SCORAIG REVISITED by Ray Forsyth
(originally published in the Scoraig Leak in 1988,
Ray remembers Scoraig in the 1960s)
The peninsula, when we came to live here, was deserted except for Roy and Jack and the Bushes – six people in all – and it was treeless except for a sizable patch at Roy and Jack’s, There were odd ones growing beside the empty houses and ruins – always a rowan for protection against the beings of darkness – but there were others in the walled-about gardens, notably a stunted beech at Carnoch (now a big tree),
and an apple and a pear tree at No,3 Ruigh’reabhach (now Samadhan), That is all there were! It is hard to imagine now, when there are over 70 people resident and many stands of fine trees, In place of the trees there was cropped grass, heather and rushes; and from every dwelling you could see the pier and ‘the other side‘!
Though it was empty and deserted l felt a sense of expectancy from the school, the buildings and the land, as if they were waiting and asking for new life; so it was exciting, and l felt a wonderful optimism, l loved to wander in and out of the ruins and houses and wonder who had lived there and what their lives had been like, and l would think to the future and wonder who would come to re-enliven the places,
At our very first visit, seven months before we came to live, Alan and Asa with Helga, Atti and Martin had iust moved to Scorraig, Roy and Jack had been there 18 years, Billy Macrae was still in ‘Gregor’s', and Ali Shawnett was still on his croft. The last two
mentioned had left by the time we came permanently; though Billy worked the salmon in the summers from the salmon bothy and Alan used to crew for him. We would
live like lairds on salmon damaged in the nets, and I bottled the surplus,
We lived at Carnoch our first year while we ‘did-up-a-ruin‘ at Ruigh’riabhach – namely the bothy, fenced around No_3, and made and planted a garden. There was no fencing worthy of the name at Ruigh’riabhach, just straggles of rusty, twisted wire
strung between posts in varying stages of decrepitude, The posts kept us in firewood for some months.
The telephone was at the top of the road coming up from the shore (through the gate as it bends to go past the church) to the left near Ali Shawnetts. Asa and l would meet there on Wednesday to phone our grocery orders through to Liptons, (Liptons was a
grocery chain store in the 60′s which had a branch in Ullapool.) That was one luxury we had; we would phone our order every week and it would be delivered by van
on a Friday to the pier shed, This continued until the van driver ditched the van one day after a visit to the pub, Dolly, the post-mistress who lived in. the house at the top of the pier road would get us meat from the butcher van which came round, Alan would
collect it and deliver it with the post.
Sunday, on the other side was a very strict and sombre day when no one was allowed to work – except to keep an eye on what we were up to! We felt the effects
of this dour mood, and it took some courage to use the tractor, or even hang out the washing, The first time I did hang out the washing on the sabbath a gale blew
up, the line broke, and the sheets landed in the mud!
After one year we moved to the bothy, Chris came, and Miklos and Celia with Janos and Sandor, The school opened, with four pupils, Ewan, Fiona, Aaron, Davy, Neil, Sally and Simon were yet to be born,
How it was then and how it is now came together for me last year, when I came over for a visit, Martin had come over to the pier to ferry me, and had brought David for the ride, On the way back I noticed how like Alan Martin is when at the helm, A quirk of the light, with Martin and David against the sun and it could have been me in the boat 23 years ago with Alan at the helm, and Martin beside him, for the ride.
When you come back when you don’t live here anymore,
one day is like forever,
All that has happened in between is eclipsed
and all that there is, is here.
All that has happened since
is like being asleep at night
and is forgotten when
you wake again on Scorraig, _
What marks the passing of time is that
the trees grow
and the children
and there are new faces, new babies,
young families, new life,
More ruins are roofed ,
and more lights are seen from the other-side.
Outwardly I’ve changed, inwardly I’ve changed,
yet somewhere l’m still the same young woman
with the long brown hair
who came all those years ago
who planted trees
who helped to roof a ruin
who backpacked children along the tracks
and over the hill
Who trod her paths across the land,
weaving them into the paths of other feet
from other tines
-webbing the space-
as you who are here continue to do,
It is a question of time and not living here anymore.