By Roz Skinner
The phrase "artistic safari" seems apt when describing No. 10 Borreraig Park, a luxury self-catering wing attached to the home of artist, Diana Mackie, and musician, Alan Cleobury-Jones.
No 10 frequently attracts a variety of creatives looking for peaceful surroundings in which to compose, paint, write or simply relax. "People read online that I am a musician and they know that we won't worry about people who want to scream and shout and play loudly," Alan reveals. Alan, who is part of local band, The Fulltones, offers his guests the chance to have a drumming lesson as part of their holiday experience.
The recent addition of a beach hide, means visitors can find a perfect place to escape and embrace their creativity. Says Diana: "It's always been our dream to have somewhere on the beach where people can go with their bottles, guitar, books and slippers and enjoy the outside without going outside!"
The hide, which boasts a roaring stove, comfortable furniture and awe-inspiring views, is ideally-located for wildlife watching. Otters, muntjac deer, whales, dolphins and herons have all been spotted by Diana and Alan's guests.
By Roz Skinner
Visitors meeting artist, writer and gallery-owner Ian Williams again this year may notice little change – but actually they are lucky to be able to meet him at all after an incident in Croatia last year.
Enthusiastic cyclist Ian, who owns Waternish-based Brae Fasach Gallery and Cafe, explains: “We were on a boat and cycle holiday in September 2016. The boat dropped us off at one end of the island and then we would cycle to the other end and rejoin the boat. We had a great time, as the scenery was outstanding.”
He was in the lead of their group, on the fourth day of the trip. “All I can remember is that I was cycling in the lead, probably around 30 seconds from the end of the ride. We were approaching a village.”
For artist, Duncan Currie, painting and fishing have always gone hand in hand. Sitting in the peaceful Skye surroundings enables Duncan to charge his creative batteries and find inspiration from the constantly changing landscape. (writes Roz Skinner who also took the photographs)
“It feel like an interaction with Nature," Duncan explains. "I lose all sense of time when I am painting and fishing. They are both ways of experiencing a total immersion in the wild environment and natural landscape."
The ever-changing Skye light means that Duncan can paint a scene many times and always produce something different. He says: “Some viewpoints become almost like a project for me, such as the one looking across Loch Slapin to Blaven. Capturing it during different seasons and times of day means the view is familiar, but never the same. Going out to the trout lochs really helps, as I see continuously varying foregrounds and that keeps my work interesting.”
A range of events took place on Days Two and Three of the Skye Book Festival 2016 – sadly, we were unable to cover the first day as no staff member was available. Here, Skye-based photographer and writer, Roz Skinner, reports on some of the key sessions on Friday September 2 and Saturday September 3.
The first book in Peter May's best-selling Lewis Trilogy, The Black House, almost went unpublished.
Speaking to a large audience in the Aros Centre, Peter said: "My agent sent it to various publishing houses in London, and every single one of them rejected 'The Black House.' I was devastated, as I was sure it was the best thing I had written at the time. However, I virtually forgot all about it until a chance conversation with my French publisher. She said she'd love to read it and six weeks later she called and said she loved it! I was so delighted that someone finally liked the book. It was translated into French and became a huge success. My publisher sold it all round Europe and, finally, the Brits bought it!"
After finishing the last book in the Lewis Trilogy, Peter revealed he had received many requests to return to the Isle of Lewis in future books. He even had a vision for the opening of a book set on Luskentyre Beach. A man would be washed up on the pure sands, with no idea of who he was or how he got there. But, Peter remarked, that vision was not a story in itself. It needed something more.
A photograph of Wentworth Street, Portree, by Margaret Fay Shaw…the few cars that there were there, each took up so much less room!
Report by Roz Skinner
In 1929, a young American woman named Margaret Fay Shaw relocated to
South Uist to nurse her disappointed hopes. Her dream of becoming a
concert pianist had been crushed due to arthritis and she was
returning to the only place she had ever felt truly happy.
Her love of the Gaelic language blossomed as she shared a croft house
with locals, Peigi and Mairi Macrae. Wonderstruck with the culture
and the landscape, she took to documenting her surroundings with her
Her skills threw her into the path of John Lorne Campbell, who was
writing a book with Compton Mackenzie of Whisky Galore fame. Margaret
agreed to supply photographs for the book, marking the beginning of a
lifelong collaboration between the couple. They were married in 1935,
and Margaret always reminded John that he never actually paid her for
the use of her photographs that resulted in their meeting!
Both cherished a deep love of Gaelic culture, particularly when that
culture was expressed through music. This resulted in a lifetime's
worth of photographs, sound recordings and film collections.
Their story will be retold during The Skye Book Festival. The show,
entitled Campbells of Canna In Words And Music, begins with Hugh
Cheape, John's executor, talking about John's early life. Author, Ray
Perman, will then discuss John and Margaret's life together and their
preservation of a vanishing culture. The third stage will see singer
and archivist, Fiona Mackenzie, reveal a beautiful picture of the
couple's life and work. As well as bringing the songs to life on
stage, Fiona will also be showing excerpts of Margaret's films and
Fiona currently works as an archivist at Canna House, on the Isle of
Canna where Margaret and John spent 40 years of their life before
gifting the island to the National Trust for Scotland. She explains
why their life-long passion for preserving culture is so valuable,
saying: “Margaret and John collected a disappearing lifestyle, taping
songs and stories, taking over 6,000 photographs and making films.
John made over 1,500 recordings. Together, they created incredible
jigsaw pieces of Scottish life that you won't find anywhere else.
Putting the pieces of their collection together gives us a picture of
a long-gone lifestyle that we can show to future generations.”
One of the films currently stored at Canna House shows Margaret's
dream finally coming true. After moving to Barra with John, she used
the money from wedding presents to purchase a Steinway piano from
Glasgow. The film shows the piano arriving at their tiny house in
1935 and being manhandled up the stairs.
The collection makes accessible a world that was lost – a world where
sheep were driven through the middle of Portree on the way to the
mart – preserved in Margaret's photographs from Skye, the
Uists, Barra and Canna. The rich and fascinating collection is stored
at Canna House, currently in the throes of renovation. Fiona says:
“We still accommodate requests for information and people can still
visit the gardens. I'm very keen during the summer to have the door
open and people can hear the music or archive recordings wafting out
into the garden. I want them to feel the house is alive and has music
in it. I will also be singing at various events, reminding people of
the worth and potential that is here in Canna House. I'm very much
looking forward to the show in Portree. It's a beautiful story. You
get a feel for the tale of two slightly eccentric characters and how
their lives intertwined and together they achieved something they
probably couldn't have done on their own.”
The story of this ground-breaking couple will be brought to life at
the Aros Centre on Thursday September 1 at 8:30pm.