Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Learning to Drive the Usual and the Unusual.

In Dalmore,I got the opportunity to drive various motorised vehicles,without any licence and with no interference from the authorities. Anyway, you could not obtain a licence at 13 years of age. In a way,I had gained some experience with the horse and cart taking the peats home from "cul Dhaile Mor". It was only natural to progress to the "horseless carriage",the motor car - Seoras' motor car,the only one in Dalmore,an Austin A35 van,grey in colour with windows all round. I loved that little car with its flying A "mascot" at the front of its bonnet. Firstly I learned to steer the car by leaning across from the front passenger seat,while George operated everything else - gears,clutch,brakes and accelerator. Such dual controlled driving was restricted to the Carloway district,where the local police constable might not notice,or might even turn a blind eye! Later,as my steering competence improved,this dual controlled little van might be found on any single track road on the island. At times,as we motored past another car in a passing place,it could prove disconcerting for the other driver,as George acknowledged him waving both hands in the air. In time I was shown how to operate all of the controls,and by driving to and from the Mullach Beag just outside the village, Seoras was confident I could handle his Austin van. I often took it for a spin out to the Dalmore road end,and back.
George certainly was an innovator, and if proof were needed,his purchase of a two-wheeled tractor settled the matter. This was a miniature machine less than half the size of your regular tractor,whose engine,gearbox etc. was mounted centrally between two dinky wee tractor wheels and shod with wee tractor tyres. Red in colour,it had two long handles like those you'ld see on the lawnmowers they used at the Oval Cricket Ground,brakes as on a bicycle's handlebars,and you steered it carefully like you would any powerful wee two-wheeled bogie. Also on the handles were the clutch lever,and a lever for setting direction and speed - forward slowly,forward very slightly faster, and reverse. As far as I know Seoras only used this strange machine for carrying things. He connected the mini tractor to a trailer he had built himself, with a platform seat up front. It was a powerful wee thing which served us well at the peats and the hay. These were happy times with Seoras, my pal.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Daffodils in Dalmore.

One of Seoras' projects was "na bulbichean",a crude gallicisation for "the bulbs",being of course daffodil bulbs,which were to be propogated, and the resulting harvest sold for profit. I was surprised to see that there is a Gaelic word for the "daffodil" which can only have come into our lexicon,when in times past, Gaelic was spoken throughout a large part of mainland Scotland. I have seen the yellow iris down by the allt,the honeysuckle growing on the side of the beinn,and even some beautiful little orchids growing out on the mointeach,but I don't believe the daffodil to be indiginous to Lewis(I may be wrong). I've looked up the dictionary,which says that "a daffodil bulb" is succintly expressed in Gaelic as "bun cruinn a lus-a-chrom-chinn". I'm sure Seoras knew that,but if you were in a hurry, "na bulbichean" would do. The bulbs project was one of George's later enterprises,when I was a student hitch-hiking on the "Continent"(today it's called An Roinn Eorpa). So Seoras was without my "help" during the next successive summers. The original daffodil bulbs must have come from the Fens of East Anglia,and since the daffodil is propogated by the creation of further bulbs,in theory one should obtain a substantial yield on one's outlay. Seoras made use of that fertile half acre down on the machair,where the bulbs were cultivated and harvested. The "Daffy project" was not a success(I know not why), and after a few years was abandoned. I believe that there were some others in Lewis who were seduced by the lure of gold in "bun cruinn a lus-a-chrom-chinn". Some bulbs(overspill from the machair)were planted in front of George's house at No.8 Dalmore,so that for many years thereafter,there was/is each spring/summer a beautiful display of narcissi "anns a'leos bhuidhe Dhail a'Mhor". What better memorial to Seoras'enterprise than the yearly show of daffodils in front of the house built for George and his wife Mary.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

George Macleod. Innovator and Craftsman.

In recent years, a new breed of crofter has settled in Lewis,people with no ancestral ties to the island who came seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They may be called "na Gall" (Gael.foreigners),but in some villages they were like the blast of oxygen sometimes needed to revive the patient. As a general rule,the "good lifers" domain is readily identifiable. Attached to the end of the croft house is a small "greenhouse" fashioned from wood and plastic sheeting,where tomato plants and peppers are grown. There may be half a dozen cloches in the near vicinity and a variety of farmyard animals free to wander the croft - goats,poultry,ducks and for those with equestrian ambitions for their children,a horse. I wish such people "bon chance" in their search for the "good life".
Actually, Seoras Dhomhnull Chalum (George Macleod,8 Dalmore)was quite a breath of fresh air himself. He brought to our village things that had never probably been seen there before.He acquired ducks and drakes, and for his efforts got beautiful eggs of duck shell blue,of course,and sometimes little ducklings which went swimming in the "allt" with their mother. Later he bought a pair of nanny goats(for milk,I suppose),and I remember they were called Daisybelle and Marybelle(I think) and I can still see them standing at the corner of the house to be milked by Mairi Long, Seoras'wife. They were smelly creatures who would gladly eat your Harris Tweed guernsey,given the chance. True to goat mythology,they could give you a fair "dunt" from behind. I didn't like the taste of goat's milk then,and I don't like it now. Still,the goats were a novelty for me,and a first for our village in the district. In such things,Seoras was "ahead of the curve" - a phrase so often used today. Seoras would have given today's good lifers a run for their money. He was a skilled craftsman in wood and metal and many of his artefacts can be found in homes,far and wide. George's piece de resistance was the spinning wheel,which he so beautifully crafted in different sizes and in a variety of woods. I remember being asked by George to deliver a full sized, working spinning wheel to the textiles department of the Glasgow School of Art,which they had ordered. It was an exact copy of the spinning wheel that had been used by Bodach Glass,my grandfather. The art school were delighted to receive such a beautiful piece of George's craftsmanship.
Still to come - hosts of golden daffodils,sapphires,a breath of spring and a two-wheeled tractor - and then some more.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Seoras Dhomhnull Chalum.

In previous posts,I have acknowledged the influence of certain people I knew, for whom the stories of times past were important, and who would happily recount these in the ceilidh house or to an eager student like myself. These were the "seanachean" of my times(those who recorded,recited the histories and traditions of the past). Some were stories of this world,but in the birthplace of the Brahan Seer,one would expect tales of the "second sight", prophecies uttered,and strange supernatural happenings. No one influenced me more in these and other matters,than my old friend,the late George Macleod,8 Dalmore(Seoras Dhomhnull Chalum). I always found Seoras to be a very interesting man,a person of many talents who was entrepreneurial,who was by definition a "modern man"(not too many of those around in the Lewis of the 1950s and 60s). Seoras taught me many things, with a quiet patience, and in a way which was instructive,interesting and often useful. Seoras would regale me with the tales of old Dalmore,the people he'd been told about and their way of life. As many people may be aware,Seoras composed many songs about our village and its people,and in them it is clear how much he loved Dalmore. George was an intelligent man,who never received the school education which he and others deserved. Seoras would always talk to me as an adult,explaining things and showing me how they worked. Essentially,George had all the qualities to be found in a good teacher,and I was a dedicated pupil. I will have much to say about Seoras in the posts that follow.