Island Lifelines – what would we do without our ferries?

TCC cover art frontOnly two days until I post the first installment of my Christmas story to

In the meantime, here’s a sample of The Calgary Chessman – one that seems quite topical today, as I’ve just got back from the mainland, and a nail biting wait to see if the ferry would dare the winds and high seas today.

Anywhere that can be reached on a calm day, will be. The
vast sweep of the Pacific, with its myriad of tiny islands, was
settled by brave Polynesians who set off eastward, always sure
they would find another land, following only their hearts, the
spoken knowledge of their ancestors and the signposts of
seabirds, ocean currents and cloud patterns. At last, they
reached New Zealand, and Hawaii, and Easter Island, and so
stitched together the greatest body of water on the globe into a
patchwork of human dispersal. All over the world, places have
been settled, raided or just plain visited because they can be,
and because we humans are a curious species.

I shaded my eyes against the glare off the sea, and thought
about ocean distances in the world of the Lewis Chessmen.
Sometimes I find it difficult to imagine what life must have
been like back then. Post-industrial revolution Britain is such a
different place from even three or four hundred years ago, let
alone a thousand. But here in the Hebrides it isn’t so hard to
picture. Life would still have to go on, whatever the weather, so
that houses could be built, food provided and necessities
produced or traded for. People would have been waiting for the
regular visits of ships to provide what they couldn’t grow or
make for themselves.

The only difference now is that the sailing birlinns have been
replaced by powered vessels. The ferries are still the life-blood of
the islands, and even tourism is nothing particularly new.
Samuel Johnson, he of the dictionary, and his friend Boswell
visited Mull and Ulva, and there were plenty of others like
them. The basics of life have remained comfortingly familiar,
despite all our technological advancements.


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