We have always had an interest in islands, particularly as we met on Arran back in 1969, but it is probably not until our later years that the peace, tranquility and lifestyle of the islands has had such an appeal. There are 94 inhabited Scottish islands, of which we have visited 39. It saddens us on our travels when we meet people who have made a day visit to an island, ticked it off their list and said “done that!”. We return to our favourite islands many times as there are always new places to explore, old places to revisit, and most of all the people we have made friends with to meet again. It is not just the scenery but the people that make the islands.
At the start of May we should have been making our fifth visit to Tiree. The small cottage we stay in looks out onto a patch of grass where there are often sheep, and then a small creek and the sea. What better way to start the morning! Last year, after cycling to church and on to a beach to have our lunch, we were on our way home when we stopped to let a small van pass. Instead it too stopped, opened its window and said “ You were at the kirk this morning. What did you make of it?”. It had been a visiting minister. After a lengthy discussion David noticed a car waiting patiently behind so we ended the conversation. Imagine having a discussion with a complete stranger in the High Street about the service at Banchory East while a line of cars waited patiently behind! That’s island life.
At the end of June we should be heading for Westray in the Orkneys. Our first visit to the Orkney Islands was in 2004 when we set off for three weeks with 2 bikes and a tent. The aim was to visit as many of the 20 inhabited islands as possible, which required some considerable advanced planning, especially as North Ronaldsay only had a ferry once a week but also an excursion ferry every 3 weeks. From that holiday we were able to chose which islands to spend more time on, and Westray is a favourite. Again the people make it. The Harcus family who run the campsite and self-catering accommodation are very musical as are many of the islanders and the weekly concert in The Grand Old Byre is something we always enjoy, and will miss it as it looks highly unlikely we will be there this summer.
Our third island holiday planned for this year is to Colonsay at the end of October and we are hopeful that this one might take place. Again it will be a return visit if it happens. We have been getting a weekly newsletter from Kevin, who owns the cottage we have booked, about how they are coping on the island with lockdown and the resilience of the island community shows through. When we first went to Colonsay church services were held in alternate weeks between the Baptist church and the Church of Scotland by a visiting minister who could be from any denomination. The Baptist building is now used for the Heritage society display. Kevin, the session clerk, is a Roman Catholic, so it is a truly universal church. There are 135 residents and fortunately they have remained covid free. As much as they would like visitors back for their economy they do not want the virus on the island so are content to wait, not that they have much choice as the Calmac ferry is freight only at the moment.
So for now we are just very thankful that we live in such a beautiful part of the world in a wonderful community.
Banchory East Church
A journal of the life of the East Church through the personal memories and opinions of our members.
We post on Tuesday and Thursdays. but not always every week.