The Skye Magazine is an exciting insight into Skye and Raasay, as well as providing information on new up-and-coming businesses, and new ventures on the island. The Skye Magazine in its printed form, appears once a year from May, and thousands are distributed throughout the islands.
And the on-line edition - below - is updated throughout the year with new reports, photographs and information from all across the Islands.
So, just click download, enjoy learning about the beautiful isles of Skye and Raasay, and, if you aren’t here already, make sure to plan a visit sometime soon!
A photograph of Wentworth Street, Portree, by Margaret Fay Shaw…the few cars that there were there, each took up so much less room!
Report by Roz Skinner
In 1929, a young American woman named Margaret Fay Shaw relocated to
South Uist to nurse her disappointed hopes. Her dream of becoming a
concert pianist had been crushed due to arthritis and she was
returning to the only place she had ever felt truly happy.
Her love of the Gaelic language blossomed as she shared a croft house
with locals, Peigi and Mairi Macrae. Wonderstruck with the culture
and the landscape, she took to documenting her surroundings with her
Her skills threw her into the path of John Lorne Campbell, who was
writing a book with Compton Mackenzie of Whisky Galore fame. Margaret
agreed to supply photographs for the book, marking the beginning of a
lifelong collaboration between the couple. They were married in 1935,
and Margaret always reminded John that he never actually paid her for
the use of her photographs that resulted in their meeting!
Both cherished a deep love of Gaelic culture, particularly when that
culture was expressed through music. This resulted in a lifetime's
worth of photographs, sound recordings and film collections.
Their story will be retold during The Skye Book Festival. The show,
entitled Campbells of Canna In Words And Music, begins with Hugh
Cheape, John's executor, talking about John's early life. Author, Ray
Perman, will then discuss John and Margaret's life together and their
preservation of a vanishing culture. The third stage will see singer
and archivist, Fiona Mackenzie, reveal a beautiful picture of the
couple's life and work. As well as bringing the songs to life on
stage, Fiona will also be showing excerpts of Margaret's films and
Fiona currently works as an archivist at Canna House, on the Isle of
Canna where Margaret and John spent 40 years of their life before
gifting the island to the National Trust for Scotland. She explains
why their life-long passion for preserving culture is so valuable,
saying: “Margaret and John collected a disappearing lifestyle, taping
songs and stories, taking over 6,000 photographs and making films.
John made over 1,500 recordings. Together, they created incredible
jigsaw pieces of Scottish life that you won't find anywhere else.
Putting the pieces of their collection together gives us a picture of
a long-gone lifestyle that we can show to future generations.”
One of the films currently stored at Canna House shows Margaret's
dream finally coming true. After moving to Barra with John, she used
the money from wedding presents to purchase a Steinway piano from
Glasgow. The film shows the piano arriving at their tiny house in
1935 and being manhandled up the stairs.
The collection makes accessible a world that was lost – a world where
sheep were driven through the middle of Portree on the way to the
mart – preserved in Margaret's photographs from Skye, the
Uists, Barra and Canna. The rich and fascinating collection is stored
at Canna House, currently in the throes of renovation. Fiona says:
“We still accommodate requests for information and people can still
visit the gardens. I'm very keen during the summer to have the door
open and people can hear the music or archive recordings wafting out
into the garden. I want them to feel the house is alive and has music
in it. I will also be singing at various events, reminding people of
the worth and potential that is here in Canna House. I'm very much
looking forward to the show in Portree. It's a beautiful story. You
get a feel for the tale of two slightly eccentric characters and how
their lives intertwined and together they achieved something they
probably couldn't have done on their own.”
The story of this ground-breaking couple will be brought to life at
the Aros Centre on Thursday September 1 at 8:30pm.
Writer for The Skye Magazine, Katie Macleod - now based in New York and author of storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com - interviews author and cook Fiona Bird before her visit to the Skye Book Festival on September 3.
“Foraging is about using your senses,” explains Fiona Bird, the author and cook who lives in South Uist and will be speaking at the Skye Book Festival at the Aros Centre next month. “Once you’ve got your eye in, you’ll see wild food everywhere.”
For Fiona, a BBC Masterchef finalist, it will be her first time at the Skye Book Festival, now in its fifth year. She’s “looking forward to an island hop without a long drive”, and will be headlining two events on September 3rd: The Forager’s Kitchen, based on her 2013 cookbook of the same name; and a workshop for children drawn from her most recent book, Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside, released in April of this year.
Foraging may be the latest trend in the food world, but Fiona has been an enthusiast for years, as her book – and kitchen habits - show. “My paternal Granny was a pretty keen forager. One of my earliest childhood memories is of identifying wild flowers with a good whiff of honeysuckle thrown in,” she remembers.
“My Masterchef final recipe used ingredients that deer (venison) might have grazed upon. I cook like this. Ingredients growing in close proximity often work well together. I am not however, a hard core forager. I don’t put a myriad of wildness on a plate just to prove a foraging point. It’s about taste and scent and often this is minimal.”
Fiona’s foraging exploits expanded when she moved from Angus to South Uist in 2012, when her husband took up the GP post on the island. “I started foraging seaweed because trees and hedgerows are lacking in the Uists,” she explains, although she adds that the ditches are more fruitful.
It’s something children can get involved with too, as her children’s book Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside aims to show. At the festival, a hands-on workshop will include the likes of outdoor craft making, seashore discovering, and even a wild tea party at the end of it all – all pursuits that Fiona and her own children were familiar with growing up. In fact, many of the activities and rhymes in the book came from Fiona’s own childhood; she describes it as a “privilege” to have been able to document her memories.
“Our younger trio… had a more relaxed upbringing, not quite feral but I no longer saw the need to rush to the wackier after school activities such as Kumon Maths,” says Fiona of the youngest of her six children. “Some of the second trio are rather good chanterelle hunters. From an early age they were seeking gold mushroom treasure in beech woods and ditches. They soon knew where to peep under moss and bracken – a wild treasure hunt.”
“The book contains a little about toxic berries (and fungi) and the dangers of being out and about in the countryside. Parents may want to protect their children but a child needs to learn about the realities of wildness, as well as treasuring bramble-stained memories.”
There will be plenty for her audience to treasure at the Skye Book Festival on Saturday September 3rd. “The audience makes an event, and with my foraging hat on, local folk always know more than I do,” says Fiona. “It’s a shared learning experience.”
Renowned storyteller Ian Stephen will be involved in the Community and Schools Engagement programme on the Skye Book Festival’s second day (Friday September 2).
From the Isle of Lewis, Ian Stephen made his name initially as a poetry-writing Coastguard in the 1990s and is now a full-time writer, storyteller and artist who draws great inspiration from being a sailor, often of traditional sailing boats.
His prose, poetry and drama have been published around the world and garnered several awards. He was both the first winner of a Robert Louis Stevenson Award and the first artist-in-residence at StAnza, Scotland’s annual poetry festival.
As a storyteller Ian sweeps listeners of all ages away into the realms of his own imagination, creating an experience in which narrative, song, music and evocative visuals all combine to draw you into other parts of time and space.
Ian does regular sessions in schools across the Islands and Highlands. But he rarely plans ahead in detail for the content of the sessions or the exact pattern of the stories. “It’s an improvised form, if it’s the same wording every time you do it, it ain’t story-telling.”
Schools are a great forum for his work, he said. “Some classroom environments are the most conducive story-telling environments you could hope for. They are just buzzing with creativity, wonderful illustrations, you know you are walking into a very creative environment. The commitment of primary school teachers is astonishing.”
Ian trained as a teacher but said he realised he could not maintain his creativity doing teaching work day-in, day-out and admires those who can do this.
He said he gets fewer invitations to schools nowadays with council spending cutbacks, and they are more often associated with festivals, which is great, says Ian, as it also involves a chance to be involved in other sessions. Also, in addition to schools, he is also invited to day centres to regale older people with stories and he will be doing one of these sessions when he is in Portree.
As Ian said, he has “two hats on” for the festival – one as a storyteller and the other as an author. On the Thursday evening Ian is discussing his first novel ‘A Book of Death and Fish’ at Portree Community Library from 6.30pm. It will involve a reading of some of the text and a chance to discuss the format and content of the book – 190,000 words in total which took Ian around 30 years to bring to fruition.
He pointed out that the novel is an authored text, in contrast to the tales that are transmitted by the storytellers, rather than originated by them. Also, unlike the stories, the novel is not linear but darts back and forth in time.
Ian said: “They are linked but they are different. Several reviews of the novel have commented that it is a celebration of the oral tradition but it is an authored text. It includes traditional stories spliced in, but it is not a retelling of traditional stories.”
Ian’s next completed book is a non-fiction work and will include traditional stories with their sources and provenance carefully documented. It will link stories and journeys to particular places, for example the Shiant Isles. It will be published in March next year by Adlard Coles Nautical, part of the Bloomsbury publishing house. And what’s next after that…a possible successor to ‘A Book of Death and Fish’ with a development of one of the characters from that novel.
Like a TARDIS, author Morag Henriksen's home feels bigger on the inside. Or maybe she just uses the space well. Every shelf is filled with books, every wall is cramming with paintings.
It's a million miles away from the place where she spent her adolescence - a hostel where she stayed when she attended Dingwall Academy. "There were 75 girls all shut in at half-past five at night," Morag reveals. "It was very Spartan. I slept on an army camp bed with grey blankets, and when we finally got a red blanket, that felt like luxury."
That experience seemed to set the tone for much of Morag's early life. "The creative side of me has always been stifled and I've spent the rest of my life making up for it," she explains. Morag was forbidden by her father to go to art college, as it was viewed as a "waste of her academic brain."
So, it's no surprise that Morag makes sure her current surroundings, where she unleashes her creativity through writing and painting, are a warm, welcoming reflection of her personality.
The atmosphere must be working for Morag. In 2014, she launched her first book, Scenery of Dreams, at The Skye Book Festival. Morag never lets a day go by without writing in her many journals and Scenery of Dreams is a collection of her stories, memoirs, poetry and artwork.
Two years on, Morag will be releasing a similar book, entitled Tapestry Of Scenes. She explains that, while Scenery of Dreams was focussed on island life, this book is about exploring the world. “Before writing the book, I had been diagnosed with M.E. My career as a teacher was in ruins. I was alone, ill and exhausted. Then I heard on the radio that people with M.E. could get a wheelchair at airports and it was like a door had opened for me. I could travel. So, I went round the world three times by 'plane and wheelchair, always to friends in the stopovers who had received hospitality previously from me in Skye! So, the book contains a lot of stories from my travels.”
Also included will be a selection of Morag's experiences on Skye, including when she visited the island on a tour given by the Edinburgh University Highland Society. She explains: “I remember so little of it because we had danced the night before and I was completely wasted. I just slept in the sun on the pier at Portree Harbour and saw nothing of the town!”
Could it be that the suppression of the young Morag's creativity has allowed her to blossom today? As an artist, poet, singer and author, Morag is expressing herself in a way that delights her audience.
Morag will be appearing at the Aros Centre on Friday 2 September at 2:00pm to launch Tapestry Of Scenes. The event will be chaired by Cailean Maclean and promises to be an exciting celebration of the adventures of a dynamic local lady.
Fresh from producing a new book on the vivid geology of the Isle of Skye, environmental geologist and author Alan McKirdy will be a guest speaker at the Skye Book Festival at 3pm on September 1.
Alan’s aim with Skye: Landscapes in Stone is to make it easier for people without a professional background in geology to understand how the landscape came to look like it is today and to put natural events like earthquakes and volcanoes in context. And what a dynamic context – during the lifetime of the Earth, Scotland has spent more time in the southern hemisphere than in the north, and more time separated from England than linked to it.
This 48-page work from publishers Birlinn is the first of Alan’s brand-new series on Scotland's geology and landscapes. Also put on sale in August was the companion volume, Arran: Landscapes in Stone. Coming next are ones on Cairngorm and Edinburgh, with the Western Isles; and Lochaber and Glencoe to follow not long after.
Before retiring about four years ago, Alan was Head of Knowledge and Information Management at Scottish Natural Heritage. He worked in SNH and its predecessor, the Nature Conservancy Council, in England and Scotland for around 30 years.
Among a range of other written works, Alan is the co-author of Land of Mountain and Flood with Roger Crofts and John Gordon; and of Set in Stone: The Geology and Landscapes of Scotland, both published by Birlinn. The first was written in spare time while still working; now Alan, who graduated in geology from Aberdeen University, has the time to try to complete a project which he has had in mind for decades; making accurate geological knowledge accessible in an understandable form to anyone who is interested.
Skye's geological history involves some of the most ancient rocks on the planet; a grandstand view as the Highlands of Scotland were formed over 400 million years ago and the development, around 60-65 million years ago, of one of the mightiest volcanoes ever to blow its top.
Finally, the rocks were shaped into the familiar hills and glens of today by the passage of ice as the Ice Ages gripped the land from two million years ago to around 11,000 years ago.
This book provides key information about the formation of the island and the on-going processes of natural landscape evolution that continue to leave their mark on these spectacular vistas. As an example, parts of Scotland have their ancient rocks on the surface, not because later layers have been eroded, but because they were never beneath a sea, as sedimentary rocks are laid down on seabeds. One exception is rock created from the sand of ancient deserts, which created the characteristic colour of the stone used in Edinburgh tenement buildings.
On Skye, the Quiraing with its extraordinary shapes and permanent landslip is a product first of the volcanic activity 60 million years ago, and then the activity of glaciers and ice caps. The end of the last ice age 11,000 years ago left it unstable with the escarpment trying to establish an equilibrium.
To know more, you can visit the Skye Book Festival at 3pm on Thursday September 1