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Old Ways and Days

Old Ways and Days

By Murdo Macleod, Murchadh Dhomhnaill Chalum, 2 Kershader.

In my young days, the district (Pairc) was very much an island within an island, as the overland route to the Stornoway-Harris road at Balallan was over very rough and broken ground, not used except in cases of dire necessity or hurricane winds.

Remote in the popular sense we certainly were, but this did not isolate us from the effects of changes in other parts of the country, or insulate us from upheavals in other parts of the world. One of my earliest recollections is of the return of the militiamen from the South African War; the Seaforths from garrison duty in Egypt and the Camerons from the battlefields of the Veldt.
Furthermore, there was not a house in our village without, at least, one member of the family earning his living in Canada, in USA, in South America, in South Africa, in Australia or New Zealand. There were also many resident on Clydeside and a few, very few, in other parts of the U.K.

As youngsters, we often tried to trace the whereabouts of our kindred on the school atlas: an expansive and an informative lesson in geography. One effect of this "pastime" was that we knew many of the placenames in overseas countries, better than we did the place names of Scotland. Mention of Calgary, for example, meant for us a town in Canada, not the village of that name in Mull or Skye and Fort William, in Canada, meant a lot more to us than the town of that name on the shores of Loch Linnhe.

Very few of the adult males remained in our village during the summer season; the majority followed the herring fishing as hired hands on east coast fishing boats. One or two followed their trade, mason or carpenter, locally and at least two worked as seamen on the Canadian Lakes. They spent the winter at home and returned to Canada after the break-up of the winter ice and the water became navigable. This was usually in early April.

Naturally, this affected the tales of the ceilidhs: the fishermen spoke of the herrings or lack of them, of storms or fogs at sea, or being becalmed at sea by lack of wind or too much fog, or of being harbour-bound by stormy weather. We would listen avidly to such tales as they told of other lands and others ways of life and we longed for the days when we too could see "all the wonders beyond the croft dyke".

For one of the stories, see a Murder in Kershader.

Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc 1991


Title: Old Ways and Days
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Interview
Record Maintained By: CEP
Subject Id: 45973