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Islands Book Trust

BEÀRNARAIGH NA HEARADH: ‘TIS FIFTY YEARS SINCE: A STUDY OF LIFE IN A HEBRIDEAN ISLAND COMMUNITY

BEÀRNARAIGH NA HEARADH: ‘TIS FIFTY YEARS SINCE: A STUDY OF LIFE IN A HEBRIDEAN ISLAND COMMUNITY

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This wonderful book by Susanne Barding, a Danish anthropologist now living in the Faroes, is a unique account of community life in the early 1970s on the island of Berneray (Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh in the Sound of Harris, now joined by causeway to North Uist). It is written in an accessible style and illustrated by over 100 contemporary black and white photos.

Life in Berneray in the early 1970s was far removed from the romantic rural idyll imagined by many from the outside. It was dominated by hard work and economic necessity on the croft and at sea, by a difficult and unforgiving climate, and by social conventions which were sometimes restrictive, but which helped the community to survive and indeed underpinned a rich and distinctive Gaelic culture.

The book records in meticulous detail how the crofting community operated: for example, the use of the inbye land and common grazings, the seasonal movement of livestock to and from offshore islands, fishing, peat-cutting, domestic life, Gaelic traditions, the church, and the role of men and women, young and old, in their interactions, personal challenges and social life.

The author has also been able to place her precise and insightful observations of 1970s Berneray within a much wider context – both in the geographical sense of other islands (not only in the Hebrides but also in the Northern Isles of Scotland and the Faroes); and in terms of  changes over time, taking account of the powerful influences which have driven pervasive economic and social trends throughout Europe, including Scottish islands, over the last half century.

Published: 2023

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