A taste of island life…
Although we didn’t realise it our arrival coincided with winter shut down on Colonsay. Like a National Trust property in November- there was a sense in the air that dust sheets had been fetched from the loft and if you lingered too long you too would be covered over till next March.
However I caught my self wondering if this kind of exile would be entirely bad? Rugged landscape suited best to the gales of winter and locals who were down to earth and genuinely engaged with visitors.(For those interested check out some of the fascinating articles and books about islanders lives.) No resentment here on Colonsay to the screaming intrusion into their quiet way of life! During a brief stay we encountered amazing characters. Among them : the local who knew my childhood home; seasonal workers who love the life style of their adopted summer home and the shop owners who let us glimpse parts of their rural winter life.
Only a few miles wide and with around 120 hardy inhabitants This out post is 2.5 ferry hours from Oban and 1 from the much bigger and busier whisky island of Islay could just as easily a whole world away. While locals went about their business Colonsay remained still and silent except for the occasional distant call of grey seals against the wind and crash if the sea and the flocks of Canada Geese that seemed to track you all over the island.
My favourite Colonsay’ism’ was parking on a 3m x2m concrete slab next to a rough green. It turned out that the 1960’s style concrete bench next to it held the islands total golf facilities: a laminated copy of club rules and. An honesty box lashed to the least exposed side . This in itself set it aside on many of the western isles geared up for tourists and Leisure seeking incomers.Apart from the airfield and two recycling centres (whose significance I may relate later) the harbour town boasts a grand total of :one shop, a post office, cafe,gallery, library, hotel with the only public bar and a petrol pump. Our arriving boat was shared by a local celebrity whisky writer arriving in a flourish only to be gone again in less than a day.
On the afternoon that we left the hotel housing the islands only bar shut for the winter.Closing weekend appeared to be an event in itself. In little groups the locals dropped in to the bar to raise a toast to the leaving staff and make the most of the last big screen match while the small group of remaining tourists gathered waiting to see whether the ferry would make it through the rising squall. What if it didn’t?( Shop already closed for the weekend and everyone else seemed to be off to ‘the big house’ for the end of season staff party.) There was little doubt that we would be rescued by the locals but it served to hilight that this would be a tough place without friends!