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Eigg Trust Original Launch Manifesto

 

The Isle of Eigg Trust Launch Address 25-10-91

 

[click here to go down direct to the start of the address]

 

[go down to original Isle of Eigg Trust's manifesto]

 

[an account of the Eigg community land ownership campaign]

 

[the official Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust website]

   

An edited version of this address was published shortly after delivery in the West Highland Free Press. The full text, as it appears here, was published in The Edinburgh Review, Edinburgh University Press, No. 88, 1992, pp. 158-162 - in a special issue edited by Murdo MacDonald and devoted to the work of Patrick Geddes and contemporary resonances to his theme of "folk, work and place."

 

Background to this Document

 

On 25 October 1991 three of the four founding trustees of the original Isle of Eigg Trust (Bob Harris, Tom Forsyth and myself) held a public meeting on the Isle of Eigg to ascertain whether we really had the mandate that we believed we had in carrying out an advocacy role in the islanders’ struggle with their landlord. This resulted in a secret ballot subsequently organised by the Residents’ Committee. 100% of the island’s permanent residents participated in it and gave a 73% vote in favour of the Trust proceeding. In 1994 islanders had developed a sufficiently strong voice for outside advocacy to be no longer necessary. Accordingly, we stood down as trustees and the residents elected 8 trustees of their own choice. (I was asked to stand, and was duly elected, thereby giving continuity with the previous work of the trust.) In 1997, the year in which Eigg finally came into community ownership, the functions of the original Isle of Eigg Trust were subsumed by the new Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, which was set up as a company limited by guarantee and designed to include representation of Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, as well as island residents. As of 2000 the original trust still exists on paper, but only at present to fulfil the residual function of handling remaining deeds of covenant etc. (most of the donations were collected through the original trust, as the new one was not up and running in time to do this). The management of the island is not, however, part of the original trust’s work, this being the responsibility of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, details of which may be found on its website.

 

 

Original Introduction

 

This text is based on the address delivered in the company of other trustees by Alastair McIntosh of the Isle of Eigg Trust. Some two-thirds of the people of Eigg attended the three-hour long public meeting on Friday 25th October 1991. Afterwards the community agreed to discuss the concept amongst themselves and respond in due course.  The discussion which followed the address was encouraging. One fisherman, who lives on the island in a caravan because he does not have land, came up the next morning and gave £100. He said he really hoped for his sake and others like him that the Trust's objectives might be fulfilled.  A similar donation has been received from the Rev. John Harvey, Leader of the Iona Community. Most of the Trust's expenses to date have been paid for by the trustees, particularly by Tom Forsyth taking on dry stane dyking work. Contributions are much needed and should be sent to Elisabeth Lyon at ... [no longer applicable - thank you].

 

*****   

Ladies, gentlemen and children,

 

It is not without a certain sense of impertinence that we

present our credentials to you this evening. We have, as

you know, formed a charitable trust in the name of this

island. Consultation beforehand was informal, not least

because some had expressed reservations about speaking

openly in view of future ownership uncertainty.

 

At a cost so far of some £3,000 and many hours of work on

behalf of myself, Bob Harris, Elisabeth Lyon and above

all, Tom Forsyth, we have brought our proposal to a stage

where we hope it can be weighed by you and considered as

an alternative model for land ownership on Eigg.

 

To you I need hardly outline the history of land ownership

in this part of the world. Since the Clanranalds first

forsook their role as stewards and in exchange for £15,000

presumed to treat this island as a market commodity in

1828, it has changed hands eight times and is now under a

court order to be sold again. Some ownership regimes, like

the present one, have been relatively benign and even

generous.  Others, remembered by some present tonight,

have been described to us as "like living under enemy

occupation".

 

Either way, the inhabitants of Eigg today, like those of

so much of Scotland, have legal status akin only to

nuisance value in matters of "real" estate. "A collector's

item", is how onelaird described the Isle of Eigg to me

recently. A collector's item, indeed, which can be bought

and sold without reference to the interests of those whose

lives paint their meaning here.  An absentee collector's

item, or investment opportunity, or rich man's playground.

 

Some collector's item! This, where disused houses crumble

while young men, women and children live in caravans.

Where crofters have had to wait years or spend large sums

in legal fees to procure freehold over their small plots.

Where no-one knows who will be the next laird, hoping only

that the highest bidder might show more generosity towards

them than was perhaps evident during the accumulation of

such massive personal wealth.

 

And this is not just Eigg. It is the condition of much of

the Highlands and Islands today.  The Clearances continue

under economic masquerade. For example, tourism, one of

our few growth opportunities for cottage industry, too

often becomes controlled by estates which convert homes

into summer timeshare. Those who belong to a place get

squeezed out, leaching community.

 

Go to the poor quarters of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Govan, and

look where too many of our people live now. Oh yes, the

fortunate ones have done sufficiently "well" sometimes to

forget their roots, but many of the names on doors of

those living in the high rise flats and "priority

treatment" estates are Highland.  Folk for whom the

tragedy of being uprooted, by direct clearance or by

restriction of access to nature's sustenance, has given

rise to the spectre of poverty across generations.

 

Going home on the Ullapool ferry recently I had the

pleasure of meeting one of our former teachers at the

Nicolson Institute.  I had happened to have been reading

the part of Jim Hunter's book on crofting history where he

mentions that Leurbost, where I grew up as the doctor's

son, had resettled some of the hundred or so families

cleared in South Lochs. I asked this teacher WHY we had

never been taught this.  Remorsefully, he replied that it

was not in the curriculum, is still largely excluded from

the curriculum, and is the sort of painful history people

prefer to forget.

 

"I think I hear the cry of the children till this day",

said one Lewis crofter of the clearances in Uig of the

1850's. My friends, which amongst us can not hear that cry

STILL as we view rural caravan dwellers and the peripheral

Sowetos of contemporary Scottish cities? Is it not time

for us, like other indigenous peoples of the world, to

demand restitution for the historical usurpment of our

lands?  We lament about native American peoples as

featured in "Dances With Wolves".  What about Clearance?

 

Of course, we are told that such "idealism" lacks economic

viability.  Perhaps these critics should spend time on

Foula, off Shetland, or Scoraig, near Dundonnell. Both are

revitalised crofting communities. Each shows that quality

of life does not require a profligate standard of living.

In any case, as the economic hubs of the world roll their

way towards ecological suicide, are we really to be fobbed

off with the suggestion that lifestyles based on

industrial intoxication, nuclear umbrellas, agricultural

soil degradation, land expropriation from the powerless

and unjust trade relations with the Third World are

somehow "viable"!

 

What can we in Scotland do about it? First, I suggest, we

must remember.  We must remember in the way that those

erecting cairns on Knoydart, or at the sites of land grabs

in Lewis are presently helping us to do. As with personal

psychological health, repression of a culture's past only

turns anger and sadness¨ inwards to deaden the soul.  No

cultural carcinogen is more powerful than oppression

internalised to the point that a community blames itself

alone for disempowerment, disfunction and under-

achievement.  So let us start by re-membering. But let us

do so mindful of the curative role which forgiveness must

eventually play. Only forgiveness breaks the knock on

effects of oppression re-perpetuating itself.

 

Then we can engage in re-visioning. We must envision what

ourcommunities could become ... sorting out the realistic

from the phantasy and asking what kind of a people we want

to be.  Are our values primarily those of market forces,

or do we stand for values to do with place, culture and

relationship?

 

Finally, dare we re-claim? Can we, as in the words

communicated by Moses, "proclaim the liberation of all the

inhabitants of the land ... a jubilee for you; each of you

will return to his ancestral home ... Land must not be

sold in perpetuity, for the land belongs to me...."

(Leviticus 25)?

 

Some of you on Eigg may think private ownership by a

wealthy benevolent laird would be in your best interests.

If the lottery of ownership falls favourably, this could

be so. But even then, is there not something about such

patronage which quietly disempowers a community?  You

know, when Lord Leverhulme earlier this century promised

Lewis crofters a fishing fleet, a fish cannery, railways,

electrical power, a garden city, steady work, steady pay

and beautiful homes, the response which won the day was,

"We are not concerned with his fancy dreams that may or

may not come true! What we want is the and  and the

question I put to him now is: ill you give us the land?.

 

Land restitution is much of what the Isle of Eigg Trust

stands for. We are four people of humble means, but with

an awareness of history, concern for the state of the

world, sound track records in rural and community

development and a love of Scotland and our own people. The

benefits we offer are not overflow from the grail of

monetary wealth. Rather, they are opportunities to

reconstitute full community. Opportunities which, let it

be said, lie sleeping in the taproot of existing

community. Opportunities not of a selfish nature, but for

patterns of living which could be of growing importance to

a "developed" world faced with a spiritual crisis of

meaning and ecological bankruptcy.

 

 We are not claiming that most people today can live

entirely from the land on a smallholding! Rather, our

experience is that having an opportunity to live with the

land deeply enriches human life. It can release creativity

in many forms, including economic entrepreneurship. Here

lies a font of true viability.

 

Should the Trust acquire ownership of Eigg, the main thing

we offer is security of tenurefor those who lack it. We

propose that new land holdings are made available to those

in need,  including current estate workers, other

residents, emigres who wish to return and other suitable

settlers - gradually and in limited numbers.

 

We further undertake that decisions about such matters

would be made within the terms of the Trust deed by the

trustees and management committee representative of the

community. (I personally undertake to resign as a trustee

should this not be effected to the satisfaction of a

majority of the resident community.)

 

Indeed, this trust offers the prospect that when a future

visitor asks your children who owns Eigg, they will reply,

not a German factory magnate, English pop star, Swiss

banker, Saudi oil sheik, Dutch syndicate, aristocratic

heir, racing car driver, insurance company or any other

sort of "laird", but simply, "Us ... held in trust for

people and nature".

 

Here is the vision which, for all its tentative nature, we

place before you tonight. That this island, this "jewel of

the Hebrides", could become a turning point in Scottish

land ownership.  That Eigg could become a place where

these children playing around us now can more readily

unfold lives which find wealth in the richness of human

relationships, through the land and sea, in self-directed

work and local self-determination, in songs of the old

tongue, and in all that can derive from assuming full

responsibility for community growth.

 

But before we can undertake further advocacy in building

support, it is important to hear clearly your voices. Is

what we have outlined tonight and placed in the Trust

booklet something you wish and would uphold? In

responding, remember that continued private ownership

could bring benefits which I have not highlighted, whereas

trusteeship would require community effort and by no means

guarantees a halcyon era.

 

What we have done is to create a trust in waiting.  It can

be used for charitable purposes while waiting, but

crucially we seek your endorsement for its primary

function - to try and remove the island, forever, from the

vagaries of private ownership.

 

We know that the current owners, Mrs Williams and Mr

Schellenberg, are not without sympathy for this cause.

Both have expressed qualified support. We call for more

than that. We ask that they hear the pain which continued

ownership uncertainty causes, and consider facilitating

the primary objective of the Isle of Eigg Trust. This

would be a gesture with little precedent.  A healing

gesture, setting right ancient wrongs. A gesture of

stewardship; even, of belonging.  

****************************************************************

 

The Original Isle of Eigg Trust Manifesto

 

 

When the original Isle of Eigg Trust was launched on 23 July 1991, 500 copies of a manifesto were printed and circulated to island residents, the press and wellwishers. The text had been drafted mainly by Elisabeth Lyon (who financed its printing), Robert Harris and Tom Forsyth, with Alastair McIntosh being involved initially as an adviser but then as a trustee.

 

THIS FAVOURED ISLE 

 

 

“This basalt island is one of high potential fertility which has been allowed to go almost to dereliction … most of the Eigg crofters are now elderly and the future of the island as a crofting community is precarious… bracken is all too prevalent … the construction of a proper harbour would make it reasonably possible for the high potential of this favoured island to be reached. Without it, there is no hope.” - F. Fraser Darling West Highland Survey 1955

 

The island of Eigg is seven miles off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles south of Mallaig. It is part of a group of islands with Rhum, Muck and Canna called the Small Isles which, sandwiched between Skye and Mull, form the Inner Hebrides. The island’s 7,500 acres are arranged over three miles east-west and five miles north-south.

 

The island’s topography is spectacular and varied with a richness of flora and fauna which has created what the Scottish Wildlife Trust has called a naturalist’s paradise. It enjoys an equable climate. Over much of its 7,500 acres there is good deep relatively alkaline soil resulting from the weathering of basaltic rock. Though arable cropping is now almost non-existent, good crops of corn and roots have been harvested in the past. With appropriate shelter from the wind, a large variety of fruit and vegetables could be grown. Some high quality sheep and cattle continue to be raised. Bracken is much in evidence and is adversely affecting much of the better grazing land.

 

 

THE HISTORY OF EIGG

  

 

The Rose of all the World is not for me,

I want, for my part,

Only the little white rose of Scotland

That smells sharp and sweet - and breaks the heart!

 

  

Hugh MacDiarmid

 

   

“The history of Eigg is, in part, a history of the whole of Scotland. It may not have stood in the mainstream of events but it has caught all the backwash and contributed not a little of its own. Prehistoric man settled Eigg as did the early Christians and Vikings. It provided a base from which the Lords of the Isle rose to power and later came under the aegis of the Clanranald chiefs and was caught up in their piratical clan wars. Men from Eigg supported the Jacobite cause. When it was suppressed, the Clanranalds - their power gone and fortune spent - sold Eigg. During the 19th century, it was owned by a series of extraordinary industrial barons who lavished their money on the island. Today, modem life and taxation have produced a new approach to island-owning and living.” Judy Urquhart writing in Eigg,  Canongate, published 1987.

 

 

EIGG FOR SALE

   

“A perfectly secluded island of the Old World, the very beautiful island of Eigg.”

       - Advertisement 1966

 

 

In 1828 the Clanranalds sold Eigg to Dr. Hugh Macpherson for £15,000.

In 1893 the Macpherson family sold the island to Lawrence Thompson.

In 1917 it was sold to Sir William Petersen, a Dane.

In 1925 Sir Walter Runciman bought it from Petersen’s executors for £15,000. At his death it passed to his son, Sir Steven.

In 1966 Sir Steven Runciman sold it to Captain Robert Evans, a Shropshire landowner for £82,000.

In 1971 he sold itto Bernard Farnhum-Smith for £120,000. In 1975 Keith Schellenberg bought it for £250,000.

In 1989, after a protracted legal suit with his former wife, he was ordered by the Court of Session to sell it.

The estate consists of 6,000 acres, the Lodge. an Italianate country house built by Sir Walter Runciman, the estate farm and various other buildings. Most of the islanders live at the north end of the island and where they farm 1,500 acres exempt from the freehold of the estate.

 

The present focus of The Eigg Trust is to purchase the property, either outright or to participate in a joint purchase with another trust with compatible aims. Exploratory talks to this end have already taken place. To pay for this, the Trust will seek gifts of money from individuals or foundations or any other agencies sharing its aims and willing to support it financially.

 

THE NEED FOR THE TRUST

 

 

“We are an obscure poor people though formerly of better account, removed to a remote corner of the world, without name, and without alliances.” - Lord Belhaven, speaking against the Treaty of Union in Parliament House, 1706.

 

 

The clan system - clann means family in Gaelic - while giving the clan chieftain dominion over his people also charged him with the responsibility of looking after them. The Act of Union of 1707 and the subsequent crushing of the rebellion to it of 1745 resulted in the demise of this complex thousand-year old social structure without putting anything in its place. The clan chiefs became the landowners with the lower ranks having no rights whatsoever. This resulted, of course, in the Clearances of the 19th century and the Crofting Act was an attempt to give small farmers security of tenure. In the 19th century, imperialist success funded individuals with colonising aspirations who often took on the responsibilities abandoned by the clan chiefs, with varying consequences for the condition and culture of the indigenous people.

 

But the 20th century has seen the gradual extinction of the kind of wealthy individual who is prepared to use his power without hope of financial gain on his investment. So it would seem obvious that there is an urgent need for a kind of land-ownership which did not set up a conflict of interest and instead served a community of interest.

 

 

THE AIMS OF THE TRUST

 

 

The Trust seeks to aid the development of the whole fabric of island life so that it may become one community. The security of tenure which at the moment only the crofters have would be extended to all inhabitants who took leases of property. The Estate Farm would be run on a profit-sharing basis. A Housing Association would be considered a natural development. The present population would be given due consideration in any planning development with representatives given the opportunity to influence all decisions affecting their lives.

 

Population

It is estimated that the population of Eigg could rise to 200. An increase of this size would greatly add to the scope of the internal trading of labour and/or goods.

 

Tourism

While it is realised that visitors form a valuable source of income for the islanders, the Trust would encourage visitors to participate  in the renewal of the island’s life.

 

Transport

At present, the island is served by one year-round ferry service, four days a week from Mallaig, operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, and a seasonal service from Arisaig on the MV Shearsvater run by Arisaig Marine. EEC grants are available for the improvement of the harbour and pier. Under the present system, passengers and goods have to be transferred from the CalMac ferry to a launch to be brought ashore which presents difficulties and dangers even in reasonable weather.

 

To reduce the number of vehicles and items of machinery on the island, the Trust would encourage and organise public transport and haulage systems. It would also encourage the formation of machinery syndicates and cooperatives amongst those working on the land. An engineering workshop would be set up.

 

Crofting

The Clerk of the Grazings Committee would be invited onto the body to be set up and manage the everyday running of the Trust’s affairs on Eigg.

 

It is proposed that a Community Hall would be a valuable asset, providing greater recreational facilities, especially in winter, meals for old people, laundry and possibly a creche.

 

It is thought grants would be available from various local authorities and the Trust itself would consider funding such a project (which would also be of benefit to all residents and visitors to the island).

 

Help would be given to improve housing for those old people who do not qualify for local authority grants.

 

Tree planting for amenity, shelter and firewood would be encouraged.

 

N.B. When a crofter plants a tree, whether on his croft or on common grazing, at the moment that tree is technically owned by the landlord. It is hoped that the Crofters Forestry Bill at present in progress through the House of Commons will change this.

 

The Lodge

It is proposed that a Life Centre should be set up on Eigg using the Lodge as the nucleus with additional buildings and workshops being added as necessary. The idea of the Life Centre would be to teach practical and craft skills to people seeking some sense of balance in urban life. (It is envisaged that bank managers would enroll to learn dry-stone dyking, admen would shear sheep, and lawyers muck out the byre...)

 

As well as providing courses in the arts and crafts, the Life Centre would explore and experiment with alternative power sources, permaculture* and other appropriate technologies for use on the island.

 

Estate properties could be retained for staff and families of those involved in the Centre.

 

The Estate Farm and Forestry would be run on a profit-sharing basis with opportunities for part-time work.

 

A director would be appointed to co-ordinate the various aspects of the Trust’s involvement.

 

*Permaculture is a term derived from “permanent agriculture” by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren which describes what is green and good with minimum input of energy and minimum output in terms of waste.

 

Wilderness:    John Muir Trust

An approach has been made to the John Muir Trust which met with a helpful and positive response. Two areas of the island would be kept wild: The Sgurr and Ben Buidhe and the eastern coastline.

 

There are already three wildlife reserves under the care of the SWT. There are seven SSSIs. The intention of the Trust would be to respect these areas and to further conservation with such activities as native woodland plantings.

 

Retreat

The area to the south of the Sgurr, where an ancient cross was found, could be designated a retreat area. There is a possibility of rebuilding the black houses in the area - as such.

 

Schooling

A primary school exists. With more children, development is proposed along the lines of Scoraig in Wester Ross, Hartland in Devon.

 

New Holdings

This would be a very important part of the Trust’s activities. A survey would be made of existing properties and surrounds with the intention of creating a number of new holdings giving scope for gardens, in-bye and possible tree plantings.

 

These holdings would give their owners security of tenure with individual responsibility for improvement of properties. A valuation would be made of each property and the incomer due to pay an agreed value though payment could be spread over years and labour could be used in lieu. A rent equivalent to that of a similar croft would be paid. Any change of tenancy would need approval by the Trust.

 

Appropriate new housing would be sanctioned where necessary if and when further holdings were needed.

 

“Thousand acre farms are commonplace nowadays and land holdings are getting bigger and bigger. Yet time and again studies have shown in England and America, that the bigger the holding. the smaller the production of food per acre.

 

We should put pressure on successive governments to make land available to people who are prepared to train themselves to use it, and prepared to live on it, and grow food on it seriously. And then we should put pressure on these governments to alter the planning laws in order to give every citizen the right to build his own home on his own land: the right of the robin or the wren.” - John Seymour, Getting it Together, Michael Joseph 1980.

 

The Crofters Holding Act of 1886 which was described as “the Magna Carta of the Hebrides” heralded not so much a new era but actually perpetuated small uneconomic holdings and succeeded in insulating crofting from the mainstream of agriculture. Crofting land was both unproductive and unprofitable; the islands desperately needed some new development but were given stagnation.

 

PRECEDENTS

   

I’m a landowner myself after all

I have twelve acres of

white silence

up at the back

of my mind.

 

My Properties, Kenneth White

 

 

  

Land held by trust for the common good is not a new idea in Scotland.

 

Stornoway Trust

Constituted by Deed of Trust in 1924 by Viscount Leverhulme the Stornoway Trust manages 64,000 acres of Lewis, including the town of Stornoway, Lewis Castle and well over 1,000 crofts. The Stornoway Trust also encourages settlement.

 

Skye and Raasay

The Secretary of State for Scotland currently proposes that the Crown-owned estates of Skye and Raasay be sold. One option considers their transferance to Community Trust.

 

From The Arkleton Trust (Research) Ltd

Consultation Paper on the Possible Disposal of the

Secretary of State for Scotland’s Crofting Estates to

Community Ownership - June 1990

 

Some points of interest:

 

Para 3 The Secretary of State regards it as anachronistic that he should continue to own and administer as landlord large tracts of land when the purpose for which the land was required has long since been achieved.

 

Para 13 f. Should the approach being proposed by the Secretary of State also be considered by other crofting landlords.

 

Section Five, p.21

 

5.1 It is worth recording that currently the DAFS estates are being held in a form of community ownership … in the person of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

 

5.2 On the positive side, this has meant that the beneficial interest of the landlord has been exercised without fear or favour in respect of any narrow local interest. On the negative side, this has excluded any sense of local responsibility. It is natural that thought should now be given as to how responsibility can be identified more locally.

 

5.3  The most direct precedent for local community ownership is The Stomoway Trust which was set up in 1924 as a conventional trust, but since 1875 has effectively been a body corporate incorporated by Act of Parliament. The aims of The Stomoway Trust emphasise the Trustees’ management role in respect of the Stomoway Estate.

 

Section Eight, p.36

 

8.1 A transfer of the ownership of land is now likely to slow down such improvements (to crofting incomes) and may, if the members of the Trust see themselves as trustees of the local community, assist agricultural progress. In addition though it could be expected and could be required to initiate and encourage all forms of development on its estates which were likely to provide jobs, increase income or otherwise the maintenance of the present crofting communities. The Trust’s contribution to development would be primarily through its ability to make land and associated rights available.

 

8.2 . . . views on non-agricultural development potential: sport, tourism, fish-farming, and associated household trades. “In each of these, development potential is limited at present and no one activity seems likely to provide a substantial increase in job opportunities or incomes. Rural development, however, is by definition diverse and on a small scale. An important point is that virtually all the activities mentioned depend in some way on the access to land or water resources. The active co-operation and support of the owners and occupiers of the land is thus essential; moreover, an income based on a new use of the land may also accrue to the landowner. An obvious example of this is the provision of the new house sites. In practice, the price paid for such sites within a crofting community is often shared between the occupier (the crofter) and the landlord. A community trust which acquired the ownership of the land would have a strong incentive to encourage developments which increased its own income and/or brought obvious benefits to those it represented - the crofters.

 

8.3 We have no evidence that DAFS ownership has inhibited any developments in the past and, therefore, conclude that too much should not be expected in the way of new developments from the transfer of ownership itself. Nevertheless, our view is that ownership and control by a local community trust would be likely to provide a local means of implementation of new developments.

 

12. The Secretary of State would welcome views on the principle of transferring ownership of crofting estates to a Trust or Trusts and on the basis of which any such transfer might be made. In seeking views on the issues set out in this consultation paper the Secretary of State recognises that, if there were to be a measure of agreement on the principle and broad basis of transfer, many points of detail would require to be considered and decided before legislation could be enacted and implemented.

 

  

CONCLUSION

  

The threat of climatic change, the squandering of non-renewable resources, a world population rising inexorably, the abuse of land, the destruction of forests, all the present and impending crises, coupled with an increasing dissatisfaction with materialism and the spiritual emptiness of the age have contributed to a growing desire to create a way of life, more meaningful and healthier than that offered by much of the contemporary world.

 

The common conviction of the Trustees is that the island of Eigg represents an eleventh hour opportunity to arrest the decline and disappearance of a civilisation which successfully practiced living in harmony with nature. Celtic culture survived the Romans, most notably in Ireland, but also in the more inaccessible areas of Western Europe. Through Columba’s grafting of the new Christian teachings on to the traditional Celtic stalk, these ancient ideas were disseminated by his followers back through Europe. Against Columba’s advice, perhaps significantly, Donnan went to Eigg, where he and his entire band of devotees were martyred. (Donnan has however given his name to no less than 14 places on the Scottish mainland).

 

The dispute over procedure which brought the Celtic and Roman churches into conflict was resolved at the Synod of Whitby, after which the Celtic church went into decline, although the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and Ireland still cling tenuously to this root.

 

The island of Eigg, 3 miles east-west, 5 miles north-south, supports both Roman Catholicism on the west coast and the later development of the Protestant Church of Scotland on the east coast in peaceful co-existence.

The same remoteness from the centres of conflict which fosters this toleration meant also that the music and poetry of the people was not suppressed when elsewhere for religious and political reasons it was banned. When Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser went in search of the lost musical tradition of Scotland her meeting in 1908 with Kenneth MacLeod, a native of Eigg, resulted in the Songs of the Hebrides. So uniquely, in the culture of the people of the island of Eigg, we have not only the modem Gaelic language of every day use, but the ancient sacred language of art.

 

When a shoot is grafted on to an established stalk, the green of the shoot must meet the green of the stalk. The green, or cambium, is the only living and dynamic part of the plant. In the cultivation of human beings the same natural law must apply.

 

The Trust aims to be one small step towards the reapplication of this law of nature in human culture!

 

Although the Trust’s present focus is the island of Eigg, it is hoped that this new concept of land ownership and management could serve as a model where appropriate in other parts of Scotland.

 

 

SCORAIG  

Last summer, I spent some time up at the re-populated isolated crofting community of Scoraig near Ullapool and was deeply impressed by the lifestyles being lived there which include home production of energy from windmills, trees surrounding the crofts so that a wide range of fruit and vegetables can be grown, and economic activity ranging from boat building and shellfish farming to violin making, farming, craft work and specialised tourism.

 

One of the 80 or so people living in Scoraig is Tom Forsyth of whose reputation I had already gained a favourable impression since he was one of my distant predecessors employed by George MacLeod in the earlier days of the lona Community. Tom came to me several weeks ago to outline the interest he is co-ordinating in trying to make it possible for the island of Eigg henceforth to be owned and managed in a way which, like Scoraig, would set a standard in human/ecological lifestyle.

 

I have given Tom some support in drawing his ideas together and I know he also has the personal support of my colleague, the Rev. John Harvey, present leader of the Iona Community, amongst others. He has no personal financial resources (living himself as a crofter) but he does have a concept which is supported by many and which, I believe, is the right way to go about restoring our broken Hebridean communities where, the Napier Commission not withstanding, people have often been prevented from forming an integrated relationship with the environment since the Highland Clearances.

 

Alastair McIntosh

Development Director

Centre for Human Ecology

     University of Edinburgh  

 

        28 December 1990

 

 

 

The Isle of Eigg Trust is a registered charity.

 

 

Alastair McIntosh is a founding Trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust with Tom Forsyth, Bob Harris and Elisabeth Lyon.

 

For further information, please contact:

Elisabeth Lyon

The Isle of Eigg Trust

42 Dublin Street

Edinburgh EH3 6NN

(Nb. Please do not use this address now … it is no longer valid)

 

 

 

 

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