Reading People

The Islands that Roofed the World

A beautiful book by Easdale author Mary Withall, charting the history of the slate islands of Easdale, Belnahua, Luing and Seil, and the part they played in roofing buildings from Glasgow to Norway,  the USA to Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies.

Mary relates how the men won the slate, and the personal trials they went through to do so; how they lived, what their dwellings were like and what they and their families had available to eat; the diseases they suffered (arthritis and rheumatism from working “up to the ankles in water and often in the rain and chilling winds”); how they passed their little leisure time : and much more besides.

Read Mary’s book and realise just how lucky we are to be living where we are, when we are.

The Islands that Roofed the World  is available from Mary, from the Heritage Centre in Ellenabeich, from Waterstone’s in Oban, and from Amazon.

It’s a must-read for all Easdale residents, so that we can locate ourselves in the history of the place: and also for visitors, so that they may better understand the place they’re visiting.

Not the Easdale Book Club

We hope not, anyway!

Reproduced from Private Eye No. 1316.


A wee book fell onto the Librarian’s desk over the Christmas period, entititled:


Its subtitle is “Resigned advice for hard times”. Every page strikes a chord – and raises a more than somewhat cynical laugh!

Try these randomly selected quotes from the various sections:

Politics: “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought to be necessary.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

The Art of Politics: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” (Harry S. Truman)

Debt: “We didn’t actually overspend our budget. The allocation simply fell short of our expenditure.” (Keith Davis)

Debt: “It is only by not paying one’s bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes.” (Oscar Wilde)

Deceit: “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” (Adolf Hilter)

Mmm. It could be that there might be some things we recognise on Easdale there, and possibly in the Scottish Parliament as well!

Copies of this entertaining (and insightful) book can be bought from Waterstone’s in town, or from AMAZON (probably cheaper).

Book Club

The Easdale Book Club has been up and running for a month or more now. The book of the moment is “The Black Dahlia”, and you’ve still got time to catch up before the up-and-coming meeting in the next week or so. The meetings are very informal, and folks are invited to bring along nibbles and things.

[Does that mean I can bring along my bottle of plonk? SauvignonBlanc.]

Keep an eye on the ‘phone box for details of when the next meeting will be, or have a word with Suzanne.

Winter Tales

Winter Tales

“Winter Tales” by George Mackay Brown is a selection of 18 short stories featuring the contrast between light and dark: in human behaviour, as well as in day and night, or summer and winter. By turns, the stories will make you smile, make tears well up in your eyes, or make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck – sometimes all of those within the space of a few sentences in the same tale. The prose is beautifully poetic and, as you read, you hear the cadences of a musical Orcadian accent. As a review on the jacket says, “It is easy to imagine Mackay Brown … enthralling all before him as the peat crackles and another bottle of malt is encroached”.

He was a prolific writer, so if you enjoy “Winter Tales” you’ve many more treats in store. And if “The Paraffin Lamp”, the first story in the book, doesn’t make you laugh and want to share it with everyone you know, then there’s no humour in you!

Four Poppies from Helmand

The radio and tv news last night told of more young soldiers killed in Helmand, and other theatres of war. George Doyle, our former ferryman, wrote a poem for Remembrance Day a couple of years ago, and he has given us permission to reproduce it here.


Megan: 37. Husband Tom: 39. Two children. T.A. Medical. Roadside bomb.

            My dear kind man has gone to war.

            “Make sure the kids don’t fret too much.

            I’ll be alright, it’s just one tour.”

                        Yet Poppies grow in Helmand.

The kids were his whole life, he doted on them. He was sure he’d be home. “No worries,” he said … but … sorry … I think they should all come home now.


Serena: 15. Brother Kieran: 22. Bomb Disposal. IED casualty.

            My best brud Keery. Such a fool.

            “See ya Sizzla. Don’t touch my stuff.

            This bomb disposal. Hey, it’s cool.

                        Poppies explode in Helmand!”

He was like my best real friend. He called me Sizzla. Said it like a Baltimore Blood. You know, “Sizz-LA” I shouldn’t worry ‘cause “he was Super Scouse”. Indestruc-TABLE! He wasn’t though … was he?


Sally: 50. Son David: 19. Infantry. Shot on patrol.

            My big bold son has gone abroad.

            “Stop fussin’, Mum. They won’t get me.

            I can’t stay home. I get so bored.

                        All my mates are in Helmand.”

He was just drifting really. Couldn’t settle. He and his mate Robert signed up together. He made loads of mates over there. Some of them come round now and then. His Captain sent a lovely letter. Yeah, it’s hard, but you just have to carry on. It’s what he would want. Isn’t it?


Lynn: 39. Daughter Helen: 21. Logistics. Landrover blown up.

            My baby girl has gone to sign.

            “This bloody job is killing me.

            Of course I won’t step on a mine,

                        I might not get to Helmand.”

Oh yeah, boy was she a wild child, but when she joined up, complete change. I was so proud. She got to be Corporal. Her boyfriend Max is out there now. He might get home when she …

… she was so … so full of life.



            The family Brit and all the rest

            at Wooton Basset, standing proud

            to welcome home and lay to rest

                        four Poppies killed in Helmand.


© George Doyle, August 2010.