Jonathan & Denise >
The causeway to Eriskay was opened in 2002. The vehicle ferry that preceded it started as recently as the early 1980s. Until then, getting about in Eriskay was mostly on foot. The use of the native ponies for carrying everything from the shopping to peats for the fire or building materials, that came to an end as recently as the 1980s – though by then there was just one couple doing so.
This is a scene from the 1930s, taken on the ‘old road’ (now as then a narrow cart track built of rock and stone) through Bun a Mhullin. The panniers on one pony seem to be filled with the ‘messages’ (shopping) from the island store, the other with peat for the stove.
The two ponies on the left are either young Eriskays that are still dark-coated, or Highland ponies – or Highland-Eriskay pony crosses. It seems that, back then, whatever their breed, they were kept much better groomed : the rough winter coat has been brushed out of all three of these.
Although, in physiological terms (ie in build, appearance etc) a very primitive breed, they were accustomed to domestic work like this, and have a reputation as very willing workers, and mild manners.
We are entitled to keep a pony such as this (plus any foals up to one year old) on the common grazing : we would have loved to exercise that right, but there is no point in doing so unless one is prepared to find regular work for it to do.