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A Year in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

by David Yeadon

Pub Date: July 7th, 2006
ISBN: 0-06-074181-3
Publisher: HarperCollins

Yeadon (Seasons in Basilicata, 2004, etc.) chronicles a garrulous, well-spent year on the Scottish island where the famous tweed is woven.

Harris was tailor-made for Yeadon, a writer whose affinities have always veered toward wild, remote and wracked landscapes. “So what is the lure?” he asks. “Try silence, wilderness, solitude, dramatic soul-nurturing scenery, and a sense of coming home to something bold, basic, and honest.” Silence there may have been, but there is also lots of good talking in these pages. Yeadon can sing the glories of Harris tweed’s look and feel, but he wouldn’t have known about fixing lichen-colored dyestuff to the wool with fermented urine unless he talked to the weaver. He wouldn’t be able to explain the art of poaching unless he spoke to the poacher, or the nature of lobstering the treacherous channel called the Minch unless he shared the fisherman’s boat, or the chinks appearing in the island’s strict observance of the Sabbath unless he was hoisting a wee dram on the very Sunday. Yeadon’s poetic prose sings the beauty of tiny dark lochans, wild glens and corries, the call of a corncrake, a song by a peat fire. And he displays a formidable talent for describing scenery, of which Harris possesses a fantastic array, from Caribbean-blue waters to lunar moorlands, and for capturing a quality of light, from pearl to lemon-silver, that would make Parisians envious. From his chats with people who live on the isles—crofters or painters, shopkeepers or boat-builders, fishing guides or writers—emerges the hopeful sense that Harris will not lose its distinctiveness, that it will remain a place central to its own existence, with its stories and whiskey, fitful weather, standing stones and cottage-based tweed industry.

All the plights and possibilities of traditional life, viewed through an exquisitely sensitive wide-angle lens. (39 line drawings)