A glimpse inside new museum in Stornoway

15 07 2016

A glimpse inside the new Museum and Archive at Lews Castle in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.


Between 53 and 56 seconds into the sequence you can see three of my pictures. Here are two of them:




Croft 36 Bread Rolls (now that’s what’s important)

19 08 2015

Croft 36 2 (500x388)Gorgeous bread rolls, straight out of the oven at Croft 36, Northton, Isle of Harris.

Croft 36…and that’s what’s important

8 08 2015

“It’s your fault there are no trees on the Isle of Harris” was the first thing we said, almost in unison, to the lorry driver standing by the cab of his open top lorry near The Anchorage restaurant in Leverburgh. Our eyes were drawn to TREE FELLER written along the side of the vehicle. I’m puzzled, was written all over his face. I gestured with my arms, waving at the landscape, not a tree in sight. He still looked puzzled. The lorry driver’s job, was, as the two-word description on the side of the lorry clearly spelled out, a tree feller. “There are very few trees on Harris. You’re a tree feller” I said pointing to the side of the lorry. “You’re the culprit”. “Ah!” he said. The penny dropped. It wasn’t important though.

Out here on the Island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides is a desolate, grey, rocky, treeless landscape. Under its spacious sky, the rest of the world seems even less important. Taking a photograph of a heart-shaped stone in an ancient stone wall miles from Tarbert… then knocking on the door of Croft 36 in the Hebridean outpost of Northton and watching Julie and Steve baking their rolls and preparing scrumptious takeaway meals that had been ordered for delivery that evening. That’s what’s important. And the space around you and breathing in the air. That’s important.

And we knew the lorry driver with TREE FELLER emblazoned on his vehicle had also, earlier, called in at Croft 36. His lorry was parked right across their roadside shed in Northton when we arrived there an hour earlier, and that’s when we first noticed TREE FELLER on the side of his vehicle and thought it ironic on the virtually treeless Isle of Harris. And he too was impressed by the great food in Croft 36’s humble shed, and Julie and Steve’s menus on the wall of seafood pies, fish curries and thermidores to order, their cooked half lobsters, home-baked bread rolls and pasties, and with the honesty box provided for customers’ payments. That was important.

As we stood together in Leverburgh, talking in the strong wind by the open door of this fella’s lorry he told us how he’d driven at 50mph all the way from Glasgow to Harris for the first time, and how his little girl sitting on the front seat and dressed in a new pink Harris Tweed frock, loved the place, the space and the air. That was important.

I liked the fact that this Glaswegian lorry driver appreciated Croft 36 in Northton on the Isle of Harris and “the trust of those people”.

And that’s what’s important.


A 16″ Laptop at a Table for Two

7 08 2015

Five friends, looking like visitors to the island, sat at a table next to us in the window at North Harbour Bistro on the island of Scalpay, the same table we sat at for dinner last Monday night. The five admired the view from their window, looking out over the harbour; they discussed the framed photograph in the corner above their heads of the aurora borrealis, a picture taken by photographer Darren Cole from Hebscape in Aird Asaig beside West Loch Tarbert; they raved over the Harris Tweed tablecloths on the cafe’s tables and “oh look at these” as they touched the Harris Tweed chair back covers complete with Harris Tweed labels. The enthusiasm could be measured in bucketloads.

Meanwhile I couldn’t resist observing the backview of a clown in his 60s at the opposite side of the cafe who sat at a small, square table for two with his elderly mother. While we savoured our carrot soup and seafood chowder at our table for two, the clown spent twenty minutes or so at his table attempting to boot up a blank screen on his 16″ Toshiba laptop which took up most of the space on his table for two, with the eventual Windows-opening-tune singing out to the cafe full of happy eaters. When his food came along he awkwardly angled himself to the right to pick off his plate on the edge of the table. His elderly mother sat there without complaint, without seeing the face of the man behind the laptop screen on the other side of their table, for the duration of their lunch together. That was her lot by the looks of it. No conversation. The clown showed no visible sign of interest in his lunch, carefully prepared by George the chef and owner of this unique seafoody cafe on the remote isle of Scalpay, instead preferring the struggle of getting into his emails.

I pondered.

The day before, the young American I mentioned in my previous Post, asked me about the changes we’d seen in Harris over the last 21 years.

Then, there were three cafes on the island: one in Tarbert, one ten miles from Tarbert in Borve, and one twenty miles from Tarbert in Leverburgh. And I remember on one occasion Rachel gave us tea and scones in her house on Scalpay!

There was no Scalpay bridge linking the isle of Harris to the tiny island of Scalpay. That came along in 1997: http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/eriskay/scalpay.htm. You could only get to Scalpay on the tiny car ferry that ran three times a day. We never took our car on it, and walked everywhere.

A seafood bistro on the tiny island would have been pie in the sky and WiFi was non-existent.

And would anyone then have placed a huge object, the size of an old wireless, on a small lunch table for two obliterating the view between two diners?

A Selfie Inside and a Fast Driver Outside

5 08 2015

Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Wednesday 5th August 2015

Late yesterday afternoon as I began to review the events of the day, the doors inside momentarily rattle. And the wind rushes through long-leggy grasses and wild irises (that I can see through the kitchen window) till they’re almost horizontal.

Then I think of that young blonde girl driver who narrowly missed me in Pier Road at lunchtime when we came out of First Fruits cafe. And it made me think of those drivers in their hundreds and thousands, everywhere, who carry out dangerous manoevres in their cars every day on mainland UK, including our own village, with no regard for anyone; those drivers who put their foot down in any situation without a second thought, do not indicate their intentions, and show no consideration to anyone with their threatening behaviour.

The words of one of the three American guys at our table in the cafe came back to me. I’d told them we’d been coming to the Isle of Harris for twenty-one years. One of them works in Frying Pan Alley in the City of London (the other two who live in Florida quickly had something to say about the skills (lack of) of Oregon drivers who head south to Florida out of the cold in winter) and he asked if we had noticed any changes in Harris during that time. I said Yes.

I’m trying to concentrate as the doors rattle again and the grasses and irises are thrashed in the strong wind.

But before anything else I mustn’t forget Frying Pan Alley, which you encounter on Jack the Ripper walks, and why we were sitting with the Americans in the first place. Most of the tables were occupied when we went into the cafe at gone 12 noon, except the table that seats four just inside the door where two young men were seated. I asked if the two of us could join them. One showed the palm of his hand signifying Please do. There was a bit of quiet chat for a few seconds during which time I worked out they were American. That’s when yesterday’s story really began. Soon we were talking to the two of them, who were joined by another young American guy who drew up a chair to the left of mine. The latecomer said he was pleased he’d just managed to get a shower; they’d been camping anywhere they could find a spot by the roadside. But going back to Frying Pan Alley, the subject of a talk I’d given at Dirty Dicks pub was brought up, the pub being close to the alley. We chatted on but the City man was interested in what I give talks about. The last woman to be hanged in the UK, I said. That led on to one saying he was “astonished they were still hanging people in England in 1955” and how impressed he was with “the most macabre bit of cafe talk ever, anywhere”. They didn’t know about my findings for my Ruth Ellis book. One said his mother hadn’t even been thought of in 1955. They knew nothing about Stephen Ward. They’d never heard the name Profumo. and one asked if he could take a selfie of himself with me. They were actually hanging men in the early 1960s and I forgot to mention that. And we didn’t get into conversation about capital punsihement in general. And I hope the selfie thing doesn’t happen again soon.

I said it’s difficult to describe in a nutshell the changes we’ve seen on the Isle of Harris over 21 years. Lots of men used to work outside with their sheep I told them. It’s different now. There are fewer men and fewer sheep. And thinking about it now (in hindsight after someone nearly tried to mow me down in Pier Road immediately after our chat in the tearoom) we would not have seen young girls driving fast around the village 21 years ago. That’s all changed. As soon as they get to 17 they’re learning to drive now just like anywhere else on UK mainland.

They were impressed with the macabre chat. I was impressed by the three guys’ perfect teeth!

Ina Morrison – an inspirational woman

16 03 2015

Ina Morrison lives on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. We stay in her home every year in the summer. She is a very special woman in our lives. If you want to be inspired, whatever your beliefs or non beliefs, take a few minutes and listen to her story that was broadcast on BBC Alba TV last night, 15 March 2015. She comes on 10 minutes into the programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/…/b055jg56/alleluia-series-3-episode-11


Ina and Angus Alex Morrison

ina and angus

Work in Progress at Lews Castle, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

26 02 2015

A few photos I took in the summer of 2014 at Lews Castle in Stornoway where the new archive and exhibition centre is being built. A selection of my photographs of Hebridean people will be exhibited at the museum later this year. 10998892_627984880664254_3091774293109561954_n 10983215_627985853997490_6845763782462611046_n11001902_627985540664188_4610218519824807923_n 11021278_627985070664235_332956804128408579_n 10360447_627985200664222_8564570948817826090_n

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To see the progress made on the new archive centre since last summer please click on the latest BBC link below: