A Look Back on Tolsta (part 2)

A Look Back on Tolsta (part 2)


with Jessie MacLeod (widow of Roderick MacIver)


The people here had their own boats, going out with small-lines, but they had boats in Stornoway too. My father had a boat, the Dove and one called Clan MacLeod, and there used to be boys from Point working as cooks on them – galley-boys – Angus Man’s boys and Calum a’ Ruide‘s boys from Pabail. These boys were with him in the summer, one after another as they grew up. They were on the Dove along with my father. If they heard or saw a woman on their way to the boat, they would turn home – a woman or a minister.

There was a boat in the village called to Comrade belonging to Mac a’ Bhogaidh.   He was an old man, and there was a man helping him nicknamed Seanair – grandfather. They were living at Parkend, and he was cook on the boat, and there were other boats about them, and there was the old man on top of the quay shouting for Seanair! The folk around all gathered, waiting to see Mac a’ Bhogaidh’s grandfather coming up!

I remember the old men of my own day – Iain Aonghas Saighdear, Solamhs, Tormod na Monadh – big men coming from the boat. We were just children, and the women were taking the fish up from the boats to the top of the shore. Then they would be laying it out there, and a crewman would be sharing out the fish – one share for each man on the boat and the boat’s share for selling. You would get sixty haddock for half-a-crown. One man would stand and shout – Whose is this share and whose is that? until all the shares of fish were put out. They would slide the boats up on pieces of wood. The women would be sitting on creels knitting waiting until the boats came in. Some of the boats used to go to the mainland – Ness sgoths with six oars. They would be up to their chests in the water, especially the one coming to the shore with the painter.

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