Werner Kissling

Sunday, April 17th 2016, we travelled from South Uist to Eriskay across the causeway, opened by the Earl and Countess of Wessex on the 11th September 2002. This one mile crossing is the last in a series linking the islands of Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay. A sixty mile string of roads and bridges which has added much to the convenience of local life but taken some of the romance from travelling these Outer Hebridean islands. We briefly toured the island by car, stopped at the Barra Ferry, took a quick look at Am Politician and were gone, heading south by ferry to Skye.

The ferry to Barra from Eriskay (in my pre-RAW days, the X100S quality now seems a little disappointing)

In 1934, Werner Kissling arrived by sea and stayed on Eriskay for the summer.  A career diplomat for the Weimar Republic, his postings took him to Spain, Hungary, Switzerland and finally, the UK as Second Secretary in the German embassy, London.  Alarmed at the rise of the Nazi movement, he resigned when they came to power in 1933.  Personally harangued by Hitler, he borrowed the yacht, Elspeth, and headed north to escape the attentions of the German secret police.

This great escape undoubtedly suited him immensely.  For reasons not entirely clear, he had, from an early age, developed a passion for the Scottish Islands and its people.  During his time on Eriskay, he filmed the islanders as they went about their daily lives –  collecting peat with their ponies, sheep farming, fishing and tweed making. The resulting film, A Poem of Remote Lives, is an astonishing record of a Gaelic community and a way of life that had not changed in hundreds of years:

 

17 comments

  1. J.D. · January 30

    Haunting landscape. I share the mixed feelings about the causeway. But I suppose it made your quick voyage there so much easier. Hope your winter is going well, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · January 31

      All good here, thanks Julie although January has seemed never-ending. The winter has not been extreme but there has been snow and frost on a regular basis. Not only does this make for a photogenic landscape, it makes me feel better about golf and motorcycles i.e. I wouldn’t be able to play/ride regardless of the lockdown. Hope you are enjoying winter in your new home.
      All the best, R

  2. sustainabilitea · January 31

    I like that first shot, Robin. I’m going to try to watch the video later. Just saw an interesting film on Netflix call “The Dig”, about the Sutton Woo find. Even allowing for some film license, it was fascinating and what they found was incredible.

    Cheers!

    janet

    • northumbrianlight · January 31

      Thanks Janet, and Werner’s film is definitely worth a watch. It is like time travel.
      We watched The Dig last night as well – wasn’t it good – a fine, gentle film in a wonderful Suffolk landscape. Nice to think you were in the movie theatre at the same time 🙂
      All the best, R

      • sustainabilitea · January 31

        That’s fun that we were both/all watching. It was very good and a nice break from action/drama movies/series.

  3. Aviationtrails · January 31

    What a fabulous little film. Life was so simple but I can imagine harsh too, especially in the winter time. The landscape is just beautiful, I can see why Dr Kissling decided to stay!

    • northumbrianlight · January 31

      Isn’t it just – yes, I imagine winters very harsh as the Atlantic storms rolled in. The only disappointment is that Werner did not film inside the black houses.

      • Aviationtrails · January 31

        That really would have been something special and a real eye opener!

  4. Sue · January 31

    What a fascinating story

  5. Sue · January 31

    Interesting about the causeway, I went to Uist, Benbecula etc in 1998…travelling between islands with the ferries of Caledonian McBrayne, I think

    • northumbrianlight · January 31

      Yes, we did the same – we were using the MacBrayne Island Hopper ticket which resulted in a very reasonable price for ferries from Ullapool to Stornoway, down the isles, across to Skye and then to Mallaig. There is still at least one ferry to get from Lewis to North Uist and I seem to remember using another on the islands but not sure where from/to. Oh to be there now.

      • Sue · January 31

        Oh to be there again, indeed

  6. socialbridge · January 31

    I don’t know how you do it, Robin.
    Your posts are always a treat and I adored the film.
    Lots that look like a few of the westerly Irish islands I have visited over the years.

    • northumbrianlight · January 31

      That’s very kind of you to say so, Jean. Yes, I can imagine Eriskay being very similar to the Irish westerly isles and one day I must get there. I have a long-standing ambition to visit Skellig Michael. Many thanks for taking the time to comment. I feel guilty for not commenting in kind on yours and a number of long-term blog friends – at the moment I am in over my head editing/redrafting and designing the text, covers and images for Golf in the Wild #2. No lockdown peace for me. All the best, R

      • socialbridge · January 31

        You’re posts are more than enough offering for me, thanks.
        Good luck with the book.
        Yes, Skellig Michael or less ‘famous’ Sherkin, Cape Clear, The Saltees and, of course, The Aran Islands. They are all waiting!
        Take care, especially on mad motorbikes in icy conditions!

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