Life at the end of the road

March 30, 2014

Forward into spring :-)

At last, the weather has changed, the clocks leapt forward and the signs of spring are everywhere. Easter is just around the corner and already our little island is starting to see unfamiliar cars, Gore-Tex, cameras and mountain bikes. Right enough it waited until after my months holiday to stop raining and I’ve been buried in the depths of the MV Hallaig during all the fine weather but who cares. I’m almost halfway through my first weeks shift and already starting to get excited by all that I can do when I finish, just in time for Easter.

To be honest it wasn’t a chore going back to work, I like my job and the new shift pattern means that I joined a different crew, or at least 50% different. A change is as good as a rest they say and I’m sure my regular shipmates will be glad to see the back of me until my next month off in October Smile We’re all really enjoying the ‘two weeks on two weeks off’ aboard the Hallaig as she’s such a pleasure to work on, demanding but a pleasure. Whether we’d be so keen cramped aboard a ‘loch class’ I’m not so sure but then the ‘motorman’ will generally stays with his own ship on this route Smile

Of course I’d joined ship after visiting my folks on Tuesday so didn’t do a full day until Wednesday and was overjoyed to be leaving home in full daylight with early morning sun highlighting Manish point.


Sure I’d have been happier staying to do some work on the croft or house, but not much, it was indeed a fine day to be alive Smile


And far, far pleasanter than a 22 mile trip into Manchester down the M66 which is what I did in a previous life. Gosh, almost thirty years since I said goodbye to all that, how time flies!!

206 205

It was good to be ‘back at the office’ sandwiched between two generators and a bank of transformers lies the main switchboard and the ‘nerve centre’ of the ship. OK perhaps not ‘the’ nerve centre as Hallaig has many ‘back up’ systems and an identical station on the bridge, but this is where it’s all operated from normally.



Wednesday saw an interesting ‘Moggy’ depart Raasay after spending some time removing dodgy trees from around Raasay House.



Just put on the market, though for the life in me I can’t find a link to it, is the Raasay steading, with plenty of development potential I seem to think it was around 250k. It was in last weeks WHFP but I can’t seem to find that either. What I did come across whilst ‘Googling’ though was this gem of a transcript from the Napier Commission’s visit to Torran schoolhouse  in 1883

Torran, Raasay, 22 May 1883 – John Gillies (Fladda)

JOHN GILLIES, Crofter and Fisherman, Fladda (50)—examined.
7783. The Chairman.
—Have you been freely elected by the people of that island of Fladda?
7784. Have you a statement to make on their part?
—They are complaining, as others are, about the hardness of the land, and the dearness of it. It is dear, it is bad, and there is little of it. They are also wanting to speak about the channel between them and the island. They come from the island to the school here, and the channel is not wider than thirty yards at high tide. Sometimes the children are starving waiting for the tide, when they cannot get over —when the men are away from home.
7785. You mean coming back from school?
—Yes; but many days they cannot go to school at all.
7786. How wide is the channel at high water?
—Thirty yards, and it is dry at half tide.
7787. What remedy do you suggest for this?
—Either to bridge the channel, or else to give us another place to live in, from which our children could go to school in safety.
7788. Would it be easy to bridge the channel?
—It would not be difficult at all. There are plenty of materials—plenty of stones thereabout.
7789. Would you propose to bridge the channel with a light iron suspension bridge, or do you think of building a regular stone bridge?
—I think a suspension bridge would be easier made, with plenty of stones at each end.
7790. Are the sides of the land on each side steep and high, or is it low and flat?
—It is steep on the Raasay side, but it is a gradual slope on the island side.
7791. Would a causeway of stone between the two islands not do?
—Yes, but I think it would cost more than the bridge I allude to.
7792. Mr Cameron.
—Do many vessels pass through that channel?
—Boats pass through at high tide.
7793. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—How many souls are in the island?
—About fifty altogether.
7794. How many children?
—I have eight myself. I don’t know how many the others have.
7795. Have you as many as all the others put together?
—Another man has got quite as many as I have.
7796. Did you ask the proprietor to do anything for you about the bridge?
—No, we did not give him a trial at all. Though the rent is high, Mr Wood is not blamed for that; it was Mr Mackay, and Mr Wood simply left us as he found us in regard to the rent.
7797. Professor Mackinnon.
—How many are there paying rent?
7798. What is the rent each pays?
—The island altogether pays £30, and before Mr Mackay’s time it was £22.
7799. What stock are you allowed to keep?
—Two cows and two young beasts —a stirk and a two-year-old.
7800. Sheep?
—I am not sure how many sheep the others have, but I have five. I don’t think any one of us has more than seven.
7801. You are allowed to keep six?
7802. Do you fish?
—We work at every work that comes in the way.
7803. What fishing do you get off the island?
—The only fish we get about our own shores are eels.
7804. You don’t fish for cod and ling?
—Yes, but it is not good fishing ground for ling. The ground is too foul, too deep. If we get anything
at that depth it is skate.
7805. Where do you go for the fishing? Is it to the east coast?
—I was not there for the past three years. I was staying at home working for Mr Wood, but I have been eighteen seasons at the east coast fishing.
7806. Are there many of the people from your place working with Mr Wood as well as yourself?
—No, they work a little about this time of the year, just to get sufficient money to take them away to the fishing.
7807. Then is it your complaint that the crofts are too highly rented ?
7808. The old rent was not too high, was it?
—It was high enough. It is too high now, but we never complained to Mr Wood about it. We don’t know what he might do if we complained to him. He is a kind man. If all the island landlords were like him, a man might have remained at home.
7809. I suppose in a bad year, with a good excuse, he would not be hard on you with the rent?
—No ; I sowed last year four barrels of oats, and I did not reap as much as would sow it back.
7810. That was a bad year. Do you ever change the seed?
7811. Where do you get the change of seed from?
—From Mr Wood’s manager I got it last.
7812. How many returns of oats and potatoes do you get in a fair year?
—I might get three returns.
7813. Is that all you get in a good year?
—In a good year I might get three. Our ground is peat altogether.
7814. Then if you got the bridge you want, and the old rent, would that exhaust all your complaints?
— I think it would. It would take away a good share of our complaints, at any rate.
7815. Do you get steady work?
—Yes, and 13s. a week of wages.
7816. Would the other men who go to make money at the fishing get steady work if they remained ?
—Yes, but they expect to make three times as much as that per week at the fishing. Some nights I made £8, and other nights I made nothing at all, at the east coast fishing.
7817. But you think, upon the whole, that 13s. a week and steady work is better?
—No, I think the fishing is better. When I pay 2s. for lodgings off that 13s. and also my personal expenses for the week, my family would be starving at home.
7818. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—What is the nearest place to the people of Torrin here where they could get work?
—Twelve miles from here.
7819. And there is no place nearer?
7820. The previous witness stated that there is a farm steading about two miles from here belonging to the proprietor. What place is that ?
—A few of those living near the square may get work there—the Ballahouran people; but it is up at Mr Wood’s own house that the most of the work is to be got.
7821. Mr Cameron.
—Is the pasture upon the island good or bad?
—It is bad. You would not think it would keep four sheep altogether.
7822. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there any shellfish on any of the beaches round Fladda?
—No, nothing but limpets and a few whelks.
7823. Do you make a trade of the whelks?
—Yes, some women work at them.
7824. What do you get per bushel for them?
—Sometimes Is. 6d. and sometimes 2s. 6d. a bushel; sometimes 20d.
7825. How long does it take to collect a bushel?
—Two days a bushel, at any rate, and sometimes three.
7826. The Chairman.
—How are you off for sea-ware on this shore?
—Our sea-ware is out on rocks about our own shores. We have a pretty sufficient quantity of peat, but we have to take it ashore with boats, and then carry it on our backs to the ground.
7827. Do you pay anything for it ?
—No, we don’t pay for it.
7828. Arc there any horses ?
— No horses ; they would be drowned


The following day was just as nice



with some stunning views of Cathedral rock and Dun Caan on the way to work.


The low and bright sun picking out ancient dykes long since covered in heather.


Some interesting traffic in the shape of an old grey Fergie tractor.

Friday was yet another peachy day and the ‘wee dug’ just wouldn’t let me leave her at home, lying down on the path and refusing to budge, barring my way to the Land Rover.


Of course I took her, whereupon she spent the whole day curled up on the ‘Old Girls’ drivers seat in a huff.



Friday saw the Hebridean Princess anchored in Churchton bay, having spent the night there prior to heading up to Portree for the day.


For the first time on the Hallaig I picked up a roller and did some painting,


it wasn’t much right enough, just yellow strips on changes in deck levels in the machinery space but it’s a start.


And for the first time in months, or at least that’s what it seems like, I saw a sunset at work.

Linnhe is back

A possible ‘juggling’ of the fleet due to MV Courisk’s untimely encounter with the Dunoon pier in fog on the 11th of March

had the MV Loch Linnhe returning to Raasay today.






Gosh, she’s very small Smile


I also ‘de mothballed’ the 1970 Thomson Glenelg and gave her a good clean inside and out just in case I got called away unexpected like Smile


  1. The sale of the Farm steadings appear to have been removed from Murchison Laws website.I wonder, Has it been sold ?

    Comment by John MacDonald — March 31, 2014 @ 6:33 am

  2. nice to buy but a lot of cost methinks!

    Comment by v8mbov — March 31, 2014 @ 7:53 am

  3. Dot matrix printers and fan fold paper on the Hallaig? You’ll be needing a decollator next….

    Comment by Ian — March 31, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

  4. Interesting account of the meeting t Torran

    Comment by eileen1929 — March 31, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

  5. Hi Paul,
    fascinating about Fladda, looked at buying a house on fladda in about in about 1968 about 46 years ago I think the price then was about 550 quid I cant remember if it was for one or the whole lot they were in a pretty poor state then, it took me three days walking up there and back that included a trip up dun kan or what ever you call it and a day on Fladda. I was into hiking and camping out then. If I hadn’t got involved with a tall blond 17 year old Danish au pair I might be one of your neighbors. Unfortunately I had a dangerous high testosterone level and I was off after her like a dog after a bitch, and moved to Denmark I brought her back a couple of years later for a belated honeymoon. We did the whole Outer Hebrides in a Volkswagen. beetle. Your trip last year with your wife brought back some happy memories especially making love on those beautiful deserted white sand on the west of Harris makes an old man very happy. My Danish daughter by the way when she decided that it was about time she became fluent in English went and lived for a couple of years up in some commune up by Inveness, she speaks English with a delightful Scottish accent. What a life our ancestors had, sometimes I thing the clearances weren’t all that bad, even if they were forced to leave because of them had a far better life in New Zealand or Canada. in spite of the uprooting.

    Deep Regards


    Comment by Yorkshire Miner — March 31, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

  6. Saw your ferry on Saturday morning (9.30 ish?) just coming into Sconser. On a photography trip in Skye. Was very excited!!

    Comment by may cruickshank — March 31, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

  7. Hi Paul

    Thanks for the historical Fladda info – I remember talking with John Nicolson (nephew of the former Ferrymaster) who was born on Fladda and lately looked after the Rassay hotel with his wife in the early years of this century. He had fond memories.


    Comment by Sue — March 31, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  8. Lovely to see the sun Paul, cracking pictures.

    Comment by Andrew — April 1, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

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