unintended consequence of LVT. The aim of this tax would be to lower the cost of land, laudable in itself and allows more younger people access, but if you are running an agricultural business funded by loans backed by land as collateral, what happens when the value of that land comes down and the bank gets worried about the collateral behind the loan? I think I will stay local as I see too many greys in the picture, admire the people who see their convictions in black and white. Applecross got a mention at Farr and there is so much out there it is portrayed as an example of an outdated, unsustainable way of managing a huge land mass. No amount of PR can change that and going by conversations here and outside there is a stronger sense of capacity and well being at last emerging through the rural parts of the country. The drive home after an evening like that, although two hours plus, passed in no time despite the numerous “wild animals” crossing the road.

 

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