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:

 

Aunt Julia

I imagine this blackhouse belonging to Aunt Julia, she was buckets and water flouncing into them, she was winds pouring wetly round house-ends.  I keep bumping into her, this time in the prologue to Robert MacFarlane’s LandMarks – The Poet Norman MacCaig commended the ‘seagull voice’ of his Aunt Julia, who lived her long life on the Isle of Harris, so embedded in her terrain that she came to think with and speak in its creatures and climate. 

In truth, this blackhouse is on the western coast of North Uist, a place Aunt Julia conceivably never visited, so embedded was she on Harris.  I would never leave either, not with a challenging 9 holes nearby. On the road south to the ferry at Leverburgh, the Isle of Harris Golf Course at Scarista clings to the edge of the world, the pins straining against strong westerlies, the flags always horizontal.  My window of opportunity to play the course was blighted with hail storms and excessive winds – this image was taken the next day in a rush for the CalMac crossing to Berneray .  I must therefore return, there is much outstanding research for Golf in the Wild – Coming Home.

The Isle of Harris Golf Course ...