Ed Gold Positive Futures 06
Ed Gold Positive Futures 06 Positive Futures 06 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the original Positive Futures publications made in 2005 (01), 2011(02), 2016 (03), 2017 (04) and April 2018 (05). www.edgold.co.uk/books
I think people were here from the Bronze Age. Then the main
economy crashed so people left but it was never completely
means of transport was by sea, nowadays we think of it as
empty. Scoraig was almost chosen as an experiment in
being isolated but then if you were travelling up and down by
re-population in 1949 and that test failed. So we are almost
boat it was like a service station. I’m sure it’s been populated
the second experiment that started in the 60’s. Repopulation
here ever since humans have been on the planet.
was particularly for the service men that were coming back from the war who wanted some land and also coal miners.
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The huge changes came around since the 19th century
‘Clan Albainn’ society was for these people, very left wing
when job opportunities came about. They became more and
more so that by WW1 every child from here was working away and once you experienced poverty and earned money you never go back. When you lose your young people to pull boats out of the sea you lose your community. After WW2 the
Cathy Dagg, Scoraig resident - 06 July 2018
Aggie 65 My Dad was a shepherd on an estate and we lived out on the hills. We were 7 kids 2 miles from the nearest road. The first place was Glenn Strathfarrar which flooded, the second place was called Dyke at Strathhalladale. The first place we had to get to by boat as well, across an inland loch or a long walk. I think it probably has something to do with why I am here now. The first time I came here it just felt like home to me. The cattle farm we were working on, my partner and I, was sold up, and the contract plougher told us that there were plenty of vacant lots on Scoraig. It was November 1975. It worried me slightly that we moved here as I cannot swim and I had young children. Sometimes I would opt to walk out. We needed somewhere to live and it wasn’t enough to put me off as we had the option to walk in and out as well. We visited once before we came and I had heard stories about Scoraig in my childhood, we’d hear the Scoraig news and I remember the outrage when the church was burnt down by Tom Forsyth. It did have bit of a reputation I suppose. We got to know Alan Bush who lived here and he was a good ambassador for living here.
Now there is more money here but when we came here we never had a big lump of money and anybody could do it kind of thing. It was piece meal. Somebody would find a source of doors or a window and anybody could get in on it. We would go shopping and buy some food and also always come back with a bag of cement or something that we needed at the time. We could take on jobs too, there was a village hall that was free to take down the coast so we took it apart and shared the wood and the corrugated iron and it all got used up. We shared a transit van and had alot of man power. We paid 5 pence for this house, it was a token gesture of money changing hands. People now have the money to buy a house and the house prices are much the same as the rest of the houses on the mainland but then it was all free and you didn’t need planning permission. It was possible to make a life with nothing. Alan Bush who lived here welcomed people to come here as he saw the sense in seeing people here, to have the houses all occupied, he didn’t have any plan I think he just wanted to see it as a thriving community who were doing it for themselves.
You can do your own thing here as long as you don’t intrude on other people. I like living here because I like to know where everything comes from, to know myself what the situation is with my electricity and what to do when it goes wrong and the same goes for the water to. We know where it all comes from. Living across the water makes it feel as you are leaving it all behind, I feel all the stress falling off me as I come across the loch. There is a sense of space there that is hard to find elsewhere, this is where I find it. It’s because there are no roads with cars and I don’t like the fact that there are 4 wheel drives here now, I can’t do anything about it now but it is a shame. You used to be able to let the kids go off and play and not have to worry about them but now some 4WD’s are whizzing around. A quad I can cope with and a tractor as they only do 5mph but I think it’s dangerous to have 4WD’s here really. People used to spend more time walking around pushing a wheelbarrow and people would stop to talk with you and have a chat but now people wave from the 4WD and pass on. There is more of this disassociation from other people these days, there is less of the chatting that there used to be especially if you had kids people would talk to you. Nowadays its either you have some sort of a device you are using, not in Scoraig, I mean elsewhere, people seem more suspicious.
There has always been people doing different things here, there is a girl doing pottery and Bev making violins and Kath weaving. I used to do spinning and knitting. I used to knit jumpers for a company on Skye and that was for pocket money. I could knit one in a month for £40 and that was useful at the time but who wants to by jumpers as you can just buy a cheap fleece nowadays. It’s the fact that we are kind of spaced out, the township, the way it is laid out, it is just a good way to live, we are not on top of each other. We are a field or two away from anybody. I get my water from the spring right up at the top ridge. I have a 300 gallon tank with lovely clear water, I can’t imagine buying water, I mean, if your grandparents knew that supermarkets would stock aisles of water in bottles they would laugh wouldn’t they. Good neighbours are a factor of living on Scoraig for me. When I am living on my own, having good neighbours like Estha and Ross who I nave known all my life make a big difference and just sometimes you need an extra hand for something. You get to help each other out. I get a pension now and I also do cleaning and maintenance for the STG, the Scoraig Teaching Group. I also do home help as there is a lady called Winnie here who is 94 and I do the cleaning. We sit out on her swinging bench in the afternoon for a cup of tea, she only moved here 15 years ago when she was 80. She has done so well and is absolutely adored by everybody. We get together for bonfires and annual meetings and also pier shed parties. There was a funeral recently for a stone mason, that’s another way people make money here, and one man died recently so there will be a wake for him in the pier shed. Also for parties we use the pier shed.
I don’t feel that I am lacking anything here, it’s adding to my life being here. I used to help paint boats here and later on wind mill blades. I also use to clean at the primary school and also working on the croft, growing crops, working with the cattle and making hay. We were making arable silage which was oats and beans and barley which we’d learned how to do on the farm before we moved here. It was nigh on impossible to get hay dried here so silage was better because you could cut it and use it the same day. In the early days people used to be expected to come and see how it went. Nobody came here with a definite idea of moving, several families came and some stayed and some didn’t. The first winter usually proves who can stay here and who cannot. People who generally arrive who are quiet and do things gently are the ones that stay and the ones that are quite loud and go around introducing themselves tend to leave quickly.
If you are mindful of your own patch you can actually do something about that but it’s hopeless trying to tackle the world’s problems. You’re not reliant on mains electricity, power lines or water piped in from somewhere, it’s all here already. I think we were very lucky to have Hugh come here and do his wind mills. By now I guess solar would have come in if wind hadn’t and we were just relying on Tilly lamps. Everybody expects washing machines now here and everybody has one apart from me, I’m the last person washing by hand here and Anna Novak. It’s one of those things when one person gets one then the next person
has to. When we first had windmills we were on a 12 volt system it was only later on that inverters started happening. It’s difficult to get water that hasn’t been so treated these days that you’re always charged for. There is heaps of water in Scotland. It just seems like a whole marketing thing as there is no shortage of water in Scotland.
Andy 73 We are in our 8th year, 7 years here. Before I lived with Jessie at a community at Drumnacdrochit and before that in Ireland, for 20 plus years. Also on a community farm. What do I like about communities? Just the feeling with being with like minded people and being able to be free, to be myself and share creative ideas and manifest this for everyone. Generally how humans have lived for thousand of years, there is nothing new about it. We live best living in self sufficient, self reliant communities. The least you rely on outside energies the better. If you can use the peat and keep yourself warm in the winter, generate your own electricity and grow your own food, having a minimal reliance on outside systems, the better. We were looking for somewhere to get way from the community we were living at, and Jessie looked for communities on the west coast of Scotland and Scoraig came up as a good possibility. Jessie had come here a few times for festivals and I had connections with people here so we came for a visit and decided this was the place we wanted to live. We bought a small croft with 9 acres and have lived here very happily ever since. The underlying principle is that we use permaculture principles to create a vibrate forest living garden so that you can find all your food without growing monoculture crops and you can find your food easily in one place. Then everything starts coming back to increase the bio diversity potential, with animals and insects, so you can increase your exponential system on an upward curve with bio dynamic principles driving it all. These ideas are actually not new, they are a distillation of the major dynamic of human existence on planet earth from time immemorial. It’s only since then we have gone into interventionist agriculture. For example the original beneficial size of a field was one acre, for a man to plough in one day and also so that birds could get into the middle of the field to keep it clear, it was the optimum side to keep in tip-top condition. We are very lucky we can use seaweed from the shires here to improve the quality of the land and have pest free environments. I go across the loch when the list builds up of what we have to get resources from builders yards and for things we cannot produce ourselves. Like coffee and oil and fruit out of season which we try to keep to a minimum. A very big reason we go across is to get resources for building, nails, screws, tools and fuels for the generators. We very rarely just go over just for the crack. It’s very hard to get across and back in a day unless it’s Friday. Everybody here, everybody is generating their own power, we are not on the grid. First of all you have to decide how much power you need and then you have to decide on what kind of mix you’re going to have between sun and wind. You get alot of power from wind as it blows all the time and your batteries get changed up during the night. Back it up with solar in the summer. We calculate we need about 2 and a half kilowatts of power per day. The batteries are extremely expensive and only last between 10 - 12 years, that is the only downside, because of the replacement of parts. The batteries do break down over time. First of alI I have to say that I’m seriously considering becoming a vlogger, I want to do video blogs about the unfolding drama about the geo-political, geo-financial and geo-cultural problem that is going on and what we are experiencing to today with these problems. To deal with loneliness, depression, drugs, all the problems that humans are dealing within on a social cultural level that are caused by a massive full spectrum dominance, total control of all human destinies so that humans
are enslaved and dumbed down so they believe everything they are told, so they have no free spirit. This has been dominating humans since Babylonian times, the Illuminati and the Rothschilds who control the western world. These people are seriously psychopathic and seriously nasty people who are in control of everything. People need to see what is going on and waking up to this dynamic is paramount. Most people don’t give a shit as they have got what they want and don’t care about anything or anyone else. There is a massive programme to destroy the DNA of humanity or rather dumb it down so it becomes completely controllable, we are the slaves and we are under control. This is ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World’, these were all warnings by Aldous Huxley and Orwell who were aware of what was happening. The Vatican controls the whole thing and the Queen, with absolutely needless, endless wars of aggression. If you are living in a your little bubble and don’t see it, it’s very hard to do anything. My main blog is Codex Veritas, it means the code of truth. I put stuff on there to try and see how far I can go with it. I do 2 hours meditation every day and an hours yoga and Tibetan rights of immortality. I do cryptocurrency research too that will liberate us from the bankers. It has its downsides but people want it so it’s very hopeful. Once the currency goes the banks lose control of the people and that’s what they don’t want. I like Scoraig for the serenity, the peace, the community, the people, the climate. The lack of authority figures and lack of people telling you what to do, lack of parking tickets and laws. Everything you can think of is a lack of here but we also create - we have parties and cook-outs and pop-up cafes. The down side is that everything has to be boated in but we lower our requirements which is very good for humans to do I think. But we are up against it, the whole of logical, freedom loving, beautiful humans and eco systems that have supported life at every level is up against it. The whole water system, the air, everywhere you look, the food systems, there is a completely crap culture. Everything is insanely dumb, unthinking and uncaring and non-consequential but there are sparks all over the world of wonderful things going on. But right now it is non-cultural, anti-social - I mean where do you go with reality shows on TV? They hoovered the jungle before they put the people in there, that Sex Pistols guy, Lydon, Katie Price and Peter Andre and I watched about 4 episodes and I asked if this was what western culture has become. I go out to south America and live with native people when I can in Ecuador. I’m a 5 year shaman with the Huichol Indians of Nayarit province in northern Mexico. Basically I believe in certain things, that we have been told a pack of lies from day one - that the world is nothing like they tell us it is. There is no outer space, it’s not possible to go beyond lower earth orbit, that there is an enormous magnetosphere, a tyrodal sphere that prevents any passage through it, that gravity is a hoax and an absolutely unproven nonsense. And light doesn’t have a speed, there is no light speed. We don’t live on a spinning ball travelling through space at great speed with water sticking to it and people upside down under it. We live on a flat plain and Antartica is an ice wall and is a militarised zone so we don’t know what is out there. We are on a grid and dumbed downed so we are mentally, physically, psychologically and religiously controlled. Climate change is a hoax, terrorism and war on terrorism is a hoax. All kinds of mass flue epidemics and bird flu are designed to keep the people in a perpetual state of anxiety. Pictorial reality constructed by
the media is the picture that is given to them by the people that controls them. BBC is the British Bullshit Corporation, it’s just propaganda. The agri-business is destroying the farm land of the entire planet and all the environment due to the homogeneous conditions of all the pesticides going into the water and the earth. The more we understand the more we can do about it. If we know about something we need to do something about it. I am here to get away from all the poisons - mental, water and land. Fuel out of plastic waste - it’s called pyrolysis, plastics to oil technology. Raw untreated plastic waste can be returned to oil for usable fuel through a process that requires only heat to crack the the carbon chain molecular structures back to their original carbon chain structure, very quickly through the application of heat under pressure. One kilo of plastic waste will produce 1 litre of usable fuel. What aren’t people doing this more? I have told everybody. Look at YouTube and check out pyrolysis, there are big plants in China doing it and the technology is proven. Scoraig Engineering Group which consists of several people interested in benefiting other communities want to get Scoraig community recycling all of its plastic waste to turn it into fuel. The hurdles are possibly the venting of any toxic mass to do with super heating the plastic which causes gases. We are building a system that we should be able to get a government grant from. Luke and I are working on it and we will then ask someone to come in and film it. First of all they chop it up and then heat it in a pressure chamber and then out comes the oil. Plastic becomes a resource. It’s really valuable. You can change your whole mindset, instead of being worried that all the fish are going to do just recycle it. In a community like this we’d use the oil to heat the school, to drive a generator or take a boat access the loch community projects. 800 kilos of oil from a ton of plastic. This works with car tyres too. That’s how they get cooking oil in Sarajevo, they light tyres in the street and get oil off them. There are huge massive dumps of car tyres around the world and nobody knows what to do with them either. The people don’t bother you here, you can be as social or as anti-social as you want. You have to stick to a few rules. They are - just don’t leave gates open and don’t mess people about and just be humans. If you’re normal and in touch with yourself you’ll be fine. Do you as a human need to be governed or are you a sovereign being in your own right? Do you know what governed means? It means control. A government is to be controlled. Your picture of reality is what they want you to feel. I just want people to realise that they don’t belong to the society that tells you how to live your life at a certain level. The only way out is to become self-reliant and not buy into their structure. There’s a website that will dealineate everything www.thezog.info. In there you can see who controls the media, Amazon, Trump, eBay, Google, everything. You’ll see that everyone is an Askanazi Jew. Cyrpto Jews from Kazakstan who aren’t actually Jews. Kazastan mafia, the Rothschilds are mafia. My message to the world is get off your arse, find out who you are, wake up to the manipulations you are under, become your own sovereign self and then you’re on your own road to freedom.
Anna 56 & Chris 67 Anna: I met Chris in Ullapool through a mutual friend whilst visiting and we got together. He had been divorced for about a year and we hit it off. I ended up moving here and we have been together for 25 years now. I had only lived off grid before when I was travelling in India and South America, and in Jamaica which wasn’t off grid but there were so many power cuts. But it’s different when you are on holiday instead of living like this full time. It’s not the same. I was only 30 when I came here, it wasn’t as though I had to build a house as it was already here. There are times when you have to make an appointment and come and go across the loch but if there is bad weather I just cancel. The last year or two it has been a bit lonely as we can’t do what we used to do 25 years ago, we used to do alot more fishing and boating. On a day like today in the summer we’d be on one of the islands. We used to have a bothy we rented out to people from all over the world and we also used to take on WOOFERS and our friends and family use to visit more often but they are all getting old and less adventurous. It’s lovely to see people but it’s also lovely for them to leave because they can’t go out for a pub lunch so you have to feed them, it’s a responsibility to look after people, every morsel, as it’s not fair not to. You can’t have people come to the door and not offer them drink and food. You have to ask if they have a place to sleep for the night. It’s a diverse community, many different types of people, they are all great. It’s very liberal, live and let live. If you need people they will be here, there are groups of friends, family networks that will always help. Most of the time people get on really well, we all socialise all together. All I hear on the radio is that people seem to be stressed out about mental health and people should be a bit less navel gazing and get involved in the world. It’s like a current trend it seems, to have a victim mentality. It would be great if nuclear disarmament happened as one day someone will use them. It’s not about Korea - I can’t understand why aren’t we disarming? It’s so hypocritical. It’s just a different way of life over here, people in Scoraig call it ‘The dark side’ over here as in the winter we don’t get as much sun over here as we are facing north. But in the summer we get the best of it I think.
Chris: The council have said that Scoraig is an example of innovative building. It used to be they were quite anti folk doing there own thing but it seems as they are now interested in promoting it for tourism or that they don’t want to be bothered with us themselves,. They cannot cart everybody off here and put them in housing so it’s best to say there is something unique and promote it. There still isn’t planning permission here and people are still building. There are a few places left where people still go and build what they want but Scoraig is the only place I know of where people have gone and done it successfully. It doesn’t appear to me that it is like living back in time, some people say that it is like living in Nepal but it doesn’t seem like that to me. It’s the fact it doesn’t have a road so you cannot drive to the door. Recently the government said they would pay for everyone over 65 for their central heating and they said they would give me the money but they couldn’t drive to my door so I never received the money. I think Scottish Gas kept that money, it’s totally corrupt, I had no apology or anything. I always wanted to live in a really isolated place, maybe was a bit of madness but I had a young family, 3 children at the time, needed somewhere to live and I was offered this place. This was my second best choice to live instead of the Isle of Ulva which is an island bigger than Iona. I had been a gardener there. It was a private estate with a big house and a garden, I had applied for a job there after moving to Scotland. I had come from Norfolk and came to Scotland in 1974. Even then there were too many people and too much pollution, nature was dying and the Norfolk broads had a lack of wildlife, the death of frogs, newts and alot of insects. There was took much London overspill, it’s the whole of England that was like that. Cars are a big thing - that’s what frightens me, traffic.
Anthea 73 The air here is so good, that’s my secret to good age, and lots of exercising, laughing, enjoying life and good friends. I come from Lancashire, near Preston. I didn’t choose to come up here, I was in a very stressful job, I worked for a mental health day centre and my husband said that I needed to get a way because of stress so we sold the house and bought a converted ambulance which had a caravan attached to it. It was a friend’s and they didn’t want it anymore. We just set off on the road, we didn’t know where we going. Jeff my husband didn’t have a car licence so had a Robin Reliant and he was the scout, he searched for places to go. We spent a couple of weeks getting here, and we ended up on the Faine, it’s the long stretch from Braymore junction to Dundonnell. We parked there for about a week and then the police said you’re on the land that belongs to the laird and you’d better move on. So we both decided we’d better have a look to see if there was anywhere else we could park. We had an accident with the Robin Reliant, we skidded in a flash flood, rolled over and went along on the roof. We went to the hotel and the lassie behind the bar said why don’t you go and park at the carpark at Badlaurach jetty which is the one opposite here. We stayed in the carpark and got to know a few of the people that live here. We sold the ambulance and caravan because we were offered a place on the apportionment of the croft, a bit of land that isn’t any good. We bought another caravan and brought it over on a scallop raft and towed it to here. We lived in it and built a shack on the side with a funny little stove in it and we managed. We had no electricity and we had storm lanterns and candle light. Then we got a little windmill and had a bit of electricity going in. Things happen in life for a reason as far as I’m concerned and I was meant to come here. We had never heard of Scoraig and had gone around the top of Scotland a couple of times but ended up just heading this way. Eventually we had a tree nursery here which we sold, they were planted from seeds and the seeds had provenance on them which means they came from the west of Scotland, that had to be on them so we could sell them. We sold them on the peninsula and off the peninsula. When we first started with them there was tree planting on the peninsula and the highland council bought them off us to plant here. I used to plant them with help from friends or by myself. Eventually the tree thing petered out, all the trees around here are from the tree nursery. There’s alder, birch, not very many beech because people snap them up because they like them, some Scots pine, a few hazel and willow. I’ve no regrets moving here at all, I wish I could transport all my family nearer, I’ve got a life that I like, it makes a huge difference. How do I survive the winter? You just wing it, just get on with it. Sometimes it’s, bad sometimes it’s alright. People ask that to me alot…how can you say it? I’m here, I love living here and there’s times I cant get out the door as the weather is so bad or the loch is stormy and you cant get across but it’s a life you get used to. If I wasn’t happy I’d think about moving but I am happy. I haven’t got a boat of my own, I’m not confident enough and there are plenty of good boat people.
You have an outlay at first and once it has gone you don’t have many bills. You can save here and grow your own food. I’ve got a simple life but it doesn’t mean I don’t socialise. There are parties here and getting together with mates. There are always things going on. I don’t think I’m particularly amazing for surviving as I like the life. I do go and visit my daughters in England and on Skye and I’ve got 7 grandchildren all together. Every couple of months I go off in my car. An average day is I get up and I read alot and I do alot of gardening. I do a bit off child minding, I volunteer at the school and I go shopping once a week to Ullapool. I’ve got a Kindle and I’ll get through at least 2 or 3 a week. I think the government is crap, I just think they have ruined our country and I’m not sure that the Labour Party are that much better. I’m glad I live in Scotland because I do think the Scottish government is slightly better. They have good ideas but they need to put them into motion. I despair because the media put a totally different slant on things as they are. Look at all the protest marches which never get reported. I used to be a nurse and they have totally ruined the NHS, there are some brilliant doctors and nurses out there but they don’t get the praise they deserve. There are alot of people out there who do a really good job but don’t get respected or well paid. I’m not very religious, I used to do tarot readings on the phone. I get my water from a spring which goes into a tank. My next door neighbour and a crofter found the spring, it basically very very rarely runs out. I can have a bath also and it takes 40 minutes to run, it’s heated by a gas heater and I got a flushable toilet in the last 2 years, before that I used a bucket. Three and a half years ago I had a knee replacement and I broke all the bones in my foot from a quad accident so I had to ask all my friends to empty my toilet which I didn’t like asking them to do. People decided I should have a flushing toilet and a year later they sorted it for me and they wouldn’t take any money for it. I’m very lucky, I like people and I think life is about having a sense of humour. Like everybody I wake up some mornings and aren’t that happy but I look out at the great view and I know such lovely people. One of my mantras is ‘it’s not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain’. I’ll be here as long as I can be, when I broke my foot I could have said that’s it but everyone couldn’t have been more helpful. I live in a small village when I was young, in my early twenties I wrote a poem and it could have been about here, it was the sort of place I wanted to be but life took over and now this is it. It’s sort of difficult to explain to people.
Beckie 31 & Pat 37 Beckie: I was born in Carmarthen, I lived there until I was 24 and then I moved. I ran away, it was a romance thing, I thought it was going to be romantic but it wasn’t. We just packed up all my stuff and drove up here, a 12 hour drive. His Dad had lived here before and so had he. His Dad was on the run from IRA so they had hidden out here. I just remember wanting to leave straight away because I thought what the hell was this place. My boyfriend wasn’t very nice and he said I would never survive here if I wasn’t with him. We went to stay where Luke is planning on living now. There was no nothing, no electric, no water, I didn’t shower for a week. We came over the hill to visit people but for shopping we’d go to Ullapool with a big rucksack for food. He used to make me carry it like a donkey, I’d have a huge rucksack with tins while he disappeared to get stoned. I was bleached blonde but my hair starting turning green because of the copper water tank, I had to put ketchup in my hair to get rid of the colour. I was with him for 8 months. Then he cheated on me so Estha took me in and set me up with her brother Pat. My Dad didn’t speak to me for a good year, he was stubborn about it because we didn’t say goodbye. Then I met Pat and I stayed here for him. It’s getting away from the rat race, you don’t realise how stressed you are until you come to a place like this. I’m the only Welsh in the village. My cousin came up saying she’d be here for a year but she only lasted 6 weeks. I miss my friends, my best friend Zach, and for a good 2 or 3 years I was homesick but now I am married and we are adopting. My Mum comes to visit and we go down to visit as well so I don’t get homesick. It’s nice having to cross the loch, I’ve always been quite an adaptable person anyway, otherwise you’d have to walk out so I prefer to take the boat. Quite alot in the winter I have asked myself why am I here but now it doesn’t faze me. Pat goes away fishing so he comes back with shopping and we have our own routine so it doesn’t bother me. I leave here more in the summer time, we leave most weekends and go and do something with Pat or with my friends. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is not a shop here, I never thought it wouldn’t bother me but the post office can send stuff over for me. My cooking skills before I came here was packeted pasta but now I can cook anything. It’s the fact we don’t have a shop, we have chickens, it’s also having the time to actually do it. It’s having time to actually enjoy it as well, we have food nights, we have Mexican, Chinese, Jamaican nights and Sushi nights, it’s all fun. I’ve put loads of weight on here as I was always too busy before working 14 hours a day in hospitality in South Wales. I was cooking, I’ve always done food but it was fried grill and microwave. I was lonely for a long time and then we got a dog and he changed everything, and we are also adopting. It’s having friends here and I also keep busy winkling. Pat was away for 12 days at a time on the old boat but now it is 4 and a half days. I hate the winkling with a passion and have just done it 3 times, it’s good money and everyone does it but when you close your eyes and try to get to sleep you just see winkles. If I do think about living off-grid I think about when I lived on the other side when we didn’t have a toilet or a shower but here even though we are off grid it is total-
ly fine. In south Wales I had been paying a grand a month for rent and was also travelling to work but here it is £200 a month for our bills. We’ve got the Internet and I like wind power, there’s no bills for it, touch wood it has never broken. If I was to live in Wales now I think it would be such a pain in the arse to pay bills and work stupid amounts of hours. Here the day goes quickly and I am so busy but it is the first time in my life I have been stress free, it’s really good for me. We were going to move to Ullapool but they have quite a few break-ins but here it’s not like that, you don’t get broken into. There is no crime here at all which is just like an ideal world. There is no police and everyone just looks out for everyone. There is no swearing, it’s quite old fashioned, I really do like it here. I’m still a townie but I’d rather be here.
Pat: I was born down in Edinburgh as my parents were down there visiting my gran as she lives down there. All my days I have lived here, I did live away for 3 years at college in Thurso. I was 15 when I went to college, I wasn’t sad to move away for that time, it was pretty exciting, lots of friends and in halls of residence. I would probably always come back here, I suppose the winter time is hard to be here. Ideally it would be nice to have a house abroad to go to and nip back here for the summer time but it’s probably a few years away that that is possible. It was great growing up here, an amazing place to live, great to charge around on a bicycle or motorbike, go out fishing. We were allowed to go out aged 12 in the boats by ourselves, we’d get up to everything, fishing , beach combing, horse riding. Bonfires and lots of camping. We went up the Ben camping and to the Lochins catching trout. In some aspects I’d say that it was a better childhood than others because you were just allowed to get on and be a child. Maybe some bad aspects were because you couldn’t just nip down to the cinema or do what other kids were doing like going bowling. But we had more freedom and we were treated fairly like adults as long as you weren’t being daft. We’d go out playing for the whole day, have lunch out at your mates and come back for dinner. The school was bigger in my day, there was 15 pupils at the school then and more people living here. I did schooling here and also went to boarding school at Gairloch. I had enough friends here when I was growing up, we were very close knit and we would always spend our time outdoors. We never felt we were different as you don’t know any better, you just got on with it and accepted it. It’s a unique place in itself, it’s off-grid, it has wind power, we have our own fresh water well, and there are no extra expenses we incur living here. Initially you do have to buy a wind mill and the batteries but after that it is a huge saving in the long run. I’ve always been attracted to the sea because of living so close to it. I skipper a trawler, it’s 18 metres long and I go to Skye with it and Stornoway. I also had to sail it for a refit around towards Aberdeen last year and I have also fished from the Isle of Man to the Firth of Forth. It’s up to me where we go. It’s nice to be on this side of the coast because of the travelling aspect. The boat
owner was born on Scoraig and his Nan used to live in the house I live in now. I go fishing for Langoustine only because they are more profitable than alot of the other stuff you can catch and the boat is set up for that and the boat is only licensed to catch shell fish. It’s very peaceful, a very beautiful place to live, apart from midges. Power wise it has got a bit more sophisticated. When we were growing up we only had a 12 volt light system and a small black and white TV but washing machines and power points have come along later on. Hugh is a very smart bloke, the man that makes the wind mills for power. Now because of advances in the mill we can run a chest freezer which helps to keep stocked up. There is more and buying and selling of houses now. Before it was unheard of, houses were never being sold, I suppose because the value of land has gone up so people are selling off patches of their land to make money. The people here are very talented and good to have around, people that aren’t suited to this place wouldn’t survive so Scoraig in a way chooses its own people. You get alot of people coming here who can’t hack it with the long winters, it’s not an easy place to survive. It’s different for me as I am always coming and going and don’t get stuck here as I have to go to work. You don’t have time to think about anything that might be bad, you just have to get on with it. When I was younger I’d be helping my Dad Nigel out on the croft with cattle and hay so I was quite involved. My parents are here and Estha and Laurence and her boys and we have another sister in Ullapool. I don’t know if I’ll be here for forever, you just have to see what comes, we will be adopting so it will be nice for the child to have a steady place to live. Crossing the water whenever I need to leave here always feels like an adventure, it’s never the same, sometimes it gets windy and quite bad, sometimes it gets uncrossable. I’ve come across in a gale before and we’ve had to sail on further around the corner just to get shelter. The price of the euro to the pound is terrible, I don’t think they know what they have got themselves into, it’s all of a bit of a shambles, time will tell I guess. All the fishing quota comes from Brussels, alot of foreign boast fish over here and for some fishermen it is a problem and there is alot more conflict. Because of that I wanted to leave the EU as my livelihood is at stake and I am being told what I can and cannot catch. It’s criminal also what is getting dumped at sea because you’re not allowed to land it. French boats are allowed whatever they catch but we aren’t. It’s pretty easy to have a garden and grow what you want, it’s not rocket science. Sometimes you see on TV people are snowed in when the weather was poor and you see that the shop shelves are bare, so because we are more self sustaining here it’s nice not to be relying on anyone else, to be able to provide for yourself. People who live here are independent.
Bev 79 I came from the London suburbs originally, near Wimbledon. I was living in rural Northants, a 9 to 5 physics scientist, an experimental physics scientist in materials, working for an electronics company working in a laboratory. (I also drove to India and then on to Australia and worked there for two and a half years) and we met somebody who lived here (at Scoraig) so we came up here for a holiday and we got hooked on the idea of living here. I always thought I would return and take up violin making but never realised I would retire at 35. I got a job as the part time postman when we moved up here and we did that for 8 years by which time I had got a reputation so I gave up the post and because a full time violin maker. Most people go to a violin school but I had a young family at the time so I wouldn’t have been able to afford that. So I taught myself from books and other makers, I used to go to exhibitions and competitions. And I won a national violin making competition in 1986 that gave my career a boost. It wasn’t so much retiring but a career change, I gave up the 9 to 5 and became a violin maker. I haven’t made alot of money out of anything. The schooI I was at, at the age of 16, they loaned out free instruments and I was going to leave at 17 and they were going to take the violin back so I found a book in the library about how to make instruments and made my own violin. And then I wrote to someone I’d heard of - ‘Hills Violin Dealers’ saying that I was thinking of making a career in violin making or science and he said science. In those days artisans were of very low social standing and never earned very much and science was the future. For one thing I’d always wanted to build my own house and Gill liked the idea as there was a good primary school here for our 3 children. We came up here on holiday and got on well with families so we thought ‘let’s go for it’. I’ve never missed mainstream society, I’m happy to spend all of my time here but Gill my wife likes to get away quite often to cities. I couldn’t get away from science completey and recently did a study about violin acoustics. I did a press release and the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, I was famous for a day and now everybody has forgotten about it. It was the effect of humidity cycling on acoustic. Lack of money moving here was the biggest challenge for a while, trying to build a house with second hand materials and coping with the climate, gales and whatever. It was much more difficult to get here in those days, lots of single track roads and we didn’t have reliable motors on our boats and only one telephone box here before telephones and mobile phones. When we had visitors they’d write a letter to us and we’d tell them to drive onto the pier in their car and we’d look out for them with our binoculars. It’s exactly a mile across. We just had Tilly lamps for about a year and my neighbour Hugh and myself were developing wind turbines. But I put more of my energy into violins and my neighbour High is now an expert in wind turbines. We’ve also got PV cells, photo voltaic, solar cells. We’ve got a washing machine and power tools in the workshop. There are times of course when it is dull and windless and we have got to be careful with consumption. Waste disposal is a bit of a problem of course, there is a council
collection over the other side, but here we burn burnables, tins and bottles we take over for recycling. Miscellaneous things, un-burnable things go in the council rubbish bins on the other side. I think probably it has been a great adventure, to get a bit of ground and turn it into a garden and a house. It was very difficult yo be a pioneer in the modern world. You need money usually to buy a plot of land but when we first came here our neighbour gave us a corner of his croft. Just because he wanted more young people to come here and he wanted his children to learn violin. It was pretty sparsely populated until The Clearances in 1790 onwards and then families were cleared from the Dundonnel estate which is at the head of the Loch. The census records in 1871 was over 380 (people here). All Gaelic speakers. You can just see how many ruins there are around here and each one would have been supporting a large family. The men often went away (to work), often for years at a time, Canada and New Zealand. After 1871 the population steadily declined and in the 1960’s there were only a few families left. And so there were lots of empty Crofts so alot of newcomers moved in, they got crofting tenure and settled here. After the First World War there was a decrease and people just moved for an easier life, to Ullapool and Glasgow and Inverness. There was about 60 (people) when I first came here, there were 3 large families so that boosted numbers a bit. They came from all over the place - mostly England, Wales, Denmark, Hungary and some Highland people as well. When we first came up there were no original descendants but two men had moved here in 1945. They had been conscientious objectors (to the Second World War) and one was badly crippled. I like the space and I am very attached to my garden, I enjoy growing things and I share my time between working indoors and outside according to the weather. It’s very easy to get things by post now, via the internet, that takes up to a week but if you want something urgently one of your neighbours might be go into town or go yourself but that will take the best part of a day. The boat is only 3 times a week but the post service is very good. I have ordered things from London before and the next day they have arrived. There have been medical emergencies and sometimes in desperation a helicopter will come, I can recall 3 times in 43 years. It’s difficult to say what the stable population is as it fluctuates but I’d say around 70. And one of the recent problems is that older people are moving here because houses are being sold on the open market and they are the only ones that can afford to buy them. It was worrying a few years ago when the primary school population went down to 2 but now it is 7 and alot of babies are in the pipeline too. It was about 3 years ago, we did a national press release advertising for a primary school teacher and there were 100 applicants and even people in USA were interested - 4 were shortlisted and one was chosen. He was the perfect teacher but there were family problems so he head to go back home after a year. Price of fuel doesn’t worry us as we mostly burn home grown timber and the
house is very well insulated so it doesn’t take much fuel to keep it warm. Brexit is obviously a disaster, we get alot of young people from Europe, ‘work aways’ and I just like the idea of young people being able to move around easily. (In future) People will have to apply for visas and that kind of thing. The government doesn’t encroach on our lives here in comparison to others, but to some extent we feel a bit detached from the rest of the country. The biggest item we need help from the government for is education. Surprisingly the doctors come here every two months to give a surgery in my house, we have a porch that has a toilet that acts as a waiting room and they are seen in the bedroom. One at a time. I’ve made over 100 violins, they generally don’t sell to beginners as they wouldn’t be able to afford them, they’re for students at music colleges starting out on their professional career, that’s the biggest market and also for professionals who want a second instrument. They’re all around the world now, I now have a lifetime’s supply of wood from a sycamore tree I bought in Italy that has a close grain, which makes it more interesting to look at.
Cathy 61 The fires. The first fire was late July 2014, sort of weather like this, extended heat for many weeks. The hill is bone dry and it’s when you really shouldn’t start a bonfire but somebody started a fire and it just kept roaring up the hill side, fast approaching houses to the east of it. It always takes a while to discover that it isn’t just having a fire and the person who started it didn’t have the means to alert everybody. We didn’t have any beaters on that side and I was beating with an old blanket and we weren’t making very much headway with it. Then the Fire Brigade came over by boat and they started to do things professionally. The locals got containers with water and the fire crews had the sprayers but no water so they were constantly waiting for the men to bring them up water. The flames got to within 20 meters of the boundary fence and locals were packing their belongings getting read to move out. After that we got some beaters, home made ones, bits of old tire on long pieces of wood and also some back pack sprayers. The next fire was deliberately started at the next township along and we realise then that this was the type of fire we needed to handle so it was up to us to do whatever sort of fire fighting we could. This was February 2017, it was very dry, we have climate change, it’s weird weather. If this is the way the weather is going to go then we will get alot more fires. The backpack sprayer is basically a backpack with 20 litres of water and you walk along pumping it and it sprays at the fire, you beat the flames out and you spray the ground and it stops the flames springing back up. It’s a joint effort between the beater and the sprayer. If the fire is 400 metres wide over rough ground you need about 10 sprayers. It’s not something you can do methodically, you are all running towards where the flames are. The number of backpack sprayers there are are limited by the number of people there are. Obviously you get what you pay for. You can buy a backpack sprayer for as little as £70 but it might not carry enough water, how heavy will it be and how long will it last. Instead it’s a really good idea to buy fewer of the really expensive ones for £140 if we can. We’d like to get about 6. Ideally we’d have them placed at different points along the peninsula so people can respond instantly, as soon as you get to a fire the less it spreads obviously. This is also stuff we can use on house fires but primarily they are to be used on hill fires that threaten livestock, trees and the general environment and if the trees go up they usually surround the houses so the houses will go up too. Once it hits coniferous trees there is no stopping it. But even the grass here will burn if it is hot and dry enough. The peat here can also burn unbeknowsts to you and it can spring up the next day. We had fires and wanted to get some backpack sprayers, we received some funding, £150, and realised that it wasn’t going to go very far so the next Pop-Up Cafe was to raise funds, £300, which is quite alot for just local people, and that will go towards more backpack sprayers and they will be at different places along the hill. After the tea we went out for 3 hours, for a walk to add interest to the whole day and encourage more people to come. It’s not always easy
for people to come to Scoraig so to be given a day when you have a licence to show people this and answer questions goes down very well. Scoraig was an upgrade for me because the place I was living in previous to this was very remote. It was in Perthshire and a combination of teepees and caravans. It was a case of taking your bucket for water to the river and also relying on candles. Here was the first time I had been under a proper building type roof as opposed to ephemeral structures before. Here I had a tap, even though it was only one tap. If you live without alot before it’s very satisfying to live with a tap if you are only relying on the river before. Now I am quite spoilt and have a washing machine, a bathroom and a flushable toilet. There was no ‘why’ I came here. I drifted. I was looking for something similar and was travelling around the outer islands with a friend. We saw from a ferry that was where Scoraig was so came to visit. A couple who were going to India for a couple of years in 1980 said they would like me to look after their place so there was no decision to come here. I have seen alot of people come here with alot of expectations and it can never live up to it. Nowhere is a utopia. It was just a temporary thing and I was never meant to be here. It has alot of challenging and bad things but also alot of good things. No mortgage and no utility bills. I had to write to inland revenue and explain that I was managing on £200 a year then as I had filled in my income tax return and they questioned it. So I had to explain that it was actually possible to live on that little. I had come from a background with a conventional life, with university but dropped out and lived with an anarchist collective. I was sampling different ways to interact with the community. The anarchists were too intertwined with other people’s needs, it was too intense. Here you can be a hermit and be incredibly sociable though I am very pleased to have sampled the anarchist collective. It was very slow moving as everything had to be decided by consensus. It was a good thing and I think everybody should have a go. We’re going back to the 70’s here when there was alot of experimenting with different types of lifestyles all around the country. I had no conscious desire to live here, I was doing someone a favour. My point is that if you don’t have expectations here you are going to be alot happier if you come here saying it’s a utopia or have unrealistic goals. Basically I’ve been really happy here, happy-sad, every emotion really. I know I couldn’t live in the city or suburbia. We have a joke in this family, that if anybody finds anything hard in Scoraig that at least it isn’t Culbokie, which is a softer life. I think people were here from the Bronze Age. Then the main means of transport was by sea, nowadays we think of it as being isolated but then if you were travelling up and down by boat it was like a service station. I’m sure it’s been populated here ever since humans have been on the planet. The huge changes came around since the 19th century when job opportunities came about. They became more and more so that by WW1 every child from here was working away and once you experienced poverty and earned money
you never go back. When you lose your young people to pull boats out of the sea you lose your community. After WW2 the economy crashed so people left but it was never completely empty. Scoraig was almost chosen as an experiment in re-population in 1949 and that test failed. So we are almost the second experiment that started in the 60’s. Repopulation was particularly for the service men that were coming back from the war who wanted some land and also coal miners. ‘Clan Albainn’ society was for these people, very left wing Scottish nationalist. You do have to have no expectations in winter to get somewhere here. You can make an appointment to go to the doctor but there will always be times when you won’t make it. So go with the flow and make the appointment again. We are quite lucky living at this end as we can leave the car at the far end and we can always walk out which takes 3 and a half hours. But if it’s snowing the path will be blocked and you’re stuck. We all have a different take. People come here for all different reasons. What strikes me is that if you give someone alot of physical space their ego will fill it. It can be a good thing as the ego can get bigger creatively and you can explore yourself. Nobody will stop you from doing anything as long as it isn’t harming anybody - yourself, the children or the animals. As soon as you move in to Ullapool you have to start considering your behaviour towards the neighbours. That’s not unique as there are lots of places similar but what is unique and what is important to the health of the community here is that we aren’t driving around in cars. In a car you wave at each other so everything is disseminated but walking means you communicate better and can make up a plan as you are walking. If somebody has a cold everybody knows in half an hour. We don’t have locks in this house, I couldn’t lock it if I wanted to. I can’t go out and lock anything. It’s 20 minutes to walk to post a letter from here and 20 minutes back and it seems like such a chore but in fact it’s down time. For your head space, to look at the beetles, to listen to the birds, to meet people and have a conversation. I’m a contracting archeologist, if you need a hole dug I’ll dig it but not for your sewage pipes. I like places being grounded in their past. Up on the walk after the Pop-Up Cafe tea we were looking at old maps of Scoraig and the townships and how they developed. It is a landscape that was formed by historical decisions like The Clearances. If it hadn’t been for Napoleon we would still have people living on the other side. Maybe, maybe not.
Chisha 28 My Mum and Dad were not together when I was being raised, he was already in the USA, my Mum got kicked out of Russia, she was a poet and artist and anti-communist. She got caught running an underground journal publishing anti-communist propaganda, trying to do away with the system they had at the time. The KGB threatened to kill her, they took her in for an interrogation, the rookies were in charge as Putin was on holiday but couldn’t follow through with it as it was leaked in the press so she got told to leave the country and was given a ticket. She got herself stolen away illegally bound for the USA, she claimed asylum and did away with her citizenship. This was in the mid to late 70’s. I was born in the USA and got myself a ticket aged 18 and went to Dublin. It was the closest direct flight, I was on my way to go WWOOFing on a farm in Ireland then many years later I came to Scotland. I didn’t have any rights as an American so had to keep moving every 3 months. I got pregnant, tried to get married, considered Gretna Green, but decided on getting married in Poland. I wanted to have my son in Scotland as I don’t like Poland, I had heard horror stories about hospitals in Poland. I came back to Edinburgh but got bored of it, it was a monotonous existence so we went to Scoraig. A friend I had made in Ireland, Magic Andy, recommended Scoraig, he kept on saying to come over and had lived here for two year by the time I arrived. I have now been here 5 years. I came here as a couple with our son but we have now split up but still both live here. I met Tommy here and he invited me to Russia as I have never been and I dance whilst he sings and plays the guitar. I have collaborated with Tommy to make paintings for his translation of Schubert’s operatic music. Lots of winter scapes that are projected on a screen as he sings and a dance element. It’s boring just living life, you have to have a creative spark to make it worthwhile. The water creates a situation in which people can choose who comes, who stays and who goes. Life can be made unpleasant for undesirables who stay. People who have been here a long time can be quite influential in you being able to stay. In many places you don’t have a say who your neighbours are but here there is an element of that. Arrangements can be made for people to stay here. It is difficult to live here, especially if you don’t have a boat and a car. People like to feel useful here and like to be dependent on people, to want to feel needed and be autonomous. That’s the universal question, people want to be useful but at the same time not be reliant on someone. We are all very different here, I am the only one here that is artistic and interested in dance. Tommy is the only musician and Bev the only violin maker but we all rely on each other for help as we have to be able to get across the water and be able to get into town. The spirit of the penisula is that even if you know someone might not like you, if you ask them for help, that they will be there to help you out. Enymity, it’s the spirit of being enemies, it’s unavoidable, rivalry and all that sort of stuff. There are types of people who just don’t like each other but thats not to say those people won’t be there to help you as people do want to be seen as being good. I did get a loan from the Princes Trust to do jewellery which is what I am doing here but went bust as the UK economy is so bad. It costs money before you get a return on it as all the material is precious material. I have been getting com-
missions from Russia since I have been going there even though I am here as it is so hard to get by as an artist in Britain. I think art ought to be valued but since I let go of wanting my creativity to be valued things have got better, basically I am doing work more than ever before as I had been waiting for financial recognition but now I just get on and do it without trying to do everything for money. It’s all about how I value my own time. You have to ask yourself do I like doing it? As if you only do it for money you end up hating it. Is it anyway to live that you have to work for 8 or 9 hours a day that you don’t like to earn money? It should be something you enjoy. I am still here as my son is at school here, I have some really good friends, particularly older people as they have less bullshit and they have the same lightness that children have before they grow up. People grow up and then they grow down again. It’s the growing process of letting go of needing to feel important. There are alot of older people living here which is why I partly prefer it. People have a tendency to run away from themselves and they come here dragging themselves along so the attraction of Scoraig is to get over any issues they may have and work on the issues they came here with. On the mainland you have so many distractions that many people never get to see that all the problems they have with their neighbour or their work is that it is them, but here you have Winnie the Pooh Taoism, we are all working on ourselves and we all are causing the ripples that are going on around us. We are all different but only the same that we want to be away from the nonsense. Out there in that world there is a certain value system but it is isn’t universal I can tell you that much. People come here for self-exploration, peace and to get away from the bullshit. If you speak to anybody here they will all say that, they are getting away from the value system that tells you you ought to be this way or that way to be valued by your peers or whatever it is which doesn’t resonate with everybody, they are trying to create their own idea of utopia. I’m here for more selfish reasons, I don’t want to be surrounded by other people’s judgements. I’m here for 4 or 5 months every year and then leave to go back to Russia and leave my son with my ex. I make more money in Russian teaching English which pays for my rent, my food and my travel. I love it because I enjoy the ballet I can do there and I prefer the mentality, the toughness and resilience to change. Russians have an ability to withstand anything. British are total softies who can’t see farther than the end of their nose and who self-pity. People go to pieces here who have had trauma here and I don’t play that game, in Russia people are proud of their battle scars and make something good of the bumps in their life.
Claire 27 & Damien 27 Claire: I am French and was born in Poitiers. I arrived first in Scotland on the 10 March and Damien arrived the 10 May. We began our relationship in France one week before I left to come here to Scotland. I had already planned my travel with the WWOOFiNG before we met. I had already been here 6 years ago with my brother for just 2 weeks and I had already travelled a bit and my favourite country was Scotland. I wanted to go to a white country and an English speaking country. I was looking ta WWOOFING online and wanted to do gardening and I am vegetarian so didn’t want to work with livestock so I saw this place and it looked really beautiful. My main destination was Shetland, that was the centre of my travel but I planned all of my WWOOFING before leaving France and wanted to come here after seeing the photos. I saw that you have to take a boat here, that was interesting for me, I really wanted to be isolated, I needed it. I lived in Paris for a few months at a friend’s house and I had too many stimulations in big cities and I wanted to find myself and be in an isolated place. I mostly chose isolated places like Shetland, Lewis and here. I’ve been around too many people, too many informations, it’s too stressful and exhausting. I come from the countryside, I need to have peace, I really need it, I cannot stand to be in cities anymore. I need simple ways to live and I found it in Scoraig. We have only been here in Scoraig for 2 weeks and it isn’t enough time to really understand the way of living here. We have Shetland in our minds as I spent 2 months there and Damian one month there. Here it is a little bit the same as Shetland, to live closer to nature and be on the same equation with nature. Brexit! I’m not really a fan about it as it means we might not be able to travel in an easy way. If there had been a Brexit before we would not have been able to do this travel. It builds a wall and the world is step by step more and more closed. It is a shame. We’d like to go to Italy next, that is the plan for the moment, for our next travel. I lived there for one year a few years ago and Damien is really interested by this country and I know what I’d like to show him and discover new places with him. All of what we have found here at Scoraig is the same as we found in Shetland. It is the immensity of the landscape, the isolation and the desire to believe in other ways. They produce their own vegetables here, they have chickens for the eggs and the wind energy also. They try to live outside of consumerism, it’s important that some people exist who still want to live in this way, it gives hope. For now we know we want to travel and find these kind of places and share with people, both me and Damien would like to be nomads for the moment, as long as possible and maybe one day we will want other things but for now we really want to travel, to open the mind and maybe after we can share the knowledge.
Damien: I was born in Limoges. Me and Claire met at a party, I always wanted to travel but I never did it before. This is the first time I am outside France but Claire has been abroad before. The way of life of modern times is so fast and so much information, with just a few sensations, emotions and feelings and we don’t listen to ourselves. We don’t think but here we have the space to think and to feel and the time to do it. When we have the desire to think we have the time here and we can pay attention way more to people than in a city. It’s important to us, it’s really important. We learn alot about other people and we can share alot of giving and having something back, that’s the main thing about life, sharing and feeling, to understand each other and ourselves. You learn alot about yourself when you’re around other people. It’s therapy for me.
Dale 47 It was lots and lots of reasons obviously, I was fed up with working in an office all day looking at a screen and having to pay to go to a gym to keep fit. I was fed up with all the people, wit the masses and it would take me 40 minutes to drive 7 miles to get into work. Huntington is on the crossroad of the country, it’s a big lorry park alot of the time. We could have fancied moving not so far aware but I had been to Scotland a few times and fancied it. But I wanted woods, mountains and sea all in the same place, which is a bit hard to get all in one place in the UK, but I have found it here. There is a proper sense of community here which I think is lacking in other parts of the country. The people is what makes it for me here. A small story explains what I mean - when I lived in a village in Cambridgeshire I had a neighbour that I used to wave to everyday and I knew his name. I saw hm in a pub one day and I said hello to him and he turned around looking angry and said that he didn’t know who I was. I had lived 20 yards from him for 10 years and he didn’t even know who I was. But here it is the opposite side of that, everybody knowns everybody and everybody helps each other out. I’m good at computers and networking, especially if it’s a Mac, I’m not so keen on Windows. I’ve always been a technical graphic designer, always the one for people to go to fix computers and artwork up something. It’s been alright, it’s paid for the family, I have 3 kids, its given us a good life apart from a few debts. I enjoyed it but almost fell into it, I didn’t know what I would do when I left the 6th form. In a previous life I would have been a craft worker, I’m good with my hands and quite logical and methodical which is the opposite to alot of graphic designers. It paid for itself but never expected to have a career in graphic design. I still am a graphic designer, but before I came up here I was working full time, 9 to 5. I knew I didn’t want to do freelance up here as you spend half the time looking for work but I was lucky and found a zero contract graphic design job I can do online. 3 and a half hours a day. The rest of the time I do what I call crofting, I built a poly tunnel, we have goats, ducks and chickens. My wife is a nursery teacher on the peninsula and jobs are hard to come by here so we have been lucky she can do that. There was a big thing a couple of years ago when they were looking for a teacher and it went national as it was such as difficulty to find someone. Children are important here as the community needs to keep going, I’m hoping that my daughter will like it enough here to stay as she is coming here soon so my grand daughter will be here which is good. You need people in the community and kids become adults obviously, and the school is a hub for lots of what is happening here. We’re going to have a plastic day soon to clear all the plastic off the beaches so we’ll get the kids involved with that also. It’s the fact that everyone is willing to help each other out here, even if it’s small things like helping to load up your boat or borrowing tools that you need for doing jobs. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, partly because financially but also I don’t want to have to work full time anywhere now. The best thing is the people, I came here to escape, for various reasons, my story how I found the place is an advert in the back of the Permaculture Magazine. Me and my brother had come up on holiday to Skye on a permaculture campsite and they were talking about permaculture, I didn’t know what it was so when I got back home I bought the magazine and saw an advert in the back for
a croft for sale. It as advertised as off-grid on a peninsula, we came up to have a look and walked in to view it but as soon as we saw it we were hooked. So we sorted it all out and I moved in on my own as we still had a house in Cambridgeshire and the kids were going to school. After 2 months my landlord here was awkward to pay rent to and I thought about leaving but then a lady living here suggested I rent a house off her instead. 2 months later I moved back up and we have been here ever since. Crossing over the loch never really put me off living here, we did have a little boat to use at first and it was a littler bit hairy and I did come unstuck a few times but it is like driving a car and you gradually build your confidence. When a job came up to be a relief ferry boat man I took it up as it is a good way of getting more experience and I love doing it, I tend to come down once a week to get practice in all sorts of seas and all sorts of tides. I’m really politically minded, always have been a little bit and it’s just an absolute mess, all of it really. The Brexit thing was tricky for me, EU is too big and cumbersome for me, making laws for people in rural Scotland from urban Brussels. In the end I was a remainer because of being in Scotland and I would have voted for Scottish independence even though I am English because how can a billionaire conservative in London know what is best for someone in another country?! I’m a big Corbyn fan, mainly because of his principles, he is a man of principle. At least he’d be heading in the right direction. My politics are based on principles so when I saw the Grenfell tower thing I just knew that it was about poor people in a rich affluent area. They made the building look pretty for the rich people around them but at the expense of the people inside it. If it had been private and full of bankers it would have had fire proof cladding on it and it would have cost twice as much. It just shows how the country is, it shows what happens if you do or don’t have money. I don’t vote for me, to keep me richer, like the Tories, but the way I look at it I vote for the common good. If I was well off I’d still vote for a more socialist government. For me, apart from the community aspect and helping the older people, which doesn’t happen very often, it’s the environmental thing. That you can live from solar and wind power and you don’t need coal and nuclear power. And because you know what you are consuming, where your water comes from and your power you are always going to be environmentally friendly. I used to preach about environmental stuff and then go home and put my 48 inch flat screen TV on but here you can really live it. A couple of times a month you only use a car when you need to go shopping and doing things when you really need to. I wouldn’t want everyone to come and live here and people wouldn’t do that anyway but I like to promote the place to show what it represents and live a bit more sustainably, environmentally and consciously in the UK. Any amount of environmental stuff people are talking about isn’t necessarily going to change anything unless you’re going to jump off a boat in front of an oil tanker. People need to know that they can live like this right now without having to change that much. Obviously there are some things you cannot run very well like irons, but that is only down to the small inverter that we use and other people do have bigger ones.
Estha 42 I was born in Inverness, my Mum Russ hitched in to have me so I hear. Nigel is my step Dad. We have lived in a few places, I lived over the side at Achmore which is even more remote than Scoraig and also down by the pier by Jonah and Rhona’s at the shop where the post box is. I was in Ullapool for a year just working, it was great because I was 16, just that there were boys around, that sort of stuff. I don’t know about living in another place to bring up kids as I’ve always been here. Growing up here was brilliant, we were always outside and could do pretty much anything as long as we came home for dinner. We’d go in boats, do lobster pots, at about 11 years of age. Even at school lunch break we’d go down to the sea to go swimming, to pick muscles and have a fire and cook them on the shore. Not everyone but some people would pick winkles to get money, on their own. I think because there was such a large group of us that our parents never worried because there was always somebody older looking after us. Parents were always aware of where we were on Scoraig and half keeping an eye out for us. We’d go camping on the hill and my friend built himself a little house that he lived in when he was 13. He was very independent and his dad was an artist, just that he would take over the whole house. Personally I would choose to bring children up here which is why I am here but the only thing I feel that I missed out on was dancing, a dance school. A family came here recently with a small child and they came round and asked how we managed as there is so much danger, the sea down there and the cows and the list went on. And I said how do you manage in a town with all the cars and all the people everywhere. Here I am aware here of what is dangerous like the pier so I am careful to keep my kids away from there - it’s the unknown that is the danger. When you are a kid you are very practical and they are given the opportunity to take things apart because if their surroundings was in a council house or flat you wouldn’t necessarily have the opprtunity to see those things. Here they can sail across the loch and take an engine part and think through how things work. You see things differently here, it’s a good place to start in the big wide world and also being around so many talented people here, like violin makers and wind mill makers and mechanics and artists. Also knowing where your power comes from and how much the wind power generates is also useful, we have a battery bank to store all the power. For the kids it’s great to be able to teach them when to turn the lights off. But I’m sure you learn alot of other things in towns as well. From when we were little we didn’t have a TV or any power at all. We just had Tilly lamps, we did get a telly when I was 12. It was a little black and white one but we weren’t allowed to watch it very much. Just because of the power but also because our parents didn’t want us sitting inside watching telly all the time. I remember we’d go to a friends house to watch Top of the Pops every Thursday for a while. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Loads of people used to come and visit so we never lacked anything, we couldn’t exactly choose your friends though, they were just already here, but it works great. Everyone has a special bond here because you’re almost brother and sister but I do feel that it has changed quite alot from before. There is more money here in general now so there is less need to rely on others for help. Before everyone used to share more with tractors etc but now everyone here almost has a boat and a car so
you can get your shopping yourself and get it home. But before it was a big deal to get shopping, to be at the pier to help get the boat up the shore and be more aware of what people were doing. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else, I love all of it. Sometimes I’lI wish the weather would be the same for 3 weeks instead of pouring with rain but if you’ve got proper waterproofs it doesn’t matter if it’s raining and you’re more aware of the seasons as you can see them. I couldn’t live anywhere else that isn’t by the sea, it’s something about…if I’m inland it’s something about being claustrophobic, it means I can breathe easily, I suppose it’s what I’ve always known, it’s what I am used to. I was a primary teacher here for about 10 years, it suited me fine and meant I got paid to look after other people’s kids as well as my own. I think everyone is materialistic to a point and you want the best fo your kids but I don’t think its makes you any happier, so I have never wanted to be able to earn more money. It’s a shame that there is not any work for younger people to draw them to Scoraig but there is internet now so you can do things that you have never been able to do before. The water can be a chore in the winter when you have to get to Inverness and back in a day and it gets dark at 4 o’clock, you definitely have to plan your trips and you literally have to come back as soon as you have arrived. Sometimes when it is too windy you just have to change your plan. I go shopping every couple of weeks, it’s probably more, we don’t desperately need to though as we have a huge freezer but usually its for milk and other stuff.
Fudge 45 & Ewan 52 Fudge: It’s an interesting space Scoraig if you’re an outsider, to look in. It’s lovely but it’s hard work, it’s not easy is it - just the lifestyle. Just having to do traditional ways to keep warm, cutting logs and that sort of stuff, I find it quite interesting. Learning about wind, I never knew about this before. I come from Zimbabwe, I’m an artist and English teacher. I came over here in 2005, in search of the pound, to make it quickly and go back home but then got stuck here not making much.
In terms of feeling welcome I feel OK because I have Ewan to guide me. I am just taking it as it goes. It’s very accessible here, there is public transport to a certain point. I like being away from interfeering people, I don’t like the crowds, and there is a certain sense of freedom here so you can be yourself, there is no sense of ‘money urgency’ or consumerism and you don’t go round and round in circles all the time, here you can forget about all that stuff for a while.
I did a bit of care work and doing a bit of art and I have a business called ‘afro art land’ that I run from Edinburgh. I run art workshops for schools and communities. I do my own artwork that I exhibit and I do artwork in Scoraig, it gives me space to work here as I cannot work in the city, that’s important to say. I also work with pigments, making natural pigments using lychens and I’m going to ask the locals how to use natural pigment and use in my own work. Stuff like that happens when I come here as I find it a great change from my job in Edinburgh selling wardrobes that I do for bread and butter and when I come here I come to relax, and sleep and do my artwork.
There is enough signal here to keep yourself entertained with a smart phone. It’s not so remote here to keep yourself away from communicating and it’s not far from the real world but others might say that this is the real world. If I could I would live over the hill on Scoraig as it has the most beautiful views and you feel like you are in heaven, I want to be there but I can’t see myself sailing round to Ullapool. The Scoraigs are precious about their space as they don’t want outsiders to come in and ruin the free spirit.
I hope to live here with my daughter as it is peaceful, healthy air, freedom, as the kids say - ‘freedom to run’. But if I keep focus on the arts scene I hope to be able to get some work going, income, which is the main fear, income, how will I survive and make artwork to sell on Scoraig. I do quite well and I am immersed in the art scene but I need an agent to up my profile and push my exhibitions. When I first came here I came with Ewan my new found partner. Secretly I wasn’t quite sure where I was going and I wasn’t sure about crossing the loch. Quietly I put on a brave face about going across in a small boat with an engine stuck on it. I’m still learning how to jump on the boat and face the right direction. We have crossed so many times now with different characters of the sea, with flat calms and also waves drenching me and my phone getting drenched with salt water. But to see Scoraig like this is just a fraction of the story. In the winter you have to get enough logs, and coal and chop firewood. It’s what endeared me to Ewan as he can chop firewood. It’s how we met, he brought me some firewood to my little flat in Edinburgh. Ewan is a builder of note and a musician and a film maker. Sometimes I feel like I have been accepted here but other times I feel like I haven’t. I haven’t met everybody yet so I cannot comment and I cannot walk as far as I would like as I’m not fit so I cannot meet everybody. I think when I move here I won’t be marginalised on a racial context as people are very nice. I used to enjoy weekend visits in Zimbabwe to see a friend when I was young, that’s how I became arty farty. It’s very similar, there is probably more off-grid there in Zimbabwe than here, but there wasn’t all that technical, it was more basic than this. This is actually quite a luxurious space to be on in fact, it’s not meant to be ‘well to do’ people when you are off-grid, it’s meant to be poor people but it’s actually a range here of middle class people and the poor people suffer in the cities. Scoraig can never look ugly though, I see it from a novel view, from an artist immigrant point of view. It’s beautiful with water and idyllic but I suppose if you grow up here you are aware of harsher realities, many of the young people also move to go and work in the cities.
title of his book as he was looking at ‘the other side of the coin’, as a metaphor and of the other world over there, which is governed by slightly different rules. Familiarity can break down over time. The people get used to seeing each other every day as there are so few people so sometimes politeness gets pushed aside. This is why it is nice to be able to go to the city sometimes and be anonymous. When I come here for short visits we are self-contained so we don’t have to step out into the limelight and get involved in Scoraig acitivites. Childhood, in those days there were no trees, so that it something of a task getting to school in the winter time. Sometimes there would be a gale blowing and we’d shelter behind stone walls when a gust was coming, so you’d be late for school. There was free reign at school, you could go down to the shore and play on the beach, we didn’t spend all our time inside like alot of pupils do now.
I think if anyone wants to become a ruler of a country you have to come from the same breed and they are all from the same mother. They are all related some how. It must be a certain gene. I think Mugabe and Theresa May are the same. Why can’t they be really really lovely. I always tried to find fault with Nelson Mandela as he was so perfect, how could he be this genuine and perfect. Maybe I used to be naive to politics…Brexit is interesting, the most investing thing. I was reading today about Windrush, I was thinking abut my own situation, I find that people here don’t understand immigration and how people like me have had to suffer to be able to stay here, to pay the home office loads of money to stay here. It’s hard work and you have to keep motivated and make money and make the most of it.
My Dad was Alan Bush, he came to Scoraig in the early 60’s and he was from a farming public school background and his wife was Swedish. I was born here and I have two brothers and two sisters and at that time all the old gaelic speaking residents were moving away and selling up. My Dad was a romantic and into all the stories that the Gaelic speakers told him, he was interested in all the old records of the place which still exist and he fell in love with the place, but it was hard for my mother as a Swedish academic to live here. When my Dad moved here there were only two white men (conscientious objectors in WW2) living here and 3 or 4 households of Gaelic crofters. Alan was very interested in machines and the practical side. When Hugh Piggott arrived that was when they started developing the wind power.
What I find quite daunting about Scoraig is the lack of doctor. Whenever I come here I am more cautious about looking after myself.
When you come across here you instantly notice the weight come off your shoulders and it feels as though you are in a certain different time zone. It is the natural beauty of the place and when you look out it does have a natural effect on your soul. For me that is something I have grown up with, it is part of my personalty so whenever I come back here I try to maintain it so that I have it when I go back to the city. It’s an emotional place, my ancestors are here, the past is still ingrained in the present in Scoraig, you still see it in how the way things are.
Ewan: People get very fixated, you could just give an idyllic story here but also you do have to tell the other side too. The town and country theme has always been central to my life. I was brought up here until I was 9 and then went to Sweden, educated there which was very modern and then coming back to here. I didn’t come back here full time, but had the option to stay here with my mother when she received this house in her divorce settlement. I spent alot of time doing it up here and there are amazing wild gardens, it is always a struggle keeping on top of things as everthing grows up here so fast. Generally the average age of the person living here has gone up. When I was growing up land was cheap or free and more people were moving here because of what was going on around the country because of alot of upheaval in the 80’s. Land here was free or very cheap so people have to either travel and come and go or get a job here which is becoming more feasible with internet, because of being able to work online. There is a collection of oldies who are not keen on newcomers and new ideas but that’s normal in all communities. Sometime they do have legitimate concerns but also they are not staying in with the times. Scoraig has been used as an microcosm of an idea, I was telling a friend about ‘the other side’, this way that you talk about the other side, and my friend used it as the
There are certain themes or constants that affect our day to day living here, in the environment that haven’t changed, like having to heat the house. That’s a major occupation in the winter as you have to keep the house warm and weirdly water in the summer, like now, when there isn’t enough and in winter it’s like a swamp crossing the fields, which you don’t see right now. In the old days people would have walked out more from here but these days people use the sea more even though it has always been a common theme. The kids grow up with the tides and it’s more relevant to your existence, it’s more intense, people talk about the weather earnestly. Wind movement, you become weather aware. People also get a bit dumb as there is a lack of culture which means if you try to talk about cultural things people are unable to. You’re forced to be responsible here and look after yourself and also everyone else too. You have to keep an eye on each other so if people disappear after a day or two you have to go and look for them.
Hannah 39 I was born in Poland, Wroclaw. I lived there 20 years, I was studying pyscology and philosophy. I did odd jobs in the holidays. I moved to Ireland for a year when I met Andy and ‘W’. Then I moved to Edinburgh in 2005, I had friends there and I heard it was a good city to go to, a really nice place to go. My boyfriend was in Ireland so I went there too. I met him in Poland and he went to Ireland to go to a job. I carried out my Masters whilst in Ireland, it was about quality of life. I found that people had a better quality of life with the less they had. I had friends in Scoraig, ‘W’ lives here and I was escaping from Edinburgh. I started to settle here and was offered a place to live in The Spiral. I have been here nearly a year. We came for a week in July last year and then moved in August. It’s very relaxing here and still inspiring. I came here when I was feeling quite low but here is like putting down roots and spreading out wings, it is what I have always wanted and there are really nice people here. It’s safe and the kids are happy here. Damien likes climbing trees and Sophie likes searching for grasshoppers. I don’t know how long I will live here for. There is a secondary school in Ullapool and I don’t like the idea that my children have to stay in Ullapool whilst they go to secondary school. I am making sure my children are busy and happy and don’t hunt too far for grasshoppers. I am working in Ullapool, a care home, I do one night shift a week, it is to have some money to do some shopping and go out, to work in a different environment. This is the first place I have lived off-grid, I think it is easy, I don’t miss anything from a regular house, I have electricity from wind power and solar panels. When there is less light and no wind we just wait until there is power. I’m happy here for now. I like the community and that they are so ‘community’ - like, people know each other and when someone needs help they give help and that they are supportive. Sometimes I miss Poland, sometimes alot. I have my mum and my brother and my grandmother and sometimes I feel they would like me to be closer so that I can help them. I don’t know if I will go back to Poland. I have got a garden here, that is how I spend most days, I have cabbages, carrots, green peas and beetroots, onions, garlic, raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrants. We share a garden with Andy and Jessie. They have plums and the children take them like it’s our garden. I like to play guitar and I do some knitting and a little bit of painting. I’m not so sure why things here make me happy, it is less structured and less predictable so you more like follow what happens, like the wind. You do different stuff when it is raining, guided by the weather. I do buy some food as I have only started the garden in the spring. I love the seaweed, I put it on the garden and it is definitely fertiliser, it works.
Hugh 65 I came here in 1975, I was brought up in Edinburgh and my background is in maths and physics. I also did some psychology at Uni as well. I’ve always been interested in electricity and when I first came to live here we didn’t have electricity in the first few years and wind seemed like an obvious way to make power and wind energy was a very exciting way to produce renewable energy. We had been using paraffin lights and when we had little children the convenience of electric lighting was very attractive. I lived here because, well it is a very difficult thing to put into words, because it is very beautiful and I like the off-grid lifestyle. I had only lived off-grid on holiday on the Isle of Mull before here. It was a cottage by the sea with no road or electricity so it involved the same as the Scoraig boats and we used paraffin lighting. I think it’s still as attractive now as my childhood but I can’t really put it into words. It’s not about moral superiority - it’s either in you and you get it or you don’t. It’s more to do with having more control over your own hands-on environment, it’s attractive to me to grow my own veg and make my own power rather than be part of a big machine. I was active earlier than alot of others with wind power, others were active in other ways so I don’t consider myself as unique. There was a time when if you typed wind power in Google my web page was the first page that came up but those days are long gone. Through the internet I have a large international network of design enthusiasts that follow, like and continue to use my design approach and teaching courses. I would say the interest in my windmill plans peaked about ten years ago so I think the level of interest has fallen away a bit. I don’t know why it peaked or why it has fallen, if it has fallen, but presumably it’s easier for people to download my plans from pirate websites or people prefer to self-build these days. I can’t say about my own personal popularity, I’m not bothered and it makes for a quiet life if I don’t have so many people on my case. I’m actually more interested now in small hydro than small wind now. I think it’s an undervalued resource. I think that small wind is an over valued resource and that most people assume that small wind turbines are more capable than they actually are. I am horrified to see how small wind turbines are being marketed for wholly unsuitable applications, so there is alot of ignorance amongst the public about small wind turbine usage. But it has been a very appropriate way to make power on Scoraig as there is alot of wind and there is alot of darkness and there isn’t a good way to produce alot of power from hydro at household level. These days mainly I’m dealing with international customers, 20% are in the UK, other than that they are all over the world and I am working as a dealer for a company in New Zealand. The thing with small hydro, it’s like small wind, it’s very poorly understood so a great part of it is technical support and sales and successful installation follow up. I think the light is rather special here because of the rain fall, the air is very clear and the colours are very good. It’s hard to explain why it’s attractive to live close to the sea and I think it’s a very deep rooted psychological feeling, being close to the sea is something I would look for in a place to live. On a more practical level the freedom to do things in my own way has been very important because I dislike regulations and arbitrary authority and I enjoy inventing things from
scratch rather than following instructions. Sometimes I would consider the water too scary to go across because I would consider it dangerous or too uncomfortable to be on but obviously it depends what’s at stake. Over the years it has changed alot, when I was younger I was alot more adventurous so I wouldn’t think anything of coming across in the dark in high winds but nowadays I would avoid that. What I have noticed about the loch is that the more you go across the it the less it worries you but if you never go across it can be daunting. The post man can be much more blasé about it as they are doing it almost everyday or every other day. But familiarity can breed contempt. It varies an awful lot, it’s usually for family reasons I go across rather than work or necessity. Internet has changed things alot now so before it was a big expedition to go an do shopping and buy materials but now it is more whimsical and I only go to the dentist for example. I would sooner stay here and not leave Scoraig. I’m still very busy but have stopped doing teaching courses and doing installations and now I am earning more than I ever had done writing technical documents, editing documents, that’s quite well paid. I also work on commission helping customers, so have spent all my life helping people by internet and helping them for free but now it is a nice situation as they buy something too and I am able to help them and get paid for it. I would say it is very attractive to me not to use a car, but saying that there are several people who live here who drive vast distances to go to work from here, that’s the aspect of living off grid in a remote place, that there is an option to become an commuter on an even bigger scale than when you live in an urban situation. There are all sorts of different aspects to living on Scoraig and being off-grid and different motivations I am sure.
Janet 69 & Paul 72 Paul: The mentality of the people here is much the same as Alaska. It’s very functional and you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. Everything has to be useful and recycle what you can. I’ve worked harder here than I ever have done in the rest of my life and I’m meant to be retired here. Jan: You don’t have to go hunting here but you have to organize everything for yourself and the weather is not always conducive to getting across the loch. It’s things like appointments you can make with the dentist and when it comes to the day you might not be able to get across. We moved up to Scotland for a different way of life. We have a little bastion where nobody cares what you do as long as you don’t hurt or offend anyone. It’s the way societies should be. Kids can run free because everybody knows everyone and it’s absolutely fabulous. People are here for different reasons, each to their own, and everyone just gets on with their lives. It gets int you, it really does, it would be very difficulty to go back to Essex where your electric supply comes from the plug in. Once you have been here a while you start to realise how much wastage there is out there and how much people are being conned by the government and the power companies. Now it’s all about keeping up with the Joneses but here nobody cares at all. Nobody cares about your age here, if you want to dress like a 16 years old you do it, you don’t have to conform here. We still visit Essex and I stand if for about a week. Paul: One of my favourite pastimes was to go roller skating and if I roller skated down the street at my age in Romford I’d be jeered at, made fun of, and possibly even attacked but here I could walk around in my underpants. Live and let live. People in the outside world don’t know what they are missing. You can even skinny dip here and nobody will mention it or complain. Jan found it here on the internet, we were looking to move, I don’t know what I was looking at and I came across this article about a croft here, a yurt style round croft, off grid and I said to Paul that if you want something different go and live there. So Paul Googled Scoraig and two houses came up for sale so we chose this one. It was 4 years ago. November 2014. Everybody lives their life the way they want to, and eats the food they want to as well. You then realize the crap that most people are eating in other places. Jan: We fish here and we have our own eggs, that’s the one thing you wouldn’t believe is the difference from the ones in the shops you buy to rearing your own. It’s the colour and taste. It’s no surprise that people have health problems with the food they’re being given to eat. You suddenly realize when you’re off grid that you can’t leave every light on in the house so you learn to turn lights out, and if you want to keep warm you go into one room. And if it gets dark in the winter if might be time to go to bed. We are short of water right now so we stand in buckets to wash and also place our smalls in there while we are washing. We are treading our clothes to clean them. Then when you are finished we put the water in the toilet to top it up. Paul: Before we came up here we would go into our house and turn all the lights on and pay the bill and see it was alot of money. But when you come here you
can see that you could have saved £300 a month on the electricity bill. And I can still use my power tools here and when it goes to dark we go to bed. We have a wind generator and we have the equivalent of creating 3 kilowatts of power from the solar panels so on a day like today we are actually dumping power which we cannot use after it has charged the batteries. Imagine how much power would be saved if every household was doing this in the country. Some entrepreneurs who were obviously within the communications field in Ullapool held a meeting over at Dundonnel hotel and explained that we live in a circle of small transmitters and they were piggy backing onto BT. The system is line of sight. If your receiver cannot see the transmitter it will not work. They told us what they could do and asked us to pay up front. They created the Highland Community Broadband and now there are loads of people going on it. And it cost a fraction of what we were paying. It means I can learn my accordion lessons by Skype. Jan finds it a bit isolating here. The loch is her nemesis. On a bad day you can get 12 foot waves and it’s very hard to get off so you can get cabin fever. But we have friends to visit and a get together, swing the lamp, play some music and it’s very very good. You have to get good at cooking lentils as you need to store alot of dried supplies. It’s possible to get stores delivered to the far shore, obviously it’s dearer than usual but it’s your lifeline. The other very important thing about here is that you always know someone that can do it. There’s alot of loaning of tools. We share lifts into town and how everything used to be to an extent is how everything should be. They call it progress but instead it’s regression. Instead of becoming a community people prefer to become individuals. Jan: Quite often you see otters, and dolphins and porpoises here and it drives home how animals are getting harmed by what we are doing, like over fishing and plastics, lose the ocean and you lose us. Spray the bees and all the bees are dying. Each bit of the eco system has got a reason to be there, even the midges have their place, to feed bats and swallows, swifts and anything that catches insects in mid air. We are messing up the environment. There’s no waste here, on the Yukon Men TV programme if they go out and hunt every single bit of that animal is used. We, humans, will slaughter sharks, they will cut the fin off and throw them back to die in the ocean. People have got so used to having what they want that they don’t think about the next generation. They just go and do it, like Donald Trump. And it’s destroyed for the children. We still hear skylarks and cuckoos but I bet there is very few places in Essex where we could still hear that. Something has got to happen and if it doesn’t Mother Nature will do its own thing and take over. I can’t understand how people cannot see the long term future, it’s medieval. It’s like Monthy Python, “he can’t be a king, he’s not covered in shit”. It’s fun here you, meet some characters, it’s interesting talking to the different people here in Scoraig.
Were digressing in the world, there is no tolerance, alot of crime now which is put down to not having a loving family and they have to have some form of power. Not enough love in the world. Not enough tolerance. Up here you are actually respected for being a person.
Jeannie 60 I was the first in the new wave here in 1995, along with Cathy and William.Since then many more people have come to live here, more adults and some children, some older adults and younger children. I had been living on the Black Isle for a few years and I was visiting Scotland, it’s kind off a long story. I came here to work at a retreat centre where Luke and Pixie live now and Tom had built it with his former wife, it’s so stunning. It’s this incredible giant hand made house. Tom was there on his own, still married to Sandra who lived in Glasgow and I met Tom. Maybe a couple of months later we started travelling in the Highlands and working. We built reed bed sewage systems for hostels. It was a good summer, hot like this one. We traveled for 7 months and we came back and moved into this bothy. There was nothing, just rock, heather and everything happened from there. Tom and I fell in love and we had our daughter Ise, it’s Gaelic, it means ‘herself’. She lives in Ullapool. I’ve always been inquisitive and I have never wanted stuff, it doesn’t suit me I guess. I hate that word ‘ex-pat’ it’s just not it, I moved from California and go back when I can to visit. I came here and I saw this place and I was walking down Scoraig pier and one of the Icelandic ponies that live here walked me down the track and I saw the Ben and I knew it was home, it was a totally strong feeling. I had already spent several years travelling around Scotland and the islands and had run a bed and breakfast for several years on the Black Isle. Several friends, my old girls friends of the same age from California, came to see me and said that you have always been living in alternative communities every since we have known you. In Scotland and in California and they could see why I wanted to stay here. I have planted thousands of trees here and it is such a connection to the land. Imagine it was rock and heather here before and then trees were originally planted for shelter by Tom and his family. When I came we just started planting trees all over so we could grow vegetables within the sheltered areas. I’ve always used the wind felled trees for fire wood. I’ve never used anything other than local wood for firewood. As long as people keep on replanting it’s basically an endless supply of firewood. I guess how it happened was my parents were amateur naturalist type people and we went camping all the time, they were both teachers and had alot of paid holidays. They had one of these old American station wagons with the roof rack, loaded it up with 3 kids and we’d go to Montana and Wyoming. I was 3 months old when we first went to Yosemite and I have photos of being bathed in the Tuolnme river. I was just happy being in nature. I went to a trade school and became a printer and at the time it was off-set printing with Heidelberg printers and got a job with a journey man printing in his small shop, printing small poetry books with letterpress. I got a bit sick of it because of the chemicals. This was in Berkeley, I was 19 so I moved out to the hills in a little community. Then I went back to the city and worked at a friend’s studio, designing and illustrating all kinds of stuff. I illustrated a tarot deck and printed a small limited edition in 1984. I saw recently on Italian eBay that one set of 21 cards I had designed and illustrated was selling for 448 euros. I have 100 packs of 21 cards left in California so I will sell them and that would pay for a nice holiday. Tarot is mythology and magic. I’m an amateur mythologist. It helps me in my work to know about human experience, I am also a counsellor and pyscho therapist. I’m a person centred humanist. I could be a medium but I tell people predictions are not where it’s at.
I’ve lived in a few communities, just before I moved to Scotland I moved to Wilbur Hot Springs which is a sanctuary, that’s a nice place to visit, I was a resident artist there. It was the Gulf War and I just needed to escape. I like to be affected on a feeling level, I spent alot of time reflecting on what’s right and wrong for me. Being affected by what’s going on is truly human. Not being affected would be inhuman. I went to Scotland in 1987 for the first time, I had been living in a communal house in London and there were race riots in Brixton and it was insane. I met a Polish man at a party and he suggested I get on an overnight sleeper train to Inverness and you’ll get away from it all. So I did and I travelled with another girl who was moving around and I ended up on the Black Isle and ran a bed and breakfast for some one. I also lived in Amsterdam and went back to California but I have been settled here now for 23 years. I finally settled down. I can’t put my finger on it, I just love it. What strikes me as true is that my mother always said I was meant for more northern climes as I was always hot and I couldn’t handle California and the heat. I was in a Neo gypsy hippy life travelling around between communities in Calfornia and I had heard about the landscape being so enchanting and the friendly people. I can’t see me going back but I don’t know, maybe I will, I have family, a sister and a brother who live in Oakland who I see quite regularly. Sometimes it’s a bit too quiet here but I can’t say I am bored, it just doesn’t happen. I come and go. I make things, I’ve got a thing about making things within my hands, I pretty much have to do things all the time to stay happy. My Mum was a photographer in California in the 1930’s. Her teacher was Ansel Adams, she started to do portraits of farm animals as she grew up on a farm. Her Dad built a big boat in his barn that got towed to La Jolla and they sailed it to Alaska. They took the farm hands as the crew and went there and back and also to La Baja. Freedom is the best thing about Scoraig, for me it is the best thing, freedom to be who a person is, people to be themselves here. That’s the best thing. I think about conformity, there is that about crofts and stuff but when I first started on the croft or before that actually, when I was with Tom, we were building a foundation for a house and man from the crofting commission, David Green, wrote the organic crofting act in 2007. Bless his act, it was not so much about rearing sheep but about subsistence farming and set-aside for rare species of plants and animals to flourish and keeping the diversity in nature to flourish.
next generation. Its value lies in the value for individuals lives and their inner self and well being. It’s beautiful and peaceful and I think it can make a person sane from real difficulty and pain. That’s why I want to do my psycho therapy here, as it is incredibly healing to practice this in nature. I had to get permission to do this here as I wasn’t using the land for farming purposes and the lady, wife of the Laird, said that whatever I did would be fine and I could go ahead. She was going to sign over the peninsula to all of us but she wasn’t able to go ahead with it and I don’t know the reason for it. But I suspect that people who own these big estates cannot be seen to be giving away land to people like us. But it’s OK as we do have a great deal of freedom and nobody is trying to get a road in here or ruin our isolation or build a bridge here like everywhere else, which wouldn’t be good. It’s not boring to be cut off by the loch, it feels elemental and good for natural healing. Connected to the sea and to the air, to the earth - all off those things. It feels like living fully, I was never keen on going outside and getting into a car and going somewhere, it doesn’t feel right. I’d rather get on a horse and go somewhere. I was born in the wrong century. All I had for 17 years here was a wheel barrow and I finally decided in my early 50’s that I’d get it together a bit and bought myself a quad so I wasn’t breaking my back or anything. I like physical exercise. I’d like to have an electric truck like Hugh Piggots which is so cool, if my electricity system could cope with it. I’d like to get away from the petrol chemical industry but it’s hard to get away from. The goal is to stay here and do my counselling work and tarot cards online. People in these remote communities can really use some support as they get lonely and drink too much. It’s really hard in these isolated communities. There’s dysfunction so I just want to be on the side of fully functioning. Counselling could be social control or it could be social change (I’m on the side of social change). It’s good but many have just enormous emotional upheavals in life with all kinds of things that happen, like work, death and relationships - the big things in life and some people find they can’t talk about the deeper things in them and need a stranger to open up to in complete confidence. There are more and more challenges for people nowadays. Pyschotherapy and counselling is kind of the way of the future in terms of mental health. Drugs put a lid on it but don’t transform anything for people. I was really fortunate that the university of the Highlands and Islands have a person centred counselling course, it’s quite unusual and think I was in the right place at the right time. I sort of feel that Scotland is paying me to help people because they paid for me to do the course to become qualified. Serendipty.
I rear some sheep on my croft and have some ponies also, they’re rescue animals and they haul my stuff from the road end. I had a Welsh pony, she was beautiful and I made some panniers so I could park my car up at the end of the track and she would walk up my supplies and even a gas bottle, she was quite strong.
The people, I feel like I could trust anyone here with my life. With the sea and the storms people get together when there is a need, we make our own fun, there’s privacy but also if you want to join in you can and if not you can be on your own. It’s not an intentional community, there’s something to that, intentional communities have dogma, our dogma is nature here I guess, we just have wind and sea.
The crofting commission gives us the right to buy the land, for 15 times the annual rent. My rent is £3 a year, that’s what I paid to the estate so I was able to buy my land here for £45. Technically it’s owned by the estate, by the Dundonnel estate but what I own is the improvements to the land. How can anyone put a value on it really. But my tenancy is for a lifetime and it’s hereditary. My daughter will inherit this from me, it’s very special and that’s why I don’t want to leave here as I’m holding this pace for the
The common denominator is something that everyone has to relate to everyday. It’s interesting because its an ad hoc collection of people, I call them rabid individualists. The people that come here are from all over the place, different speaking, to look at and how they do things. It’s an interesting group. We all know each other ‘hideously well’. I know the shadow side of the community as well as the light. There is no fear associated with it. Nobody here is in the slightest way threatening.
Kath 68 We, Ross and I, were at teaching training college and I think we were disillusioned with what was ahead of us. We didn’t want to get into the suburban scene if we got to the end of our college course. But we didn’t. We’d spent too much time hitchhiking and enjoying ourselves. Well, maybe Ross had studied harder than me, but we decided to head up here after it was recommend to us by a friend. The chap had been around these hills over here, it was just the area, it was a fluke, well not exactly a fluke but it worked out. We tried to rent a room in Ullapool but the landlord didn’t like the idea that two male friends would be coming up to stay with us as they didn’t like lax behaviour even though they weren’t our boyfriends. We were told about a place to rent here and we didn’t bother telling them after a while that boys were coming up to stay with us, they were just friends and anyway the landlord wasn’t a highlander and didn’t seem to worry so much. And they did turn out to be boyfriends and husbands after a while but they weren’t then. It was definitely eye opening, definitely surprising and different. I suppose crossing the loch for one, that was quite a surprise. We didn’t know we had to cross the loch in a little boat. We came across with bales of hay, we had to sit on top of them. I had been on farms but crossing the loch was different, it was fun. We also had to walk everywhere, in the days before quads. There were some tractors here, I suppose it was quiet because of that too. I felt that it was a case of fitting in, it felt that values were…well, you just had to be…you were so close to your neighbours that you had to be able to interact with them, you had to tread carefully a wee bitty. Tread carefully sounds silly, but you had to consider…you had to be considerate of your neighbours. It was 1970, November. How many people were living here? It was 4 families, 2 blokes and 1 bloke. Not as many as nowadays. You didn’t need any skills to survive apart from finding ways to cross the loch and that sort of thing. You had to pull your weight to ask people to do things for you, you had to do things too otherwise it gets a bit one sided and it doesn’t work. Food, the food was a problem, we had come with just a little bit and living here you have to buy enough food for a month or so at a time, you didn’t want to mess around and go back and forth. It was better to buy in bulk and stay put. Especially when we weren’t capable of using a boat ourselves, we’d have to go with other people, that sort of thing. Nowadays people go often to buy food, I do get the idea that people go more than once a month. Now I don’t know everybody here, I’ve met them all but I don’t know them. Ross and I were living where Ewan lives and our 2 male friends came up. I think we must have thought we wanted to stay as after a while we were offered a barn to do up and Ewan at the age of 5 showed us how to knock nails into wood. We had a lot of help from people who thought it was awfully jolly. I went off and started to work for 2 or 3 months and hoarded money and then came back, I worked in survey work for a crowd down in Devon. It was a base here, it was
just a case to go and get money to survive here. I was quite good at living off minimal and inexpensive rations. It’s because there is no road here and it’s nice having to use a boat, that’s special. It’s a rather good place but rather dry at the moment which isn’t so good. Initially we just came here to stay for a while, we never thought we’d stay forever. We were looking for a place to put down roots but we didn’t know we’d struck lucky immediately. People were very helpful when we first came, I think we were lucky because people wanted to be helpful when we first came.
Lisa 54 I used to think it’s a nice place to visit but why would you make your life harder by putting a great stretch of water between you and civilisation? I was living on the other side of the loch and had to leave so started to ask around if there was anything over here. I managed to do work in exchange for being over here in a house and realised that the logistics for living over there is far harder than living here. I didn’t have a boat or a vehicle so I just used a wheel barrow, it was very easy. In 1986 I was working across the loch at the Dundonnel hotel and came over here for a big music festival. It got too big in the end. The last one was in 1988 and thousands would come. It was all sorts of stuff. Some people that have lived here have had quite alot of connections to music, with Glastonbury and Micheal Aevis. I came over with a guy who was working on the White House over here, it was getting built at the time. Then he left and I stayed. I realised I’d quite like to be here and started to ask around for places to live. I got offered two places. I chose an open vista where I am now and it is quite busy at Scoraig end. At the end under Beinn Ghobhlach, the mountain is called Rheabach. I have been here 23 years. I don’t think it is very remote really in the sense that people think about it as remoteness but it is inaccessible which I think is appealing. I quite like the quietness and it would spoil the nature of the place if you had a road running through it. It would be alot busier if we had a road and that’s part of the attraction of here. Alot of us do have cars on the other side which we have to tax and run but it’s far quieter. We do have quads and some 4WD here but it means you just have the space to do what you want with your land and you are not overlooked. When I go to visit friends in cities I see it has a different pace to it. I don’t really stop to think why it is I do things that I like but it is nice too be able to grow your own meat and veg. Alot of people can do that in other places but you have to be more creative here in other ways. If you can’t get off here you have to think of other ways to do things rather than go to the shop every day. It’s by no means idealistic and it has its own hardships of the wind and the rain, you are exposed to the elements but that’s good also as you are aware of what the weather is doing all the time and you’re vey much in touch with nature and the elements and life. It also makes you very aware of the wind when you have wind power and the sun when you have solar power. Solar power is very much more advanced these days so you’re aware of power being made from ambient light. You’re also aware off how wet it is going to be to do your job in the garden and for crossing the sea loch. I am the post person 3 days a week. I am sub contracted by the Royal Mail. You are responsible for everybody’s important post and for transporting it across the loch as dryly and as safely as possible. I’m self employed, its a contractual arrangement I have with the Royal Mail to convey the post. There are two official post boxes on the peninsula and there is a box for internal mail. There’s a Victorian one at the end off the shop, at the Scourig end which is opened with a very old bent key. I want to get a copy but it has to be digitally re-made as it is so old. The other one hasn’t been there that long, only 20 years or as long as I have been here. There were so many less people here 30 years ago. There
have been a fair few post people as well. The shop did run back in the 70’s for a little but that was long after it had been an actual shop. It was just being used as a space for stuff brought in, in bulk and sold on. I can’t imagine when the shop was being run, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess, but supplies always used to be brought in by puffa boats, so it may have been running into the 1940’s.
of the midges. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in the UK, and also used to shepherdess here and help with lambing. My grandfather and my Dad were both first language Gaelic speakers. I was born and brought up in the Wirral. My Dad went to sea in the merchant navy and never lost his west coast accent. It turns out that my Dad’s great uncle moved here for 4 years in 1904.
We’re an ageing population but I guess the bulk of us are between 40 and 65. There are not so many people that are younger than us, apart from the kids obviously.
Sometimes I wish I lived in a warmer climate but when I stop to really think about it I would miss the seasons but I just wish our summers were better. We had amazing snow this year, if they were more defined and we had a really hot summer and cold winter it would be better.
I have wind and solar on the house roof, I think there are 6 solar panels. They are the newer ones. It meets all my requirements now I have new batteries. You just have to be aware of what you can use. The only thing that has an element is the kettle. There is a volt meter on the wall that tells us how much power I can use. Solar is much more efficient to maintain that wind. There is alot that can go wrong with your windmill. As an infrastructure it takes alot of time to recoup the outlay. It’s low impact here, trying to be environmentally conscious, you still buy loo roll in plastic packaging but it isn’t just the dustbin outside - you have to think about recycling and every one has a really nice scrap pile here as you you don’t want to chuck anything anyway as it might be useful in the future. But we have to deal with all our own rubbish so it makes you aware of what comes in what packaging. People used to milk cows here that the kids had but kids grew up and it ended. I’ve been lucky as I ended up with the ferry man so I could get across but I also had my own boat but gave that up. I have my own sea taxi business now so it’s a help as I don’t like to take advantage of the fact that I am relying on my employees by them taking me across. It’s interesting as for many years there have been, not controversial figures, but there has been descent amongst the people, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. It’s got a nice gentle feel to it now. There were just a few people that had rubbed each other up the wrong way. It’s quite an easy place to be. There are different social scenes and they often come together. I’m not an anarchist in anyway I don’t think. One thing that I do appreciate by living here is that you don’t get bombarded by advertizing and all that stuff. You do find that it’s quite over facing when you go into Inverness, it must have been Xmas and then I was in town again and there was this big push for Easter eggs and then Father’s Day and here you’re not aware of that kind of thing. I think that is a very nice benefit. It’d be sad to see less people here, its an ageing population, its the inevability of life. It seems to work, you cannot with this amount of people get a consensus. There has been talk in the past of a wind farm that we can all access but I don’t think anyone wants to do anything communally. Everyone wants to be responsible for their own water and power. You can’t get consensus anyway when the number is over 40, there is nothing written or spoken here. It might be because of the choice that people have made because it is remote and the Highlands but I wonder if there weren’t midges there might be more people here. Perhaps that’s why the Highlands are so underpopulated, because
Luke 36 I come from Newport, the Isle of Wight. I lived there until I was 32, and I’ve been up here 4 years. I did an apprenticeship when I was 16 through to 20 in a boat yard. It was fabrication and welding, building boats. The first one was a Fisheries Protection vessel for the Isle of Man and Lifeboats, they were the Trent and the Severn style. We did all the metal work, quite big lifeboats. After my apprenticeship I built aluminium catermerans for off shore wind farms and large blades for wind turbines so I got into that industry. But I think they are too big because of the resources that go into them and they only have a short life span, 20 or 25 years. Seeing all of those big builds I was after something that was more manageable, I was looking for something that was easier to build for myself as I wanted to get into wind power and a friend of mine stumbled across this place. He was travelling across Ireland and Scotland and came across Hugh Piggott’s name and that he was building wind mills. So that was how I found out about here and it inspired me. We also used to come up to Scotland on holiday, it always had a draw for some reason and we came up for our first visit 7 years ago, to Scoraig, although we only moved 4 years ago. I was 20 when my first was born and Pixie was 18. We’ve got 7 children now, my nan was one of 13 and she was a twin. I never thought about having a big family but I enjoy it, it wasn’t necessarily planned. Wind power was part of moving here but also boats, I grew up with boats and building boats and my Dad always had a boat for fishing. I was never off the Isle of Wight, I didn’t leave it until I was 17. There was no need for me to leave and everything was there or cared for to a point. My grandfather built a hut on a farm that was just around the coast from us and that would be for our holidays, it had no electricity or running water, it was just gas and oil lamps and this place really reminded me of that, bringing back good memories, especially when we first came to visit. It’s sentimental and the self reliance aspect, being able to make your own electricity and find your own water without relying on an outside organisation to help you was one of the most attractive things. And then also there was cost because to buy land on the Isle of Wight you’re easily looking at 15 to £20,000 per acre. It wasn’t obtainable to be able to buy a farm or a small holding, you needed at least quarter of a million pounds to buy land and the difficulty of trying to obtain planning permission probably meant you wouldn’t be able to live on it. It was good for us to move up here. No regrets really, the biggest downside is the high school being in Ullapool so the kids, they will have to go and stay away all week and that will be difficult for us as we are a close family. It’s hard to put into words the best thing about here, it’s the actual way of being able to live without being in a town, being so free, especially the children being able to run around and go up and on the track and there are very few cars around. It’s what the kids can get up to without causing any any real hassle. It’s easier now that we have a bit more of a routine, a schedule, now we really know what we are doing. I always worked near pontoons and piers on the Isle
of Wight so having to launch a boat here from a beach and then retrieve it again is completely different and sometimes you cannot launch as the loch is rough, it makes it quite difficult in the winter. There’s no real reason to leave here, only for shopping and medical facilities, we can only do so much. The doctor comes to Scoraig every 6 to 8 weeks, there is a doctor’s surgery here. I earn money from the ferry here and do all the maintenance on the ferry and boats and other machinery. And I do winkle pick as well, it’s actually quite good really. A combination of that and because we can’t just nip to the shop when we run out of something you end up going without so it’s easier to save money and not spend as much. I don’t know if I’ll be here for forever. But I will be here for the next twenty years. I’d like to have a boat that I could sleep on and sail for long distances in the future when I have less children. I’d like to go visit places that I can’t necessarily just drive to and have the independence without having to book a ferry or other restrictions. It’s mostly about independence. Even if you don’t necessarily get on with everyone here they will always help you. Sometimes if there is tension and somebody has had a disagreement it doesn’t really matter, you still help each other and feuds don’t really last long as you have to see each other, so it’s nice that problems get aired and get sorted out. Neighbourly feuds can last a long time otherwise. I trust everyone here to look after my children and that says alot. There is also some form of gathering every now and again, something happening and we all come together. Whether it’s just a party or a funeral. I’m fairly politically minded, I don’t feel that I have any real influence even by voting. I don’t trust the way that votes are counted or elections are done and I don’t particularly like how our government runs things at the moment. I don’t think that we should necessarily leave Europe with the Brexit idea but if I was voting to join the EU I would probably vote no so I do have mixed feelings about Brexit. It could have worked if it was under a stronger government but under the Tory government I don’t think it will go very well. It can vary quite alot here, I might get a phone call at 8 o’clock in the morning, or even earlier, and that might be because something has gone wrong on the ferry. So I have to go off to get it running to make sure the ferry is able to be used again. Some days are quite relaxed but now I’d really like to be working up on the hill digging a hole in the ground for arranging water for the bothy here, but you also have to have time out enjoy yourself and look after the kids and make sure they aren’t getting up to mischief. I don’t have a 9 to 5 routine which is something I enjoy about moving here. I don’t think I could live somewhere that I couldn’t see the sea. The black tank is a reservoir to hold our fresh drinking water, we were moving it up to a high spot to get plenty of water pressure so we can have a shower without it being a power shower and save on electricity. The hole is for a spring to be able to fill that tank, hopefully year round, and even if there’s no rain for a long time we would rather not catch surface water from the rain as it can contain parasites from the deer
and more acidic from passing through the peat. Hopefully it will be more filtered through the sub soil. I would recommend this life to anybody that would enjoy it, if you don’t there’s no point in trying to live like this, it definitely takes a bit of commitment. It’s just clean air, the open seas and the vastness of Scotland. It’s a fairly small country in the scheme of things but there is so much distance between places and people it makes you feel more free and that we can plant here, fruit trees, nut trees and timber trees for the future, because they won’t be quick to grow and knowing we can have security here is an important factor. When I fist came to visit here it was mentioned about this Bothy and at the time somebody had an interest in it, the walls have been sorted out in places at the far end of it. We moved here to rented property on the south side and I came across a set of minutes from a Highlands Grazing Committee meeting and that they were taking over the management of it because the last people living here no longer had an interest. Then I ended up having a conversation where certain people suggested I go about acquiring this place, to utilise it. The long term plan would be to renovate the Bothy and extend it to be able to live in it short term and then either renovate some of the ruins to make into a substantial house or build a house from scratch. As the children get older we want them to have the independence to build their own dwellings here, they might all want to move away and do their own thing but it is a great stepping stone to have their own land, it’s a big achievement from a young age. We want to be able to plant trees in order to have enough trees for future generations to be able to build their own houses and also permaculture which will influence how they do things. Water is the start of civilization, it’s the most important first thing to organise).
Morag 65 I am so old I choose not to remember. I was born in 1953 and unless you are bad at maths you can work it out. I’ve been here 30 years but I never wanted to live here. I loved visiting and had come here 5 years prior and my daughter was conceived on the peninsula but born in Glasgow. I come from Helensborough but was brought up in Dunbarton. My ex husband or my then husband, we were married in 1982 and had a flat in Glasgow, I was just beginning my career as a professional actor, we were invited to Scoraig by a friend of his and we stayed on the peninsula with Tom Forsyth and his then wife. Tom was one of the original pioneers here, he came here in 1962. The peninsula draws people to it for whatever reason and they decide they want to stay here. People were just given ruins to build up. I didn’t want to be here as I wanted to be an actor but I became a mother and that became more important than being an actor. But I found that everything was out of my own control here because I threw my lot in and gave over to my husband as he was living here. What I’m most proud of my professional career is ‘Never say die’, a Sandy Johnson film made in 1980, it’s a national film school production. After moving to Scoraig in 1988 when my husband became the first teacher of the smallest independent secondary school in the UK and the only one to be run on wind power I actually got a phone call from Eden Court Theatre. A theatre in education TIE, theatre company. My name had been given as they wanted someone for an educational project where a classroom from 1912 was re-enacted. It was innovated in those days, so that the children could experience what is was like to be in an Edwardian school in those days. I did this in Inverness as well as going on tour of many of the Highlands and Islands primary schools. I did quite alot of work for Eden Court in Inverness, my husband looked after our daughter as he was the primary school teacher. There were 12 pupils to start with and then it went down to 1 and then it closed for 4 years as there were no pupils. My husband left me in 1984 and ended up as a head teacher at Loch Arbour. My daughter stayed with me here for a year and left when she was 11 for boarding school. Once Siana was at boarding school and my husband was out of the picture I went back to acting for ten years, I didn’t really live here but always came back. I continued to live here, it had become my home, we built this house. Every time I go across the sea it’s the same, it’s getting back is more of a problem than getting away. It’s quite easy to organise yourself a ferry to go and there is a postal boat 3 times a week and sometimes there is a secondary school boat but getting back is the problem. It always works out but it’s really irritating. Sometimes I have had to walk in, it’s way out that way and it takes me about 2 hours, from the road end to my house. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s probably only 5 miles from the road end to the pier. That’s what is irritating about it but some people that live at that end of the peninsula choose to leave there car there and do the walk as it’s too much hassle to cross the sea. It’s only a mile stretch of water and takes 5 minutes to cross so it’s not that remote. We’re just different here that’s all, not that remote. Quite probably we are the first community in Scotland that has never had access to grid mains electricity and
has only relied on wind power for 30 years. Here we all have our own individual wind mills, people have had wind mills here since the 1960’s. The first wind mill put up here in the 1960’s was put up by Bev. Hugh Piggott has now become world famous for his wind power. We were definitely the first school in Britain to be totally run on wind power. This is 1988. Ice cream, I have no means of refrigeration and yesterday at the Annual General Meeting I had ice-cream for the first time in a year. I couldn’t make my own as I don’t have my own ice cream maker and probably don’t have the power to make it anyway. I use a cold larder. I have been a winkle picker, on and off, I haven’t done it now for a good number of years. I last did it 7 years ago, since I first came here 30 years ago I have picked them because I was low income. I’d sell them to a local buyer and they go from here to Spain as far as I know. You have to take them to the other side of the loch which is a bit of a pain, the buyer weighs them, buys them and they go to Glasgow and then Spain. I have eaten them on one occasion of interest but they have long black snotters. You boil them for an hour and with a pin pull them out and honest to God they look just like a snotter. One was enough and at least I’ve tried it. Gardening I do alot of, everything that is between the fence and the hedge here is garden that I created out of nothing, which involved drainage and alot of digging and alot of perspiration and a little inspiration. I used to make ‘Scottish tablets’ which is a very sweet confection, I sold them at the local market along with fruit and veg. It’s very Scottish, it’s a cross between fudge and…it’s a bit like fudge, that’s the closest you’ll get. Sugar and condensed milk and flavour. It’s changed here alot, it has changed, I’ve done an awful alot of voluntary teaching in Scoraig school. When I started there were 17 volunteer teachers and one paid teacher. I obviously covered drama and also history and French and art. The primary school started here a couple of hundred years ago. This was a croft community before it became re-populated. As technology happened the younger generation moved away as there wasn’t employment and the older generation moved away as they just got tired of it. People realised also that other places had facilities like flushable toilets and decided they wanted to have those. In 1956 the primary school closed as there were no more children and then in 1965 it began to be re-populated and the school opened again. There has never been approximately more than 15 pupils in the school at one time. Right now there are about 6 pupils, 2 of them are going but 2 more are coming in at the bottom end so it balances out. Over the years I have made a large voluntary work of drama with the children. A normal day is to wake up very early, 6 o’clock, have a coffee and watch world news. I haven’t acted professionally since 2004, at that time my agent died, and by that time I was fed up with the whole thing so I have been here consistently since 2004. I took myself off to have adventures in New Zealand and Australia. I like Scoraig and I want to be here so I think the best step is a book, a biography
of me and my life on Scoraig. I only go about once a month now, when I need to, to get shopping and hospital appointments. I have a car on the ‘other side’, other people call it the ‘badluarach’, it’s how the Gaels named places - what grew there. But I will sell the car as I cannot afford to run it anymore. I do alot on the garden and I visit people and get involved in community projects. But there are younger ones that want to get involved and that’s the way it should be. I feel like I’ve done that now so I support people and we help each other out, job sharing happens. I’ve come to a point that I have now retired and I feel quite happy about it.
Natalie 37 I’ve had 5 visits here now, I don’t know exactly. I heard about it, I’m interested in communities and even though I knew it was not a close community I was still interested in it. It used to be alot closer when it started and I thought it would be interesting. I used to ask people if there were communities in Scotland and people would always say Scourig so I thought I would have a look now. So (after Tinkers Bubble in 2016) one day I went to Lamass, a friend of mine was WOOFING there and then I went to see a friend in Aberystwyth for a few days and then I saw a friend in Dumfries and Galloway. Then I went to Germany for a month, and then I went to Oronsay on the west coast (of Scotland) which is where I used to work for two and half years, you take a ferry from Oban, it’s a tidal island that’s connected to Colonsay. And then because after Tinkers Bubble I didn’t know what I would do, I didn’t want to go to another community and I couldn’t even think of one that interested me, I had run out of ideas. But I just love the north west of Scotland and I just wanted to stay in that area and then I looked at WOOF places on the west coast and I went to Lithmore and I went to a beautiful place opposite Skye called Glennelk, they’re interesting people too. And in between I went to Canna, another island - in a previous year I had been to all the islands - so I decided now was the time to go to Canna. It was winter and I was WOOFing, they had a vegetable garden and cows on Lismore and they had a large vegetable garden on Glennelg and poly tunnels. On Canna there was a camp site and also a bit of gardening. In winter I needed places to stay and I wanted to stay in the west coast so it’s a nice way. So I made my way up and made a jump to the east and went to a former community called Woodehead in Kinloss. I have these strong beliefs and I find it difficult to find a place to live according to my ideas. My idea may be I may not settle and there may be no place for me to be settled. I feel alright about it, I think I can accept it. I like places like Tinkers Bubble but they are rare and it’s really challenging in our society to live at Tinkers Bubble because people live so differently. It’s really hard to have been brought up in this society to live in a community like that and have those interpersonal skills. It depends what you want out of it. Alot of people at Tinkers Bubble don’t live there long term. I think that either you are very…you have to be able to let go of alot of things you want so that you accept many of the things over people want at the same time. So the balance to be content, so that you still get what you want, whatever that is and being open. It was an interesting time and I learnt alot there, I have to be careful with my boundaries. It’s a skill I don’t have and I have to learn it. I’m amazed how long it took me to realise, to set your boundaries in a healthy way and be able to communicate that. There’s alot of pressure to live really independently and self sufficiently without any money, you have to have land otherwise I think the best place is the city as you can live off waste and find a small space to squeeze yourself into but it’s a whole different lifestyle. I like that the people are so close together, they know pretty much all about each other and they support each other. They really are in touch with each other
(here). Alot of people, compared to Tinkers Bubble, live like this, in normal houses, some simpler, so I like that people still live quite close to the land but maybe not off the land, alot of people have gardens, sheep and cattle and vegetables with box schemes. It’s difficult to get here without a car and not many people live at the road end. It’s 12 kilometres to walk from the main road, it might be even longer. It’s a beautiful place to be, I have friends here now. It’s nice spending time here, it’s pleasant. I like the remoteness, I like the quietness. Brexit hasn’t changed much since I last saw you, nobody still knows what is happening. Part of me still likes the idea of settling and living in a land based community but I don’t know where that would be and right now I feel like I am not able to leave Scotland. I don’t want to leave Scotland, I just love it, it’s the landscape, the mix of the sea, how it meets the land, the hills, I really like the people and I feel at home here. I’ve met lot of people that have come to Scotland and feel a connection with it, I don’t know why that is. If it wouldn’t have been I loved Scotland so much I would have moved back to Tinkers Bubble as I still really like what they do. I miss the water and there was no big body of water and no sea at Tinkers Bubble. I don’t worry about the future and I know there are alot of people out there who are amazing and are aware of what is wrong and would like to change it. When I first came here I made my own way here and I wanted to meet the post boat so I camped the night before to be close and be really on time. There was a storm and the next day there was no boat coming and I couldn’t get in touch because I don’t have a phone. So I just hung out a little longer so I then decided I would have to find a phone and I was running out of food and this delivery man came and I asked if I could borrow his phone. I got in touch with a friend and she was able to tell me that a boat would arrive the next day. I managed to hitch to a shop 12 miles way and got some food. I have a camping stove and I buy whatever is available, I love it when I have fresh vegetables and I’m delighted when I can find nettles. Ordinary stuff also, pasta, potatoes, and oatcakes. Whatever I can find, but this is the bit I don’t like about travelling as I really like to be able to live from a garden, from local food. In July I will do a meditation retreat, in Ullapool and shearing sheep in Dumfries and Galloway. After that I don’t know. I like working with sheep and I love wool. I like that it is natural material we can grow, the way it feels and it is so versatile you can do alot with it. I’ve haven’t shaun many, almost 200. I did it for Kathy, Lisa and Jonah and Rhona. I’ve made a whistle cover and a tablet cover. You have the wool loose and lay it out in one piece and then lay it out wet and do the felting and you have a 3 dimensional thing that you can make into pretty much anything. I don’t think I have a lifestyle, I think I’m lacking a lifestyle I think I’m living in default. Some sailors I met on Shetland called me a drifter and I quite liked that and somebody wrote a song abut me called Natalia the Nomad. It’s what I do, I just drift along with what’s happening. I think it would be easier for my parents if I lived an ordinary life, they struggle and they worry. But I think I have never
met anyone who gives me a hard time. People try to get me into the ordinary, it’s hard for people to understand that I don’t want a job or to pay the price for what comes with it. Generally that if you have a job you are part of the monetary system, I do spend money, but it’s a choice, it’s not only if I really have to, I mean when do you ever really have to spend money, you can always say no. What do I really have to do in life except breathing. I guess I like the ideas of just living with trust and I’m not perfect at it yet, it’s all I would need. Just trust that anything that happens is right, trust in each other, trust yourself and be positive, just take things as they are and be more in the moment.
Rafael 9 I’ve lived here for 6 years. First I lived in Poland for a year and a half then I spent half a year in Musselborough. I really enjoy Scoraig and I personally think that besides the fact that we don’t have a good internet connection and there are no shops in our vicinity, Scoraig is perfect. I go to school at Scoraig Primary and that is where I shall be learning for a while but soon I shall be in Russia for about a year, learning Russian (is extremely hard so far) because my Mum thinks it’s a good idea. My Mum is in Russia most of the time, it is because she needs to get money from her job and her job is teaching English in a school. Recently she gave up teaching children in Russia as the children are rather rude. Recently she has only been teaching teenagers or children over the age of 16. When My Mum goes to Russia my Dad comes back and sometimes in odd case scenarios I have to sleep over at Hannah’s. Currently my Dad is in Edinburgh and doing house labour and recently he has fixed an old woman’s bathroom. I see my Dad more than my Mum because my Mum isn’t able to afford the necessary stuff that you need, like food, she can’t afford food and proper accommodation when she is in Scotland, that is why she is in Russia most of the time. Quite often I am sad when she goes away. Last time she went away she gave us enough time to move into this house. I built this treehouse about half a month ago and it has been a constant process since and everyday I am trying to work on it no matter what the weather. It’s my idea, from watching a film called ‘Pan Kleks w Kosmosie’, it means Professor Kleks in Outer Space. And in the film he lives in a tree house in a magical world full of odd hippopotamus puppets. My Mum and my Dad and myself helped. The hardest bit about doing it was getting the planks up and weaving in the sticks for the fence, speaking of which, I am only half way through. The fence is to make sure it is safer and also just as an extra bit so it looks nicer. I come up here about every single day. River has come up here, my friend from school, she is my best friend and at times we have our moments but we like each other because we have a few things in common e.g. well, we both have a passion for sleeping in alot and most of the time we are usually distracted on our way to school, we are both extremely distractable, especially me. I was in a test at school and I got distracted by a fly until it flew into a wall. My favourite hobby, well I have many hobbies, one is sleeping, building and art and making inventions that will not work but it’s nice to imagine them. I have never ever ever met my Mum’s Mum. She lives in America and she owns 100 acres of land. I like Scoraig because, unlike some other places, there are no cars, there is no pollution or factories or random shops. Shops can be good at times but they can also be bad at times, like if you’re on your way to school you might see a Tescos and go in for 5 minutes, come out and get distracted by another one like Lidl and be late for school. As Scoraig is so small it’s not too far to walk to your friend’s house. It only takes half an hour to get over to the Walk Out, it’s a small road that most tourists use which goes around to the Ben which has a connection to the waterfall. Sometimes there are some pesky large spiders that climb on you if you touch their sticky web. (Their webs are really EXTREMELY sticky!)
Going by boat across the loch can have its ups and downs. One day I was meant to go on a trip but the post boat was cancelled because of surprisingly large waves and the post boat would jump about 4 feet in the air before plonking back down into the loch. It depends on what the weather is because if there is a storm then I definitely don’t want to cross the loch. If it’s calm you can count how many jelly fish there are along the way and sometimes you see a pod of dolphins. I don’t like being here because it doesn’t have very much water right now, quite often we don’t have water and currently we have a drought. Right now we have less than 2 feet of water in our water tank. I’m worried that we might run out of water to drink and we might die due to dehydration. The odds are quite high against the fact we will die and I would say it’s about 1000 to 1 including the fact that I will be going to Russia quite shortly. It will give my Dad enough time to get enough money to fly to Russia too so I will see him without having to go to Scotland. If I grow up in Russia I don’t know what to do, possibly translating but if I go back to Scotland my job list will be much fuller of jobs that I can do. Being a doctor because quite often there are car crashes around Scotland, a builder, a worker or even a salesman but of course I could be a salesman in Russia. The thing I like most of all about Scoraig is how it’s pure and that there is no airport as they are noisy and you hear them from miles off. I would love to stay on Scoraig but going to Russia IS for my own good. The surprising things is that in cities you cannot see trees and they seem rather rare and when you do see a tree you should probably thank it for being there but on Scoraig trees are a normal thing and everyone else including me thinks trees are normal. That might be one of the reasons Scoraig is a tourist attraction.
Ross 68 & Nigel 62 Ross: It was 1970, I was at teaching training college and in my 3rd year I thought I’d had enough, and my room mate at college and I hitched up here from Bradford, with Kath who also lives here now, without knowing where we would be going, it was either Scotland or Ireland. I had never been to Scotland before. We were kind of looking for a place to stay and we drove through Aberdeen and we then were on a lorry to Ullapool and it was very busy in those days with herring and there used to be alot of fish lorries too and fro. We were looking for a place to stay, it was November time and we asked a tourist agency for a place to stay and Alan Bush was a name that was offered. They answered the one phone on the peninsula and they said come and have a look and so we jumped on a boat. Both Kath and I weren’t attending that well, so we both left in our 3rd year. We didn’t like the crowds and wanted to go north. It was very different then, there were no wind powers, there were Tilly lamps and bucketing water. I think the peace made me stay, I think I used to want to travel around alot to other countries but I remember walking up to the top of the local hill and I looked out and thought I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else with the same beauty and tranquility and then the years just fly by. I had never chopped wood before, I had left quite a sheltered life in some situations and it was fun. You had to learn how to live more or less and learn how to look after yourself. I did used to go to town occassionally with other people but you can surivive with quite little can’t you. I like to be able to survive with what you grow, to see how little you need to live, not being totally dependent, not consciously anyway. I don’t much like how society has changed, how computers and telephones have come. It has happened quite fast, communication change. I like to distant myself from it, I just don’t want to be part of it, it’s a big materialistic carrot. I rented a wee house for a while and then did up a little barn. Property wasn’t worth anything at Scoraig in 1970 and there were a 100 ruins to choose from. It was depolluted then. Our daughter lives in Ullapool so I do go across to the other side once a month. I’m ok once I get going and it’s nice to see all the grandchildren, but I don’t feel the draw to leave here. I hadn’t done much gardening in London so I started off planting a few potatoes and went from there and my garden has got bigger and bigger. It’s almost a meditation without being aware that it is, it’s very rewarding, looking after things and growing. People who have got sheep give us wool, we get a fleece or two, I’ve had a spinning wheel for quite a long time, it’s (made from) a bicycle from 1912. I make hats and occasional jumpers and alot of baby clothes, necessity I suppose. We used to get herring from Ullapool and salt them down, it was a pretty repetitive meal at times, but you can struggle anywhere can’t you. I’m quite happy here, you take a day at a time. No plans to retire to the Spanish costa as yet. It was 1979 I met Nigel. When I first came here you could see right across the peninsula but now with the growth of trees it is not as open as it was, and the wood is useful for fuel. The forestry commission wanted trees planted and we needed shelter really so alot of trees were planted. It’s not until they are 15 years old you really notice them. When they are little they
don’t really count. You can be as isolated as you want, you can cross the water everyday if you want or not at all. People were cleared to here so they started with an awful lot less. I always admired what they achieved, they did the original tracks here and houses and cleared the stones from the fields with horses, lots of children and lots of hardship. People might think it is hard living here but it’s nothing like the hardship they had, if you keep that in your mind it keeps things in perspective. To do with world affairs it’s hardly hardship. We’re alot better than Syria, Afghanistan and most of Africa. The governmet is absolutely terrible, I just can’t believe how the power is in the hands off so few people. I wonder what their vision of utopia is.
Nigel: I came up to a croft that was west of here, it was a dentist’s and his family and he went away to do a placement. I had grown up in Edinburgh and he asked me to come up and look after things for a while and that was it. Ross wasn’t here at that point. She had gone away for one year. I saw her down at the pier the day she came back and it was a month or two after she came back we got to know each other. We started to live together and it moved on from there. We made a living as crofters, we’ve always had cattle. I went to Uni down in Sussex and was scratching my head at the start of the 3rd year, asking myself what was I doing this for, you find yourself on a conveyor belt that you don’t really want to be on. I was studying sociology and languages. We had 3 children, 2 of them are living here. The water kind of gives us a certain quality of life and keeps the tourist population away as it could be overflowing. It also keeps the prices of properties down. It’s not that often that you urgently need to get way and you can’t. They used to have small ‘Seagull’ outboard engines which used to break, the spark plug could get wet and it would cut out but things have got easier now with better quality engines. It’s a bit of a mixture, sometimes it’s about being a part of a community and other times you feel like you can do your own thing and that you don’t have to have meetings or see anyone. There is a graveyard over the hill now too so you feel the community on those occasions when people all come together from various directions. You can be part of the community and nobody puts any pressure on you either way. The downside of here is that retired people can only really afford to live here, not that I have anything against that but it’s good to have young people here. If the school closed here it would change things quite considerably. A young couple who are going to have children are encouraged more if they are supported and helped in with having a school. Some places they reckon that building a road in means it enables people to leave rather than people come in. We wouldn’t want a road in here, there has been talk of it, building a track in but nobody really takes the idea very seriously. You’d have 20 miles of track rather than a mile of loch. Its just a kind of rural community, there are hundreds of them whether they are island communities of townships in the western isles. I think people used to be not very happy about it being called a community. The 1970’s community was communal living and
agreement to do everything but there has never been anything like that (here), it just depends on your interpretation of community. It’s a township in a Highland setting. It’s misleading to define it. It’s more of a sustainable lifestyle being here, more than being in a high rise flat. If everybody lived the same way and thought the same way it would be a bit boring. It’s nice if people do have the opportunity to do different things rather than being brought up on a housing estate and stay in the environment they grew up in. You’ve got opportunities everywhere and anywhere, if we had been anywhere else you never quite know what might have been. We get food once a month on average, we do grow vegetables, we can tick on without going shopping for a couple of months, it depends how many favours you ask of your neighbours and children. You can’t totally define what you need. The nearest shop is in Laide which is 5 miles away, and they put boxes of shopping in the post van that gets taken to the boat and delivered by Lisa with the post. Delivered groceries didn’t start happening until we got a bigger boat and the Highland Council pays £100 for every trip the children are ferried across to go to school. Monday and they come back on Fridays, to secondary school. I think they should put Boris Johnson on the English footballl team in the next World Cup to see him in his full glory. It’s quite disturbing to see how Europe has veered to the right and ideals have thinned and are disappearing.
Sandy 64 I’ve been here 3 years. I fell in love with it in the 80’s with the free festivals then I fell in love with it again when the Mother of my youngest moved here and I would visit. I heard about the free festivals through a hippy friend. A tiny bit was the attraction of coming here by boat. It has an attractiveness of its own, it segregates the community from the world at large which allows it a freedom, a privilege which is right up my street. It’s the first time I’ve felt at home my entire life - I don’t have any neighbours who would rather I wasn’t here. I tend to be a bit of an outsider and my response to feeling ‘other’ is to hide under a stone and I have always felt that society was going to give me a hard time. I’ve always got on with lots of people but there were always some people who didn’t want me around, that’s what I felt like. The big signifier here now is that I belong to a committee, I would have laughed at anybody 10 years ago that said this would be a possibility but I feel a part of the community. That’s what I came here for and that’s what I’ve got. It’s because of its history and because of its remoteness. It’s because it went from old crofters to new incoming hippies. It attracts hippies because this is what they want to do, to go back to the earth and live with the seasons. It’s just trying to get down a bit for everything, to relax, love thy neighbour, use less money, respect the land. It’s saying all the same thing really. I was born in Aberdeen. It’s very much a British community here, rather than Scottish. Scots are in the minority here, we are 30% of this community. I’m very pan-national, I’m not interested in it having to be totally Scot here. I’d rather get rid of Westminster than Brussels. 3 layers is too much (Edinburgh, Westminster & Brussels). It’s the history of here, that Alan Bush came here, he was the man that caused it to happen. When people first came here to take on crofts the commission handed out loads of land, that’s what started it, all the early settlers had huge patches of land. I could get a larger croft at a lower price here but the main attraction was the community. I fit, I belong here, you don’t expect to be given a hard time if you take cannabis, a large community imposes ideas and thinking on people and it makes them seek a very tight spectrum of ideas. The culture before had a very tight set of ideas and imposed it on people that perhaps didn’t want it but here people are much more live and let live. Because of the difficulties of the logistics of living here it means you have to prove yourself to be able to live here. It takes a day to do your shopping for example, you have to be able to put up with being here, you have to be able to put up with it. Unloading the car involves having to bring it across the water a mile and then bring it another mile from the shore to the house. At first I found it an imposition, it was a shock to find out how much effort it took to get the shopping on a winters day but it didn’t put me off which is what I mean by ‘reality bites’ and proving yourself. I feel like I’ve got community wide respect here and I’ve never really had that before in my life. If you get small enough in a community people get less selfish. A big final thing for me was that people were here that wanted me here, that’s what made my decision to move. Like my ex and her husband both wanted me here. I’ve got 40 acres here and 20% of it is under timber. This is a barn and I’ve built a box inside of it. Apart from the
windows I didn’t have to weather seal anything. I used to have a good one man window business but my shoulders couldn’t handle it anymore. However I can still do it once a week at Drumnadrochit, 2 hotels and some other stuff that pays for my food and which just about covers the minimum. But I’ll be getting my 65 years pension soon so I should still be floating a year from now. I’ve done alot of getting timber in and I’m trying to do a small scale timber business for fire wood. My list of projects now numbers 373 things here that I have to do. I’m going to sell patches of my land here to make some money back as I’ve spent all of my capital. In the old days here people were given land for free and they used to build a house and then sell it for alot of money. It changed the ethos of the place. It’s a left field space here, it’s just different. I like it because everything looks as though it has been cobbled together and makes it look organic.
Tommy 50 I was born in Sydney, in Australia. I lived there about a year and then I travelled with my parents at the age of about 1 throughout Asia including the Soviet Union. They had a multi stop ticket home and stopped at the maximum number of locations that was permitted by the ticket. My parents hadn’t moved here yet… we lived in a small village in Northamptonshire. I was 6 when we moved here. I did like it here, I liked the freedom to roam about and I was obsessed with fishing so from a very early age I was taking myself down to the shore with a hook and line and catching fish and running around with the other children as normal. Perhaps I was nostalgic for my previous home… I think everyone always is a little nostalgic, I think, especially for children, there is always nostalgia, it’s universal. Life here was quite idyllic for a young boy and I thought everything was fine until I went to Ullapool for secondary school because it was then that I started to see that life here wasn’t normal. I was a little embarrassed because it became clear I wasn’t normal – and every teenager wants to be normal, especially at that age, before or around puberty. Teenagers want to know what to conform to, whether it is an institution or just one’s classmates and I was suddenly aware that having an English accent was not normal and neither was being the child of “hippy” parents. At that time, Ullapool was a rather conservative fishing village based around the Church and traditional Christian values and we were known on Scoraig for having burnt down the church! Tom Forsyth, who used to live here, had mental health issues at the time… and he burnt down the church, which was of course very controversial so we were thought to be evil by the local people in the surrounding area. Now Wester Ross is sometimes referred to as Little England. However, in those days it was predominately Highlanders who were rightly suspicious of incomers, especially English hippy church burners! I started to conform in various ways, like modifying my speech and acquiring a passable Highland Scottish accent. I started to listen to pop music, which I had never taken an interest in before, and became a kind of “expert” on pop music culture, avidly reading pop music magazines… so that was a kind of conformity. I was never interested in football, though, as I somehow didn’t quite get it. So, then I lived here for… well, I lived here until I was 16 but I was staying in Ullapool with a family during the week at term time. I did enjoy it but found it a bit stressful adjusting to Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. On the Monday morning I’d have to get up at 6 o’clock and get oilskinned and booted in the winter… freezing cold, often getting wet to go by boat across the loch and then by bus to school so there were lots of different stresses involved. Not necessarily bad stresses. Adjusting between a traditional fishing village culture and a hippy whatever it was, I would say that learning how to conform to an outward reality is a very valuable life lesson and I am glad I learnt it. Many of our parents’ generation were graduates, intellectuals or drop outs of the academic system, like Hugh Piggott, who is quite well known and of good standing in his field. Many people like Einstein or Bill Gates were too intellectual for the university system so the question is whether they were willing or able to conform and the same can be said for my parents and adults the same age as them as they weren’t able to tolerate the mind numbing need to conform to the educational system. I took a very long route towards my current job which is relatively quite intellectual. At the age of 16, I worked at the Glastonbury Festival site crew for 6 weeks – this job was obtained through my Scoraig connections with the late Glastonbury co-founder Andrew Kerr, whose children still live here – which gave me a certain perspective that wasn’t compatible with going to university. I thought I was far too intelligent to go to
university so I would become a fisherman instead! I did go to school in Edinburgh for a year and hung out with a lot of people and went to a lot of parties. I was doing my Highers and lived in a cupboard in a friend’s flat. In order to make money to eat, drink and be merry, I learnt how to pay the guitar and was a street musician, a busker – I could make over £70 on a Friday night on a rugby weekend. Most years I come back here for several months at least… Back then, I was working as a fisherman, going out to sea every day, and it was quite well paid, quite hard work but I enjoyed it. I have often done winkle picking for the export market. For a while, I was also working with another Scoraig friend buying winkles from other pickers and preparing them for export. In my late 20’s I started to become quite entrepreneurial in my outlook and I was constructing and repairing mountain footpaths for climbers as well as maintaining footpaths here. We had a sort of network of Scoraig lads, who specialised in different areas of construction industry. I was doing bits of groundwork here and there, that was my forte. I was also organising things in the community. I was a co-founder of the Scoraig Community Association which has done a few things in its time trying to promote various aspects of life here on a democratic basis. I would develop projects and sometimes they would receive a funded budget. For a few years I was working on different project-related areas in the wider Highlands like tourism, arts and telecommunications. Following the collapse of this rationale, I became interested in linguistics – it was just something to do. I was studying quite a number of languages simultaneously – German, Arabic, Persian, Italian, Gaelic – and I started to see languages as families. I thought that Slavic was the next obvious choice and was attracted to Russian. Although I found German interesting and useful, I also found it culturally problematic as though it had been colonised by Anglo-American culture. This is partly why I became increasingly interested in Russia since it has never been colonised by us. Happily, Russian is not at any risk of being assimilated by English. Therefore, it was much more interesting to study, since I could observe genuine cultural difference. Perhaps that is the most interesting thing to a linguist, to get a self-awareness that would otherwise be lacking, to obtain a genuinely different point of view. I am currently working at the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, at the Institute of Philosophy and Law. At our department (Foreign Languages), PhD students are helped to communicate in academic English. My primary role there is to support my scientific colleagues in both written and spoken academic English. I think I was predisposed to be interested in cultural differences became I always saw myself as an outsider. People from Scoraig have been viewed as outsiders and perhaps this place always had a reputation for being different. I remember an old story about this place – apparently it was common knowledge that (alcohol) stills existed here and somebody wanted the police to come but some local is quoted to have said “you cannot take the law where the law doesn’t belong”. So, people on Scoraig have always tended to do what they wanted! I’ve been to quite a few other small places, especially working with broadband on the islands, and people have quite often compared Scoraig with to the island of Eigg. I am pretty sure they don’t lock their doors on Eigg either, but obviously if people go away for long periods of time they do lock their doors. Generally, there are very low levels of crime here and people trust each other and look out for each other. Perhaps the main
difference is the geographical isolation – if you were to have a thief here, where would he keep the stolen goods? It’s darned difficult to thieve from here especially if you don’t want to get caught! Sustainability and self-sufficiency… if anyone had any real knowledge of this place they would see that self-sufficiency is a question of degree. Quite a lot of people here do grow their own food but people also spend quite a lot of money at Tesco. Some people have jobs to sustain themselves, and other people get benefits, so that is not really self-sufficiency! Perhaps it is healthy to strive to be partially self-sufficient but it would be a mistake to think that it is possible in the pure sense. You’ve got 2 or 3 generations of people who have come here for idealistic reasons but quite quickly become pragmatic because it’s a failed utopia by the experience of living here. There is no such thing as being independent and self-sufficient, rather co-dependent and inter-dependent. But take High Piggott’s wind power model, groups of people come here to learn how to do it and it is a successful business model, a successful paradigm in terms of engineering small-scale solutions that work. These situations can be scaled up and diversified, and that is useful. I empirically know that wind power works and that it is useful. Strip away the hypocrisy and you can see that small-scale solutions work and that is something to be proud of. Necessity is the mother of invention. Too many winters with kids rattling around in a cramped space means you start to think of things to do and then you’ll develop wind power so you can get a telly! Overcoming the elements means we respond to the problems that confront us, the socio-economic stresses people react to. Certain patterns re-occur… it doesn’t seem to matter who is living here. The theme of our time is migration and it is causing many people to move to the right and it is pretty fraught. You can look at Scoraig as a microcosm as many people have been here for a long time, are comfortable and established and they are possibly against newcomers because they don’t want to share what they have so you see this problem here in a nutshell. Many people arrived here with no capital, only human capital, with ideas. It’s a miracle that in general my parents and others came here in the first wave with nothing and preceded to develop it successfully, they were given land and they made something from it. Later, patches of land that were not supposed to have any value started being exchanged for large sums of money which has caused a “have and have-not” structure. My generation, many of who left to take up successful careers all over the world, probably had this question on their minds as they left… the problem arises and what do you do about it – you go to the city and try to do well. Increasingly, it’s people of retirement age moving here so you have an ageing population, which is just normal I suppose. So, in that sense things have come full circle. I call myself a “global village bard”… this is my basic attitude to life and what I set out to be. I compare myself to Cacofonix the bard in the Asterix stories, always getting tied up and gagged at feasts to prevent him from singing! Everybody who travels is in some sense a cultural ambassador… for me, going to Russia and singing there and translating there is diplomatic work even though I don’t work for either government. This is cultural diplomacy, an artist is a cultural diplomat by his or her nature, the idea of cultural diplomacy is for me encapsulated in the concept of the “global village bard”.
Ed Gold Positive Futures 06
Positive Futures 06 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the origi...
Published on Jan 22, 2019
Positive Futures 06 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the origi...