Jonathan: Last summer – before starting work here in England – I worked with a small team of volunteers doing a very detailed survey of the huge Hallan cemetery near Daliburgh.
With the help of Sandy (chief instigator of the project) I surveyed the position of all graves – with headstones and without – together with boundary walls, roads, buildings etc.
That formed the framework of a database of all the graves and their occupants going back many generations. Believe it or not, this information was until now stored mostly in the heads of successive sextons. That reflects the importance to the gaels of kinship, and is what lies behind the question ‘Co as thu’ – literally where are you from, but really meaning from what family (and thus place) are you descended?
Photo shows Jonathan with a Topcon 210 at Hallan Cemetery in July 2009. Cille Pheadair in the middle distance, and Eisebhal beyond. Sandy was holding the camera perfectly horizontal: The lean to the left is due to prevailing westerly winds.
Early in my week at home in Uist recently I was supposed to be taking the five Hebridean wedders/wethers to the abbatoir near Lochmaddy. The day before Denise and I agreed that the young ram lamb would have to go too, as we had no means to manage him properly. I got everything ready the day before to transport them early in the morning.
Morning came and Denise and I went over to the croft to drive the sheep into the fold and extract the sheep we’d be taking off. The sheep had other ideas! It became apparent that during my six weeks away a fault had developed with the electric fencing and not only was the dividing electric fencing not active, even when I reactivated it the sheep were completely unafraid and ducked and dived through the gaps! Even with Iain Ruaraidh’s help (a near neighbour in Bun a Mhuillin) we hadn’t a chance. We had no choice but to cancel.
Later in the week, thinking about re-scheduling the trip to the abbatoir to November, I realized we urgently needed to get the young ram out, or otherwise he’d start to take an interest in any female, his sisters or aunts or mother or whatever! In the end I asked my neighbour Seonaidh MacInnes, who not only is very experienced with livestock but also has sheep dogs, and asked his advice. No problem, he said, he could get the ram out. But rather than take him to the abbatoir, why not put him on a small island between Eriskay and Stack: he was going to take some sheep down to Stack and could drop him off on the way. He’d have to stay there until the spring (that’s the ram, not Seonaidh!) but the grazing was good, and though the weather might be wild it would at least toughen him up: Hebrideans are supposed to be a hardy primitive breed!
So, let’s hope that goes smoothly! But I’ve still yet to organize the wedders off to the abbatoir, and a tup for the ewes, all in November.
Back at the blogging keyboard for the first time for at least a fortnight. A week at home – scarcely time to think let alone distil those thoughts; then back at work in England and increasingly an environment that denies me the very things that inspire me …
But now various threads are coming together, a sense of direction is restored, and here I am …
And I think it’s been much the same for Denise, too.