A Look Back on Tolsta (part 1)

A Look Back on Tolsta (part 1)


with Jessie MacLeod (widow of Roderick MacIver)


We had two teachers – Mary Jane Smith from Holm and Maggie Mary MacLeod. The headmaster was from Uig, Mr MacLean. We had a teacher from Point too – she was married to Allan Cameron. They didn’t speak Gaelic to us, and we had no English going to school. The teachers were very good, but the belt was there, even for small things, and you didn’t tell when you got home. There were teachers from the township too, but they were teaching away.

There were buses in the village – Forty had one and Logan and Angus William and Cromarty. It wasn’t buses we lacked, but the money for going to Stornoway. There were two shops in New Street and a shop at the Post Office. We were well off for handiness. Today there is only the Post Office. Lipton and the Co-op started coming with vans. Angus William had one shop, and Forty and Logan others. There was a salting-house here, belong to Allan Cameron’s grandfather – they called him Domhnall Ruairidh. It was he who had the shop and everything else in my grandmother’s day

We used to go to the peats with my mother to help her after school, and to cut grass for the cattle, though they would be bursting with it.  There were sheilings between here and Muirneag, at Loch Iondagro, Loch Sgeireach and at Cnoc Shanndabhat. We used to go out there ourselves with the cattle. We were going out there with them and going to fetch them at night. We didn’t stay out at the shielings in our day, but I remember them coming back with the crowdie and the cream. The butter was made at home. Everyone had sheep and cattle – most of those who had crofts. Some had horses. It is moor land that we have here, but there is good ground here too. Everyone had a share of the machair. I remember going down to the machair along with my mother, down where the graveyard is.

We turned the croft with the spade, for potatoes and seed – barley and oats. I remember bringing in the oats when we were young – the awns used to get down the back of your neck and they were so prickly! There was a mill at Griais and we used to hear that my grandfather used to go to the mill. We used to hear from Donald’s mother, Ciorstag Eoghainn – she and I were first cousins – telling about her grandmother’s brother – he was at sea, and he had big bushy eyebrows – and he was rolling down the foot of his trouser-legs in case there was chaff in them. The miller’s wife was teasing him “Did you shake out your eyebrows?” He said to her, “If you knew what it was to be hungry, you wouldn’t let any be lost.” He was on the sea for months at a time, I believe, often with little food.


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