Yesterday, I went out for a walk on the Westside of the island. The villagers of Tolsta Chaolais were treated to the sight of a gradually melting Lighthouse tramping down their road. The sheep were grazing contentedly, with their wee lambs at their side. Very soon, those lambs won't be so wee any more, and become a hazard to traffic. For the moment, they're very cute. As ever at this time of the year.
Tolsta Chaolais is tucked away in a corner of Lewis between the Callanish Stones and the Broch of Carloway. As I passed through it, people went about their daily business, tending to vegetable patches, animals and machinery. The village is situated on a brae above a nice loch, and it's actually a very scenic little corner.
The Carloway Broch is one of the "must see" sights on the tourist trail. If only because it's set in a commanding position, overlooking the nearby lochs, moors and the sea. Aird Uig, the high promontory to the west, can just be made out. It's only about 9 miles in a direct line, but as much as 27 by road. Closer by stands the steepsided island, known as Old Hill, north of Great Bernera.
The West Side of Lewis, stretching from Carloway all the way to Ness, 30 miles to the northeast, was populated partly as a result of evictions from Uig. For those unfamiliar with Lewis, Uig is the far west of the island. It lies due north of Harris, which in a direct line is as close as 7 miles. The distance by road can be as much as 78 miles. Uig is also sparsely populated, and I learned this week that the farthest village (Breanais) was only connected to the telephone service in the 1970s. Before that, people had to go to Islivig, 1 mile to the north, to make a telephone call. Returning to the subject of evictions, people were summarily cast adrift from Uig in the 19th century, and told to go anywhere, as long as it was away. They loaded up their belongings and sailed east, up the coast of the island, and came ashore in any of the villages along the coast. To places like Gearrannan, Shawbost and even as far north as Borve.
The eastern side of Lewis has been at the receiving end of evictees as well. I have previously posted about the derilict villages of Eishken. People were removed from there in the 1820s and later, to be resettled in townships such as Lemreway, Balallan, Leurbost and furthern north, e.g. North Tolsta. Migration appears to be a recurring theme in the history of the island, whether within Lewis or overseas. ]]>