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South Uist feature article

Our Island Home

There are hundreds of islands in Scotland, but for the author none compare to South Uist.


In most of a lifetime spent following the drum, the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides has been our base and our refuge: the beloved haven we returned to between army postings, the one permanent thing in our lives and those of our children. It was always there, always the same, never letting us down. Wherever we were in the world, we could return...and this would often involve me setting off from an army quarter in the middle of Europe in our ancient, not entirely reliable, camper van. I would drive west, cross the English Channel, scoop up our children from their various schools, usually each with at least one accompanying friend, hurry north, cross the Minch, arrive on the island in the dark, drive to our house, tumble out of the car and know that we were home and safe. My husband would follow in a more dignified manner when his military obligations allowed him leave.

Of all the Outer Hebrides, South Uist reigns supreme for me, unique and yet an integral part of the Long Island, as the whole chain is called, from the Butt of Lewis in the north to Barra Head with its satellite islands in the south. Why does this island pierce my heart so deeply?

First, I suppose, must come the people — our friends and neighbours — because without their heart-warming blend of natural generosity, kindness, ironic humour and a deep-rooted Christian faith that carries an instinctive sense of responsibility for anyone in need, it would be just another island. The changes in living standards that have evolved in my lifetime have been slow to affect the islanders, but even the advent of television, computers and all the gismos of modern communication have failed to eradicate their intrinsic sense of community and love of homemade entertainment.

Scenically, South Uist has everything I require: nothing is overstated, grandiose or staggeringly spectacular, but beautiful in a quiet, memorable way.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2012 issue of Scottish Life.

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Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.

Photo © Patricia Turner