Scalpay: Last of the Fishermen
"Far nach bi an-o'g cha bhi an sean - If there is no young, there will be no old" David Morison. Scaplay Fisherman, my Uncle.
Growing up I heard much about Scalpay: my Scottish family was from there, my father was born there, and he and his family left when he was five. To me the island was like a fairy tale, an unknown land, far away in the distance, with stories of crofts, religion and fishing.
I decided to go and visit my relatives in 2009, to see for myself where I had come from. When I arrived, I was told that there had been no births in seven years, the fishing traditions were fading away, and the people of old with it. The last corner shop closed in 2007, the pre-school also shut down that year. The primary school had two or three pupils and there is no High School. Over the years the population had sunk to 250, a third of which were pensioners.
The young left to seek work.
My uncle David often speaks of the ‘herring fever’. When he speaks of its decline you can see the loss in his eyes. He looks back fondly on those days, the community, the way of life. Today in his 70s he still operates a small boat fishing for prawns. He has talked about giving it up, there are no more prawns, they too have left. Yet he still goes out.