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RESIDENT PROFILES

Pròifilean muinntir an àite

Interview with Angus Morrison (Luskentyre) to commemorate his 100th birthday - 2022

Donald John, retired

I was born and bred on the Isle of Harris eighty years ago, and I was the second youngest of a family of eight, only two of us are left. I went to Scarista school when I was five years old and at the age of twelve, I went to Leverburgh school. I left Leverburgh school when I was 15. There were only 3 pupils left in Scarista when myself and Archie MacVicar left, and they were transferred to Leverburgh. I remember my mother saying how she missed the children shouting in the playground.

 

I like living in West Harris as it is a lovely place. The tourists say that the view is breath-taking with its beautiful sandy beaches. Even the Queen stopped here to admire the view. When we were young, we used to set small lines on the beach, and it was great fun going down in the early hours of the morning when the tide was out, hauling in the lines. We would always get something, and even the occasional salmon. We also did rock fishing for cuddies and lythe. The fish were gutted, rolled in oatmeal, and fried straight from the sea. What a healthy diet!

 

I have seen big changes in my day as West Harris was an ageing community and therefore a lot of the old people have passed away. It would be good if there was work for the young folk so that they could stay on the island. I believe that West Harris could do with a good hotel.

 

I got married in 1973 to Mary Ann MacKay from Seilebost. We didn’t have a family and therefore did not contribute to the population of West Harris. I then began building houses. I built about eight houses plus alterations and improvements. Last of all, I built our own holiday cottage which has been going for the past forty-four years. I then renovated my father’s old house and converted it into a B&B establishment which has been going for thirty-four years.

 

We are getting old now and will have to pack everything up soon, but we thank God for the good health he has bestowed on us to enable us to do everything we have done.

Rugadh agus thogadh mi anns na Hearadh ceithir fichead bliadhna air ais agus bha mi an dàrna fear a b’ òige a-mach as ochdnar, tha dìreach dithis againn air fhàgail a-nis. Chaidh mi gu Sgoil Sgarasta nuair a bha mi coig bliadhna a dh’aois agus aig aois dà-dheug chaidh mi gu Sgoil an t-Oib. Dh’fhàg mi Sgoil an t-Oib nuair a bha mi coig bliadhn’ deug. Bha dìreach trì sgoilearan air fhàgail ann a Sgarasta nuair a dh’fhàg mi fhèin is Eàirdsidh MacBhiocair agus chaidh iad a chuir dhan an t-Oib. Tha cuimhne agam mo mhathair ag radh gun robh i ag ionndrainn a chlann ag èigheachd anns an raon-cluiche.

 

Is toil leam a’ fuireach anns an taobh siar na Hearadh air sgath’s gur e àite boidheach a th’ann. Tha na luchd-turais ag radh gu bheil an sealladh iongantach le na tràighean boidheach. Stad fiu’ s a’ Bhanrigh airson an sealladh a mhealtainn. Nuair a bha sinn òg, bhiodh sinn a cuir a-mach (small lines – driamlaichean) agus ‘ s e spòrs mòr a bh’ann a dol sios tràth sa mhadainn aig muir-tràghadh a toirt a-steach na (lines). Bhith sinn an-còmhnaidh a faighinn rudeigin agus cuideachd uireanan fiu’ s bradan. Bhiodh sinn cuideachd a dheanamh iasgadh bho creag airson cudanan agus liùgh. Bhiodh na eisg air a chutadh, air a truiste ann an coerce agus air a fraidhig dìreach bhon mhuir. Abair dòigh-ithe fallain!

 

Tha mi air atharraidhean mòra ri fhaicinn leis gun robh toabh siar na Hearadh coimhearsnachd a bha a fàs nas sinea gus mar sin a tha tòrr dhan na seann daoine air bàsachadh. Bhiodh e math mar robh obair airson na daoine òga airson gun fhaod iad a fuireach air an eilean. Tha mise smaoineachadh gum foadadh an toabh siar na Hearadh dèanamh le taigh-òsta math.

 

Phòs mi Màiri Anna NicAoidh a Sheileboist ann an 1973. Cha robh teaghlach againn ‘s mar sin cha do cuir sinn ris an t-sluagh an sgìre. Thòisich mi an uair sin a togail taighean. Thog mi mi ochd taighean agus atharraidhean agus leasachaidhean. Aig an deireadh thog mi an taigh-turasachd a tha air a bhith a dol a-nis airson dà-fhichead sa ceithir bliadhnaichean. Thoisich mi taigh m’athair ath-nuadhachadh gu B&B (Leabaidh is Lìte) a tha a-nis air a bhith a dol airson ceithir deug air fhichead bliadhna.

 

Tha sinn a fàs nas sine a-nis agus bi feum againn stadadh a h-uile càil a dh’aithghearr ach a tha sinn a cuir taing do Dhia airson deagh-slàinte a tha e air a bhuileachadh dh’uinn airson dèanamh comasach a h-uile rud a tha sinn air a dheanamh.

Peter, chef 

I am South African born, but my father is Scottish, and he instilled a love in me for all things Scottish. I was lucky enough to get a British passport and emigrated 14 years ago. I spent most of those years in London but lived in Scotland for a few years in Oban and the Isle of Arran. Two years ago I decided to live in Scotland permanently and got the chef job at An Traigh Café Bar. After they closed, I was lucky enough to be offered the job by the West Harris Trust to help out in the kitchen.

 

What I love about Harris is always going to be the lifestyle, the community spirit, and the people. It is so different from any other place I have been. My wife while on holiday here said that she has never been so at peace in a place before and I guess that sums it up for me as well. My hope for Harris is that this kind of lifestyle wouldn’t change in a world that changes daily and radically.

Ruigidh mi ann an Afraga a Deas ach ‘s e Albannach a bha m’athair agus thug e dhomh gaol airson a h-uile càil Albannach. Bha mi fortanach fhaighinn cead-siubhail Breatannach agus thàinig thairis ceithir-deug bliadhna air ais. Chosg mi a mhòr chuid dhan na bliadhnaichean sin ann an Lunnainn ach bha mi a’ fuireach ann an Alba airson beagan bliadhnaichean ann an t-Òban agus an Eilean Arainn. Dà bhliadhna air ais, roinn mi co-dhùnadh gun robh mi airson a fuireach ann an Alba fad-ùine agus fhuair mi obair mar còcaire aig An Traigh Café Bar. As deidh iad a dhùnadh, bha mi fortanach obair fhaighinn bhon an Urras Taobh Siar na Hearadh airson cuideachadh sa chidsean.

 

Bi an-còmhnaidh an rud as toigh leam mu na Hearadh an dòigh beatha, an spiorad coimhearsnachd, agus na daoine. Tha e cho eadar-dhealaichte bho na h-àitichean eile air an robh mi. Fhad ‘s a bha mo bhean suas air saor-làithean an seo, thuirt i nach robh i riamh cho aig fois ann aìte roithe agus tha mi creidsinn gur ann mar sin a tha e dhòmhsa cuideachd. An dòchas a tha agam airson na Hearadh ‘s e nach atharraich an dòigh beatha an seo ann an saoghal a tha ag atharrachadh a h-uile latha.

John, Fiona & family,  self-employed

We arrived in West Harris with a family of three children of secondary school age.  We had first come to Harris on a holiday, tempted by the unspoilt mountains, crystal clear seas and the remoteness.  We are an active family and sought locations to walk, climb mountains and enjoy nature and the great outdoors together.

The climate was raw at Easter while we were visiting, the dark unpolluted night sky was lit only by natural moonlight and the turquoise sea met miles of desolate sandy shore on the West Side.  Our holiday was both peaceful and invigorating as we explored the natural treasures on our doorstep, sand-blasted beaches, blizzard-swept summits and seals heaved up onto the rocks watching us with even more curiosity than us watching them. We were even treated to a couple of days of brilliant sunlight when the landscape truly opened up and revealed to us the intensity of its beauty.

Harris made a deeper impression on us than we anticipated. Within three months we had moved up.  Harris in the summer was more intoxicating still with the machair in full flower and long hours of daylight. We explored deeper and began to make acquaintances with neighbours and friends. We were delighted to have found somewhere safe to raise our family, away from some of the pressures and influences of modern life. The children experienced the freedom and carefree life we had wanted to allow them but knew it was unsafe to do so where we had previously lived.

For work John soon began setting up a professional business but also still worked away some of the time and I seized the opportunity to pursue a lifelong interest and hobby. We eventually moved into our self-build after renting for a year and now enjoy a degree of self-sufficiency growing some vegetables, keeping hens and cutting peats for burning in the stove in winter. This lifestyle keeps us busy but we also enjoy time with friends we have made here.

It was easy for the children to settle into school as the small secondary school was a tenth of the size of the mainland school they had been attending. The local children were friendly and welcoming, differing from previous schools in that the years all mix socially. They benefit from both small class sizes which helps them achieve their potential and a brand new school building that was opened in 2012.

As a family we like living on an island out to the west of Scotland. When nature bites back and the gales claim another outbuilding, prevent supplies arriving on the ferries or the power fails and some schools and businesses close for the day, the spirit of the people prevails and everything continues again the next day, valiant individuals having been out in the weather and the dark to restore normality. Apart from the natural dangers around us there are not the worries and concerns of safety and security that plagued us in parts of Britain where we have lived.

We enjoy being part of the present and future of West Harris, an area rooted in Gaelic traditions and culture but facing the challenges of an ageing and diminishing population. Our children like many of the indigenous youth will more than likely leave to further their education on the mainland and the big challenge facing the region is to secure quality employment and opportunities to keep them, entice them and other young adults back and stem the flow of people to the mainland to maintain a viable population.

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