The day before I left the island to go on my holiday it poured with rain for 12 hours, the first full days dousing I had experienced in two and a half months. That set the tone for the next three weeks so, coming back, the water shortage is over. The desalination plant arrived but has not had to be used, facial hair is back under control and the sound of running water can be heard once again.
The norm for now is warm, misty, drizzly conditions – new to me.
I went on a walk through the old village and it was wonderfully atmospheric. The focus was on noticing things near at hand – the cross carved into a stone in the wall of House 16, the quern stones incorporated into two cleits near the 1861 mill, or the wrens nest delicately tucked between the rocks inside Calum Mor’s House.
The wrens have had a good year with lots of youngsters around now, still eagerly been fed by overworked parents! These wee birds occur on all the islands, probably about 230 pairs in total.
An interesting sighting on the bird front this week has been some crossbills. I bet they were not just cross but livid at only having thrift seeds to eat, rather than their preferred pine cones!
Other interesting visitors have been Christine, Anthony and Ray from Melbourne, Australia. Christine and Ray’s Great Great Great Grandfather was Finlay MacQueen who was one of the 36 islanders, from eight families, who emigrated to Australia in 1852. This was a momentous decision and had serious demographic consequences. 20 died from ‘fever’ on the journey. Finlay and his son John survived.
It was great to have them to stay and an emotional time for them. Apparently, if things had worked out well in Australia for all the émigrés, the plan was for all the rest of the islanders to join them. If this had happened I wonder if they would have been repopulated by the laird, like they were after the smallpox epidemic in 1727.
Some members of the Soay Sheep Project have returned as well. An advance guard of three have come to do the annual census, prior to the big round up in August.
Another part of my job is to do sheep counts of Boreray and Soay. Prior to the real counts I find it useful to prepare my mind for the task ahead by doing some mental counts –
They always said life was tough at the top!!