By Eilidh Whiteford
A collection of wonderful, charming, at times poignant and often very funny tales from one of Stornoway’s ‘old guard’, Mr Pat MacFarlane, is proving to be a hit for Lewis based Gaelic publishers Acair Ltd.
Launched on Pat’s 95th birthday in 2015, ‘A Stornoway Life – From Scotland Street to South Africa’, sees the author reflect on his early life growing up in Stornoway, in the same Scotland Street house built by his great-grandfather in 1920 where Pat still lives. Then there are his war years in South Africa and tales of the many acquaintances he met through his iconic town centre bookshop, Loch Erisort.
From stories recalling childhood games, japes and ploys that went with growing up in that era, to tales of his service during the war years – Pat trained pilots how to land planes using early simulators – and musings on the plethora of individuals and characters that have made their way into his life, the book is charming, laughout- loud funny and full of personality; just like Pat himself.
‘A Stornoway Life’ is just one of the recent publications from the Lewis-based publishing house to have hit the mark with audiences.
And within the industry itself, the work of Acair has been honoured, with ‘Dol Fodha na Greine’ (The Going Down of the Sun) being awarded the Overall Literature Prize at the Royal National Mod last year.
Filling a large corner of alisted art deco building in James Street, Stornoway,which was itself many years ago a working Harris Tweed mill, fashion and accessories company Rarebird continues to put its individual stamp on the world-famous fabric.
Established by designer Paulette Brough in 2007, and based in Carloway since 2010, last year saw Rarebird open its second workshop and studio outlet at 1 Bells Road, Stornoway.
By Eilidh Whiteford
The origin of Harris Tweed – the cloth made from virgin wool dyed, spun and hand-woven by islanders in the Outer Hebrides – is famous around the world. And the tradition cannot be escaped at the Harris Tweed Isle of Harris store in Tarbert, owned and operated by the third generation of the Campbell family of weavers.
Open 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday, the shop is something of an Aladdin’s cave of Harris Tweed and Hebridean wool items with a plethora of tweed items from a variety of coat and jacket styles, to Harris Tweed boots and shoes, bags, accessories and gifts.
As visitors to Lewis and Harris will easily learn, there is a lot of local pride in the renaissance of Harris Tweed. This is the one industry which is utterly unique to these islands – a status that is underpinned by an Act of Parliament. To be the genuine article, according to the Harris Tweed Act which was updated and reinforced at Westminster in 1993, the fabled fabric must be made from pure virgin wool, handwoven at the home of the weaver in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The woven tweed is then returned to the mill where it is authenticated by a stamper with the Orb trade mark.
The stamper is employed by the Harris Tweed Authority which exists, under the Act, to protect the trademark and safeguard the integrity of the product. The Harris Tweed Orb is the oldest British trademark in continuous use, dating back for more than a century. This is indeed an industry which has a long and distinguished story to tell.