‘They were quite happy to wait until we were forced to leave eventually and give up the struggle for our rights’
Extract from Rhenigidale: A Community’s Fight For Survival
By Kenneth MacKay
Published by Acair
Chapter 2 – My Story
In my schooldays at Rhenigidale we never found it boring. There was no television at the time but there was so much work to be done after school when we were growing up: we became part of the community working on the croft which was so essential for each household. We enjoyed everything we did – especially helping with the sheep. At lambing time my brother and I used to get up early in the morning and before we went to school we went through the various crofts to see if any new lambs had appeared during the night. If we found a neighbour’s sheep had just lambed and we were the first to tell them about it, we were able to claim two eggs and a scone for a female lamb and, if it was a male, one egg and one scone. We would be so proud if we managed to get a few in the same morning and we made every effort to be out before anyone else. I suppose it was a useful service for the rest of the crofters that we were keeping a keen eye on what was happening round the crofts that were not fenced off at that time – all of them were open except for one at each end of the village.
When we were getting into our teens, we were given the chore of going to meet whichever parent was walking home from Tarbert with the groceries. They were always very grateful when we met up with them to take part of the load. If there was no boat available that day and groceries were needed, either one of our parents would have to walk to Tarbert and back for the essentials. We enjoyed the walk too.
We had to take turns going fishing in the evenings and, if there was room for us in one of the boats that used to go sea-angling for haddock over in Loch Trollamarig or just going out to the reefs from the village, we would be happy to go. Quite often we became the proud owner of a bamboo rod to use as a fishing rod and this was a passport for going fishing. We always found something to pass the time and in the summer we used to just run round the village in our bare feet. We were never very happy with our mother rubbing our feet down and washing them at night. We wandered all over and from April to October we never bothered wearing shoes. We could walk along the shore with bare feet without any problem. The first time our father took us up Toddun Angus and I managed to get to the summit in bare feet.
During the war years we had two cousins from Glasgow staying with us – a brother and sister, Marion and Roddy MacKay. They both came home here when Glasgow was being bombed during the Second World War. There was also two brothers – John Norman and Iain MacDonald – staying with their aunt and uncle, so the classes at Rhenigidale School then were boosted by four extra pupils.
Chapter 5 – The Road
The struggles to convince the powers-that-be in Inverness started away back in the 1930s, when so many of the people that were offered land, and a better way of life too, left for Skye. I remember my father telling me that Mr MacDonald, who was the headmaster at Tarbert at the time, had supported the community at that time by composing a letter on their behalf to push Inverness County Council to come to a decision on the road to this community.
In recent years I met up with and was introduced to two of Mr MacDonald’s nieces, who had come to Sir E Scott School for the celebration to mark when we finally managed to get it upgraded to a Six Year Secondary. They were telling me that day how they remembered meeting the late Angus Campbell (Glen House) at their uncle’s house at Tarbert after a service in the church. Angus Campbell quite often walked all the way from Rhenigidale to the church at Tarbert for the morning service and obviously had become friends with the headmaster and been invited to his house for a meal.
From that time on there was a constant flow of correspondence with Inverness CC and the local District Council and every time the reply was the same: they couldn’t afford to give us a road. My understanding of that was that the will wasn’t there to consider a road to such a remote community and obviously they were quite happy to wait until we were forced to leave eventually and give up the struggle for our rights.
Rhenigidale: A Community’s Fight For Survival by Kenneth MacKay is out now published by Acair (PB, £12)