Life at the end of the road

September 5, 2010

London calling

Filed under: daily doings, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:48 pm

I really don’t know what I’d have done if I’d had a daughter instead of a son 🙂 We have had the odd wee girlie staying with us at the end of the road and I have to say that most of them have taken to the the crofting life, or at least my particular take on it with great enthusiasm. However I can’t imagine a young Miss Camilli supplying me with an army of her pals that share my enthusiasm for ‘doing stuff’ that my boys pals do. Last night they were just starting to get a little unruly around 22:30 and just before I was about to become the ‘stern adult’ they went to bed and after a little giggling were asleep for 23:00 !!!! Must have been the promise of good weather and an exciting day ahead 🙂

After a brief spell of forecast overnight rain, Sunday dawned bright and clear and even my silent plonking away on here at 7:00am failed to keep them in bed. which was fine by me because it meant extra hands to feed and water the animals after which we tucked into a hearty breakfast to prepare ourselves for the days work and big adventure. The work being making up a frame and moving 120 lengths of pipe to a more sensible position on the croft than where I’d unloaded them from the Land Rover.

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Followed by selecting 10 for my mate at Torran, fixing this generator and delivering it back there.

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Though the pipe was going another half mile or so up the track to the inlet for his ‘Harris turbine’ a nifty 24v hydro generator that powers the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ at Torran.


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On a day like today it could hardly be described as ‘work’ and the ‘three amigo’s’ took turns at piloting the quads up the steep narrow path.

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Whilst Molly navigated from the front 🙂 That’s Loch Arnish 150m below and Dun Caan, Raasay’s very own volcanic plug away in the distance.

The Joe Strummer connection

Back home around 11:00 we had a second breakfast, not through hunger but because we were planning a visit to the house of Joe Strummer’s maternal grandmother at Umachan on the east side of Raasay. I knew nothing of the legendary co founder of the punk band Clash’s connection with Raasay until I read Roger Hutchinson’s excellent obituary to one of Raasay’s most memorable inhabitants, Chrissie Nicolson, who sadly passed away last December. Chrissie was related to John Graham Mellor, or Joe Strummer as he was more widely known and he had in fact planned to visit Raasay in the summer of 2003, sadly he died of an undiagnosed heart condition in December of 2002 at the age of 50.


However fellow band member and artist Paul Simonon plus Joe’s biographer Chris Salewicz did make the journey. And after reading Roger’s piece in the West Highland Free Press last year I’d always planned to go and visit myself. I was never a huge fan of The Clash but I certainly liked them and even took the time to see a tribute band at last years Wickerman festival as wifey was a big fan, incidentally they were excellent. What fascinated me was that Jane Mackenzie’s ( Joe’s grandmother) ancestors were stonemasons and moved to Raasay to help repair Raasay House after it was burnt down after the Jacobite  uprising of 1745. I wonder if any of the current stonemasons will stay on 🙂

Umachan was abandoned in the 1930s and whilst I’ve seen it from the sea on many occasions I’ve never actually been there, and by all accounts the path to it is all but gone these days. So we fuelled up the boat and set off around 11:30 just after low water.

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Map picture



Half an hour later we round the east side of Raasay just below Umachan and shortly afterwards we had the boat tied up to a small hazel tree just above the rocks below.

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What must have been a well trod path through the hazel, willow, aspen, birch and rowan had long gone and it was quite an effort through the wilderness of bracken, heather and brambles to the once thriving hamlet.

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Befitting of the stonemasons they were the Mackenzie’s dwelling is the largest and most intact of the many ruins there.

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Map picture


We instantly made our way inside to check out the chimney where Paul Siminon left the CDs but of course they’d long gone, but I’d say that anyway 🙂

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What was there however tightly wrapped in a polythene pocket was this lovely sketch by a Simon Goddard and a message from some of his relatives.

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There was also an envelope


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but it was empty 🙂 I have to say that I was quite moved, it’s a major effort for me to get to Umachan and only live a few miles away, respect guys wherever you are.


Joe certainly had a way with words 🙂

After exploring the many ruins we made our way back to the trusty Pioner Maxi and headed north for Rona and the old graveyard and twelfth century chapel that looks over to Eilean Tigh.

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The last time I was here Donald John Graham, himself of Rona stock had been doing some stabilization work on it but that was 12 or so years ago, so it was good to see that the grass was still being cut and the drystone wall had since been repaired by a work party staying with Bill Cowie of 

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It was also good to see a beautiful steel gate protecting the only inscribed headstone there,

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which I believe belongs to Donald John’s relatives.

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And with a view like that even I would be tempted to go to church 🙂

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After that it was a quick trip into Archasaid Mhor (Big harbour) to visit Bill and Lorraine for a nice cool drink of water and juice for the ‘three amigos’ before heading back home.

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What a day 🙂

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