with Donald MacDonald (Domhnall Shàm), Horgabost
The longest distance I was ever away from home when I was at school was on the day of the King’s Coronation on the 12th of May 1937. The Manish schoolchildren were taken to Scarista sands, and that was the first sands I had ever seen! To me it was like being on the coast of Africa!
We had our tea there. Our teacher was Mairi Granny – a grand-daughter of Neil the Miller that was in Strond – Miss MacKenzie. She was in Taransay before she came to Manish. The headmaster was mac Iain Uilleim Mhoir. We had our tea where Calum MacCuish’s house is now, but there wasn’t anyone living there then. The house was just being built.
We left school when we were fourteen. Not many stayed on after that – they didn’t have the money. They had to go to Portree to the High School, or to Inverness. I was never taught Gaelic in the school, but I learned to read and write it myself. They were not for us speaking Gaelic in the school at all.
At one time, the school was near where Manish church is today. My grandfather was going there, and Ewen his brother, and Margaret Ross – Alasdair a’ Bhàinich’s grandmother. Rob Gàirneilear was the school master, from Strond. In the new school, there was a teacher called Brunton, and then Cook, who went to Northton. There were just Gillander’s daughter from Geocrab and himself in Manish School then – she was the infant teacher.
There were more than a hundred in Manish school when my father was going there, and even in my own day there were three teachers. Coinneach Dhomhnaill Fhionnlaidh was in the room where they were doing the cooking, and Iain Uilleim Mhòir in the other room, and Kate Ann Ruairidh MacCuish in the other. Today there is only one teacher, and only a few scholars. The first break in the Manish school happened in 1923 when the people went to Port nan Long in Skye, and the other break when the people went to the machair.
The Saighdear in Flodabay was married to an Irish woman, Mary Rae. It was in the Regular Army that he married her, and he came back with her to Flodabay. Not a person in the village had any English. Anyway, he got up early one morning and set off for Leverburgh, to Ruairidh mac Chaluim’s shop, to get stores. The other folk in the house knew where he was, but when the young wife got up, she was afraid that he had left her, and nobody had enough English to tell her where he had gone. That was how little schooling they had in these days!
My grandmother was eight years of age when she came to Manish. She was born in the Lighthouse at Ardnamurchan, and she could read and write. She used to write the letters for the old women in the village. Their sons were going to the Militia. My great-grandfather’s three youngest were born at Sumburgh Head in Shetland, and the family were in North Ronaldsay as well.
There was a school at Pairc Licisto too, and it was Beathag Morrison from Manish who was teaching in it. The scholars from Bayhead came to Manish school, until they made the bridge across the Strom. After that it was to Kyles Stocinish that they went to school.