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Scotland and Islandness

Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture


Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places «apart» yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

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Chapter 3 Cha ghabhadh na b’ fheàrr fhaighinn (‘It couldn’t be better’). Gaelic Perspectives on Island Cultural Heritage in Scotland’s Hebrides (Hugh Cheape)



3.Cha ghabhadh na b’ fheàrr fhaighinn (‘It couldn’t be better’). Gaelic Perspectives on Island Cultural Heritage in Scotland’s Hebrides

Island life offers opportunities and challenges which many have embraced in recent years. The urge to move or retire to Scotland’s islands comes on strongly on occasions and must be part-responsible for a steadying of Hebridean population decline or even its reversal demonstrated in recent censuses; the districts of Skye and Lochalsh, for example, have turned the corner of continuous decline since the late nineteenth century and the population of Skye is now over 10,000. Living ‘on the edge’, it might be said, needs special gifts of resilience and inner strength which may not be a priori part of the expectations of the outside world or of the impression of ‘islandness’. In circumstances where the individual is not a Hebridean by birth and might not have lived the island life over an extended period, it should be said that a need for special gifts is uppermost in the face of winter darkness and protracted seasonal North Atlantic weather patterns.

The exploration of islands is of compelling interest. A modern scholarly trend serves this well; and the assembling of a ‘cultural biography’ of an island may perhaps be slightly more compelling than the scrutiny of a mainland site, parish or ‘estate’ (e.g. Macdonald 1976; Storrie 1981; Burnett 1986; Caldwell 2018). Even where this is questioned in the promotion of an identity or...

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