Happy 700th Birthday – a review..

The Skye Reading Room hosted a birthday party with a difference on the evening of Tuesday 25th February. The Declaration of Arbroath was sent by the Barons of Scotland to the Pope in 1320, begging for help against the bullying of the English King. The famous extract from the letter, highlighting the focus on freedom, is legendary to all Scots and many others around the World. It was thought that a discussion on the topic of Scottish Independence, in particular looking at literary output in connection with the subject, would make for a lively evening, and so it proved. Seventeen souls braved the weather and it was particularly encouraging to see so many new faces in attendance. Messages of support were received from the offices of Ian Blackford and Kate Forbes, who would have both welcomed the observation that the majority of attendees were in favour of Independence, after 700 years of waiting.

A contingent from The Common Weal were present and they had a variety of relevant publications to share. Most people brought suitable books or recommendations of appropriate writers, while the Chairman circulated the draft of a book list to assist with future reading.

Refreshments including cake, banana bread, and flapjacks were appreciated and would have kept us going late into the night, as the conversation never looked like flagging. However, eventually we had to call a halt and people were still enjoying each other’s company, as we ushered them out and locked up for the night.

A fascinating evening and particularly encouraging was the sense that everyone supporting independence seemed very clear on this being achieved in a civilised manner, thus protecting relationships for the future.

Simon Clayton – Chairman

Review of November Book Week Scotland Event: Alastair Jackson

By Simon Clayton

The Spirit Is Willing…

The Reading Room were pleased to welcome photographer and author, Alastair Jackson, to a ‘Book Week Scotland’ event at Edinbane on Tuesday 19th November. A pleasing number of fifteen members and guests braved the drizzly night, to hear the former Skye resident talk about his collaborative work with poet Kenneth Steven.

The ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ is a homage to legendary poet Sorley MacLean and skillfully combines the poetry of Kenneth and the photography of Alastair. In spite of his doubts surrounding the publisher’s imposed title, Mr Jackson went through the evocative and haunting images in the book, on slides, each accompanied by an appropriate poem.

Mostly seascapes and all monochrome, the photographs brought to life the wonderful boundaries of Skye and Raasay and made many of us want to visit some of the vantage points Alastair used. Many were subsequently put off when learning of the difficulties of access, and the (up to) 5-hour walks involved!

The topics brought to life by the photos and poems were very much the stuff of Skye’s history and a wider Scottish context. Depopulation was well demonstrated and one brooding picture of Storr Lochs – entitled ‘After Culloden’ – clearly told a wider story. Each image seemed to bring the ever-changeable Skye weather into play, to great effect.

After the presentation and questions, we all enjoyed the usual delicious home baking and hot drinks which helped the group have a good ‘blether’ – which is, after all, this year’s concept for Book Week Scotland. The icing on the cake was to learn subsequently that ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ has been listed for the next Highland Book Award. We wish Alastair well in the judging of that competition.