by Paul Gallagher Published 01/12/2009
In 2006 I could withstand the temptation no longer, and the trip-planning began. I wanted to travel through all of the Outer Hebrides in sequence and the simplest way to do this is either beginning in the north on Lewis and heading south or, the route I chose, which started on Barra in the south and headed north. Early one morning I made the seven-hour journey from my home in Lancashire to the small, friendly fishing village of Oban to catch the midday ferry. From here the ferry travels across the Sound of Lorne, through the Sound of Mull where you can see the colourful harbour of Tobermory, then across the open waters of The Sea of the Hebrides. Now a word of warning, if you happen to get motion sickness or do not posses a decent pair of sea legs then this is certainly the crossing that will catch you out. It did with at least 50% of the travellers on the day I travelled, including my assistant. It seems the toilets on this ship are regularly occupied often by the same ashen coloured poor soul for the entire crossing so remember to take those travel sickness tablets unless you are frequent sailor.
When the croft system was introduced, it was never intended that the people should prosper on the soil. The object nearest to the landlords' hearts was to clear them from the soil, and if possible to sweep them from the country. If their purses had been as capacious as their hostility to the people, they would never have stayed their hand until every man, woman and child was shipped to a foreign shore. But the expense of emigration was too much for their slender means and the project had to be abandoned. The croft system was then introduced as a temporary expedient to facilitate clearances, and to afford a refuge to the outcasts until an opportunity should arise of transporting them to their allotted homes in Australian or Canadian wildernesses."
Robert Somers, A Tour of Enquiry in the Highlands, 1847
"That year his agents began the evictions, and 90 families were forced to leave their crops in the ground and move their cattle, furniture and timbers to the land they were offered 20 miles away on the coast, living in the open until they had built themselves new houses."
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