Westword - January 2023
Updated: Mar 17
As 2022 rolls into 2023, the changing of the season brings a change in residents on the island. We said a sad, fond farewell-for-now to Liz Holden and Fiona Hutton who have both now left Canna to pursue other interests. Fiona first arrived on Canna in early 2018 and ran Tighard, the island's guest house, for four years. Last year she moved to MacIsaacs, the last house on Sanday. She worked as the postie and also worked several other jobs including Cafe Canna sous chef, house and shop cleaner and she was our resident Hebnet problem solver! Fiona volunteered as a Director on all boards, organised our renewables maintenance team and got our Dark Skies application moving forward. I asked Fiona what her favourite memories are of Canna and she said: long dog walks, watching sunsets, kayaking and swimming in the sea from her doorstep, and all the people she met along the way! Fiona is now working in Glasgow and as Ecology Field Administrator and she has moved closer to her aging parents to keep an eye on them. We wish Fiona all the very best for her future endeavours; she will be missed here on Canna! Liz Holden has also gone on to pastures new. I asked Liz to write a bit about her time on Canna and this is what she sent me. "I arrived with husband Pete in May 2015 - Pete was taking up the Ranger post and it was to be a last adventure before he retired. Retirement came and went and somehow we were still loving our life on Canna. I very quickly found that I didn't have much time to spend on my personal passion - the fungi (although it has to be said that there are now nearly 450 species recorded for the island!!). "Becoming a director and secretary of the IoCCDT quickly meant that I was plunged into the world of community development, working alongside a wonderful group of folk all wanting to get the best possible outcomes for Canna. First up was the renewable energy scheme - grant raising for a project manager was my first big task and the results of that were up and running by 2018! Since then the development trust has appointed a development manager, an administrator and worked with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to set up the Canna Partnership. There are all sorts of exciting projects on the go - being able to contribute to that has been one of the best things about living on Canna. "Something else that I took on was cleaning the bay of plastic rubbish once a fortnight. After some of the bigger storms this is a pretty daunting task and it takes a certain sort of stubborn determination to keep going. Walking back from the skip and seeing the bay clean makes it worthwhile though. "I have also been a part of several projects for the NTS, including helping to document the contents of Canna House. Pete and I then took on the garden in April 2018. Now that the borders and veg patches are more or less in order, it has been a great pleasure listening to visitors enjoying the garden. Getting our apple and pear trees identified and finding that we have some pretty unusual specimens was just the icing on that cake! "Leaving has not been an easy thing to do, but like so many of us, family has given me the final shove. I do not intend to be a stranger though." We all wish Liz the very best for the future. She is a force and she will be missed. Hopefully she will bring her new grandson out to visit Canna very soon! There is a closeness that comes with living on an island with such a small population. Everyone is working and living together to drive the island forward so when someone leaves there is a need to share knowledge and experience to ensure there isn't a gap. We take on further hats to wear and get on with it. And we do love a hat on Canna! We wish all West Word readers a happy and prosperous 2023! Margaret Willington
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House By the time you read this we will be well into the New Year but Bliadhna Mhath Ùr co dhiubh! Happy New Year anyway! We must hope that given the recent period of very cold and snowy weather, the worse is behind us for the winter and that this ancient Gaelic proverb is not true… "Cha tig Geamhradh gu cùl Challuinn, no Earrach gu cùl Fhèill Pàruig - Winter comes not till after New Year, nor Spring till after St Patrick's day". [March 17th]
And did you know that there are particular materials which are most effective for keeping out the cold at particular stages of the Winter? "Ri fuachd Calluinn, 's math clò ollainn: Ri fuachd Fèill-Brighde, fògh'naidh cisfheart" For New Year cold, good is woollen cloth For Candlemas [St Bride's Day, 1-2 Feb] cold, mixed stuff will do"
Margaret Fay Shaw wrote about the work done on the croft during the winter months, in particular those beginning in February: "The spring work of the croft began in February, when seaweed, used as fertiliser, was cut with a saw-toothed sickle called a 'corran', on the tidal islands of the loch at low water of a spring tide. It was bound together in great bundles called 'maoisean' and towed ashore at full tide so high that it could be left on the grass verge. The crofters then carried it in creels on their backs to the field, where it was left in a heap for a fortnight before being spread on the ground.
Shovelling kelp on Canna 1950's
There it was left until black and dry the new grass showing above it when the ground was ready to turn. The fields were too small to use a horse-drawn plough so the ground was dug with a spade or a footplough called a cas-chrom. This primitive looking implement whose name means crooked foot, is of a type still used in various parts of the world since man first tilled the soil. The foot of the cas-chrom is made at an angle of 110 degrees to the long handle and the point is tipped with iron which is pushed into the earth by the pressure of the man's foot on the wooden pin at the bend of the cas. It enters the ground at a slant, is tipped back and rolled to the side, where it deposits the clod."
Margaret wrote of her winter experiences in South Uist in 1930. All spelling is Margaret's own... Jan 25 1930 Saturday Stayed inn all day writing & sorting pictures etc. Weather improved - Angus John & Dugald Campbell call in evening - AJ with stool he made me which is a darling. Bachelor & whist. To bed to read "Lea... worth ease" - but letters in am. from Kay v important then Mary Ferguson & Shearer called at 10 tonight - a great surprise & songs & I had made fudge before so they were slightly intertained (sp). We all had giggles. Fortunately they were late and didn't call while stove was being lighted - an hour before when we were all black & the kitchen filthy dirty. January 28 Stormy so remain in until 4 when I go to Boisdale House for tea. Home early to find Angus John - photographs of lobster creels arrive - one of the best I've ever taken.