Life at the end of the road

November 27, 2011

We have it so easy :-)

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid, pigs, stonework, weather — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:31 pm

For all I know Thursday could have been a far worse day than Saturday, but as I was in a centrally heated house I wouldn’t know. Yesterday however we were outside receiving at first hand all mother nature had to offer, and it was not pleasant 😦 It was in fact a pure sh1t of a day from beginning to end, probably not the wettest but that hardly seemed to make any difference, for even when it wasn’t actually raining the icy wind was charged with moisture and salt.

However, having just been reminded last night in the ‘Calum’s road’ play of what one man could do with just a few basic tools no matter what the weather, I wasn’t going to let that put me off. Of course my ‘willing helpers’ with the enthusiasm of youth would have followed me in a blizzard but I’m past all that. I had much to do before I left for dry dock on Tuesday and sitting in the toasty house would not get it done 🙂

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The first job (after feeding) being to take the three ‘wheelie bins’ a mile along the road to the old quarry at Tarbert as the cattle grid there is still out of commission.

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A cattle grid that Calum himself had to install because the council wouldn’t, the coal lorry can just about pass with difficulty, the bin lorry cannot get past, there’s no chance of the gritter getting through and I’ve a lorry coming on Monday to collect a 7.5ton digger. Of course the first heavy snow is forecast for next Saturday and Sunday when wifey has to take three pigs to slaughter and within the next couple of weeks I’ve barn arriving 😦

It’s a boodly disgrace and an insult to the man that toiled for years on this stretch of road that is now a national treasure. The stuff of legend, folklore, song, book, theatre and probably film yet it’s deteriorating with every passing car and shower of rain. Just wait until the first frost and snow arrive, I know there’s not much ‘money in the pot’ but much of this degradation could have been avoided with some of these.

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A pick, a shovel and a friggin wheelbarrow, oh and some common sense, instead of sending a ton of tarmac over every couple of weeks on a 7m long pickup at £90+ on the ferry why not send a 10m long truck with 15 tons of the stuff on every few weeks at £200 and employ someone local to fix the fecking pot holes. With a bit of luck he’ll (or she’ll) have some of Calum Macleod’s genes anyway 🙂

Sorry about that ‘wee rant’ there, got carried away 🙂 where was I, oh the council, well we ignored the advert that they placed in the a few months ago. I wish I’d have kept it, it read something along the lines of they were refusing to lift any bins that had ‘bungee straps’ on to keep the lids closed. Now I could understand this kind of carp coming from a council in central Englandshire but this is the west coast of Scotland for friths sake, if it’s not lashed down it blows away!!!!

Sorry again, anyway the bins went south complete with ratchet straps, bungee cords and a rock on the lid for good measure but it was quite academic as the ferry never ran until 9:55 and the bin lorry never appeared 😦

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Anyway, after that we started ferrying 200lt barrels of heating oil along the track to the Old Schoolhouse at Torran. The very school that Calum’s wife Lexy taught at and the school that many of my friends studied at prior to the depopulation of the north end.

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At one time this luxurious holiday let was attended by 60 pupils, many of whom walked daily from Umachan, Kyle Rona and Fladda.

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The coal would have been brought by boat and hauled up the shore on the backs of strong men.

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Now we bring it, and the heating oil in by quad and moan about it 🙂

That took us pretty much the whole morning after which I conned my mate the modern day road builder into helping with a few jobs around the croft.

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I’ve shifted many many tons myself, just as Calum did with a barrow but hey I’m getting old now and it’s much easier with a 6ton dumper and a son with lots of friends 🙂

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And even if you make a severe ‘cock up’ like this help is never far at hand 🙂

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To pull you out of the ‘brown stuff’ and clear up the mess afterwards 🙂

After Hugh had sorted out my little disaster, and with light fading we set about moving a pig ark.

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On firm ground, with some rollers and levers these Bidgiemire insulated pig arks are quite straightforward to moved, waterlogged and stuck in peat it’s time for a digger.

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Though the ‘transporter’ did need reversing the whole way to it’s new home several hundred yards away 🙂 By the time we got the ark in position it was well dark so we called it a day leaving poor wifey to deal with the mountain of soaked and muddy clothes that found their way into the tumble drier via the washing machine.



The night was pretty wild to say the least with gale force winds not abating until dawn and a gust of almost 70mph around 22:30.


To be honest it got off to a rather unpromising start, with more rain and only slightly less wind so we were a little late in leaving the house.

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I can’t say that I was surprised to find my IBC blown off its stack of pallets, but I was amused to see it hooked on my trailer. I had intended to move it last night but got distracted by the labours of pig house moving and darkness.

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After sorting out the fuel container the next job was to clean out the ark prior to filling it with fresh bedding for the ‘spotties’ that had outgrown their half oil tank 🙂 We had actually turfed all but two of the pigs out on the hill yesterday hoping to give the croft a rest and get them settled in new accommodation but darkness falls quickly and early at this latitude so they were left to find their own shelter. Not as harsh as it sounds for there are plenty of ruins, shelter in the trees  and both Tamworth’s and ‘Old spots’ are very hardy.

The only reason that we left Rocky and Shona on the croft was to ensure that she got served, Rocky appeared to have covered her just over two weeks ago but we’ll keep them together for another cycle to make sure. Sows come on heat every 21 days, she was covered on the 11th so should come ‘on heat’ again next weekend if he’s not ‘done his stuff’. Once we’re certain he has Shona can go back to Dave and Sarah at and he can  join the herd roaming Arnish 🙂

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No not them, that’s my ‘herd’ cutting bedding on what turned out to be a rather nice day.

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This is the herd 🙂 and what a joy it was to see them all out in the sun, the three ‘spotties’, my boy riding Jamie Lee, who is around four or five times the size of the pig in the foreground. Just behind the green quad was Bramble with her three tiny piglets lost in the rushes and Bracken, the ‘boss pig’ somewhere out of sight.

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It may not require petrol but it’s just quite as manoeuvrable as a quad 🙂


Pigs really are funny creatures, Bramble (in the middle) could stay up at her own ark with her wains and get extra rations with no hassle but she prefers to be with the herd and get bullied by Bracken (far pig), Jamie Lee is normally higher in the ‘pecking order’ but is now at the bottom, probably because Bramble has piglets 🙂

In perspective

I’m quite content with my lot in life, it may seem like hard work to many, who have mains everything on tap, superfast broadband and 24 hour shopping. But it is my choice, when I was living in a corner shop in Burnley with a primary school next door, coal delivered to the door and a TV there were two families living in those ruins behind the pigs. Two more in the ruins of North Arnish in the background high above that gate, two at Torran, three or four in Fladda and a couple in South Arnish. It wasn’t the turn of the century it was the late fifties and early sixties, there was no road, no electricity and everything was carried in on someone’s back.

For years they campaigned for the road that never came until one by one they left leaving Calum to build his road in the hope the north end would once more prosper. I suppose he started his road at about the same age that I am now, just as I’m beginning to feel ‘burnt out’ and planning for retirement in ten years or so.

I’m waffling now so I’ll shut up and go to bed, it’s been a long day, by my standards at least :-)  



  1. You keep mentioning retirement that won’t happen mate i know you to well, you will just keep on going all be it a bit slower.

    Comment by MW — November 28, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    • Morning Accy 🙂

      “You keep mentioning retirement that won’t happen mate i know you to well, you will just keep on going all be it a bit slower.”

      Just watch this space 🙂 It WILL happen 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  2. Some of your young apprentices would be ideal for repopulating the north end of Raasay, around the time you are allegedly retiring. They are obviously going to be very resourceful, and knowing how to generate your own electricity (and having the resources to do so) and grow your own food will become increasingly valuable and valued skills over their lifetimes.

    Comment by Alison — November 28, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    • Morning Alison,

      couldn’t agree more, a few more children and families at the ‘north end’ would be a valuable asset. Would be great to have one in my own house once it goes on the market, far better than a holiday home 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  3. You’ll be busy writing the book in a few years, remember. I hope you have bought winter tyres for wifeys car, they make travelling in snow, white frost feel normal. keep up the good work. Willie

    Comment by willie — November 28, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    • Morning Willie,

      aye, the book has been on the cards for many years now, I’ve thirty years worth of stories in diving log books, diaries and now the blog. One day I’ll do something about it, once the house is finished and I retire 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  4. I am glad our council do not have to send their vehicles on a ferry.The present bunch would send a 10m truck at £200 per crossing with 1 ton of tarmac and try and claim it was more cost effective.


    Comment by Andy — November 28, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  5. No response from the roads department caused me to write to the Cheif Executive of Highland Council concerning all the roads in Raasay. I got a letter back telling me that the director of roads and planning (or whatever his title is) will look into the matter and get back to me when his enquiries are complete. (So look out for a council director looking into the pot holes in your road). I’m not holding my breath but won’t let it go-I’ll direct them to your blog next! Hope you enjoyed ‘Calum’s Road’ – everywhere it played I was somewhere else so never got to see it! When it was in Paisley I was in Raasay and vice versa!

    Anne Macdonald

    Comment by Anne Macdonald — November 28, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    • Morning Anne,

      thanks for your perseverance on the roads issue, the Sunday Mail phoned last night asking about the state of ‘Calum’s road’ so I told them in no uncertain terms 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  6. Awful weather for you at such a busy time and looking at the wind for the next week on Magic Seaweed it’s not looking good you or for us down here either – we’ve got a German crew putting a “Huf Haus” (flat pack home) up today with the panels going high in the air with wind gusting at only 35mph – could have been worse – and will be tomorrow !
    Just noticed that the good ship Loch Striven has still only made it as far as Oban – that won’t help with the tight schedule !

    Comment by Sue Mason — November 28, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    • Good luck with the ‘Haf Hause’ Sue, I’m off to Oban 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  7. pardon me but my sense was that kyle rona and fladda are islands. if so, how could the children walk to school? or did they row in the dark, like john cumming’s father?

    Comment by jeannette — November 29, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    • Morning New Mexico 🙂 how I wish we had some of your weather right now Jeannette 🙂 Fladda is tidal so accessible 6 hours out of every 12 and Kyle Rona is a small hamlet at the north end of Raasay and not on Rona (very confusing) 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  8. Morning Paul

    Severe weather indeed you had – it was even bad in the soft south in Edinburgh over the weekend: nearly blown over going round corners and finding the wind.

    I have been going through all the primary schools in Burnley in my head and can only think of a couple now that are or have recently been near a corner shop (St John’s in Colne Road, Barden Juniors and Springfield) but I guess your old school might have been ‘re-organised’ in the 1970s and/or the corner shop and nearby houses cleared.

    Love the pic of your lad riding Jamie Lee!



    Comment by Sue — November 29, 2011 @ 8:52 am

    • Morning Sue, it was 25 Whittam St (or was it Whittan), the school was St Thomas’s and at the bottom of the street was the Newtown steelworks, all flattened long ago 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  9. I had to move one of those Bidgiemire arcs at the weekend, one of the insulated ones. I levered it out of the mud and waited for the OH to come out to help me move it 30 metres or so. I normally stand inside, poke my head out the door, take the weight on my shoulders, lift and walk forward while she pushes at the back.

    This time, though, I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I got really annoyed at all the waiting, bent over, stomped inside the hut, squatted, spread my hands on the centre of the roof, and with a huge shout thrust my legs and arms upright. Then I walked across the wet, boggy, muddy, slimy, sucking, slick field carrying the ***** thing about a handspan above my head, muttering the whole time about useless helpers. The real problem turned out to be lowering it back to the ground!

    Then I stomped, grumpily, down to the house to find the OH had decided to clean the bathroom instead. Never mind that I’d done it three days before. She had a friend coming over and the bathroom had to be extra, extra spotless.

    Later in the day, I ran into the farmer from across the road. He said he’d been vastly amused to see a pig hut walking across the field, swearing mightily. He said he’d laughed so much he’d forgotten to offer to help with his front loader. He got a load of muttering, too.


    Comment by Stonehead — November 29, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

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