DISASTER IN STORNOWAY
The road I was on was narrow with few possible turning places and though I swiftly realised my mistake it was difficult to rectify, and knowing that I wanted to see The Bridge to Nowhere I thought I might as well carry on down that road, plus I had been reliably informed that Stornoway Black Pudding was the best in the world, and the very best place to buy it was at Charles McCleod, the butchers in Stornoway So we squashed onto the carpark there much to the bemusement of the staff and I had a selection of fruit pudding, white pudding and black pudding, a couple of slices of each. The Co-op was nearby, so I did another stock up of meat for Phoebe plus I got some delicious looking scallops to go with the black pudding, and off we set to see The Bridge to Nowhere
Apparently Lord Leverhulme, of Lever Brothers fame - who with his brother had set up a soap factory from their father's grocery business, founding what is now an internationally famous trading empire, had bought the island/islands of Harris and Lewis. They are in fact one island, often in the past known as Long Island, and he had great plans for the improvement of trade, mainly as far as I can understand it, centring on the islanders giving up their crofting and fishing lifestyles to concentrate on fishing, which would supply his recently set up MacFisheries enterprise, plus various fish processing plants which were to be built.
The 1st World War intervened with many men joining up and many losing their lives in the trenches and the various disasters which attended this conflict. On their return the Labour government of the time was promising land for returning soldiers. Lord Leverhulme was opposed this idea and as a result there was much unrest on the two islands, and farms owned by Leverhulme were often raided and stock and goods taken or destroyed. Eventually a disenchanted Leverhulme offered much of the land on the islands to the inhabitants as a gift, which if the internet is to be believed was rejected, at least by the Stornoway population.
Levehulme left the islands and eventually sold the Lewis holdings though Harris, which had experienced less opposition was kept until after his death when his apparently half a million pound investment was sold for just over five thousand pounds by his trustees. Part of his schemes for Lewis had included a new road, and the Bridge to Nowhere was a part of this, now standing in splendid isolation down a small single track road, and ending in a dirt trackway leading over the mountain.
So far so good, and I headed back to Stornoway thinking to travel to the Tuimpan Head lighthouse and park up for the night. Now whether I was feeling the first effects of the chest infection which hit me hard for the next week or so and I lost my concentration for a minute, or whether the low sun shining in my wing mirrors meant I couldn't see where I was in relation to the width of the road, which even the oncoming bus driver admitted was the narrowest bit, but he and I touched mirrors, and as Thebus wing mirrors are totally fixed solid that was the end of the offside mirror. The bus just broke the glass in his, but of course I couldn't drive anywhere so ended up in the town centre car park for the night.
Everyone was really kind, and eventually I made it up to a layby not far from a garage who would take in the mirror I had sent for, and fix it when it arrived. I think if I had not been unable to move I might have tried to drive on and perhaps made myself really ill, as I felt as bad, if not worse than I had done at the beginning of the year. When I coughed, which was nearly all the time it felt like someone was punching me hard both side of my ribs. But I was extremely fortunate.
Whilst parked up a lovely guy came by walking his beautiful black, stick obsessed Alsatian, I opened the window so Phoebe and I could admire her and having heard my stupid coughing - kindness itself, came back a bit later with medicines and a lovely cheesecake to tempt my appetite,. And not only that popped back several times over the ensuing days to see I was still ok.
As I gradually began to feel better I decided to see if I could catch up on the journal a bit, which was seriously behind owing to patchy internet connections throughout the whole of the north of Scotland. I managed to add a few pages, then - stupidly - and probably still not feeling one hundred percent, clicked on a link of an email purporting to come from a friend, and of course got a horrid virus on the laptop.
Billy, having been a real friend and saviour when I had the worst symptoms of my chest infection, now turned up trumps and spent hours helping me to get the laptop sorted out. I really don't know what I would have done without his help. My pc and internet savvy is limited to 'things I have done before' and I am very much a wimp when it comes to sorting stuff like that out.
He is a really interesting guy and has worked all over the world, speaks several languages fluently but has recently returned to Lewis, and now weaves Harris tweed on one of the newer double width machines. The one I saw earlier was an old single width one. Billy's is still worked by foot pedals as to qualify to be a true Harris Tweed it must be made from start to finish - from shearing the sheep to wafting and warping all by hand or in this case foot. He too, only weaves limited quantities in between his continued travels - having trips and walking tours planned for Denmark, Skye, and Japan all in the next few months.
It was wonderful having met someone so interesting and helpful in what was a true hour of need, and also being able to find out something more about the way life is lived up here in one of the outer isles of the United Kingdom, which if he has his wish will be very much Un-United in the very near future.
I find the dark Hebridean temperament and humour a complete contrast to my soft Sassenach ways. But those Hebrideans I have met you could not fault for kindness - even to an South-Mouthing English interloper.