A Look Back on Tolsta (part 3)

A Look Back on Tolsta (part 3)


with Jessie MacLeod (widow of Roderick MacIver)

Our family

My husband was from Tolastadh. He was sailing with the New Zealand Shipping Company. He was away for long trips. Our daughter was born in March and her father didn’t see her again until November. I’m sorry to say that soon after he left, he was injured. He fell into the hold, and couldn’t work after that.

My grandchild, coming from school, was saying to me “Do you remember when they used to cut people’s heads off?” “Not quite.” I said to her. We ourselves were the same. All the old people wore black clothes in our day. The first time I was going to the old folk’s gathering, my brother said to me “Surely you are not going to go there?”  If I was around in my grandmother’s day I would have been in a basket chair with a plaid over my shoulders. But they were tired, and their bodies broken with hard work.

Several left from here for Canada on the Metagama and the Canada. My father went to Canada. He was fishing on the Great Lakes for four years, then came home after that. He did well in Canada. He was married when he went, and with a young family. He bought the Dove when he came back – he got the money for that there. He built a white house. A good part of the village were still in black houses, some of them with gables. There were houses still with the fire in the middle of the floor. In these ones, the smoke went for your eyes!” But they were happy there. There were eight in our family, but the eldest girl died before I was born. She died when she was eight. There were three boys and four girls. There are three still living, my sister in Inverness and my brother in our old house.

My grandfather was out in Broad Bay and a boat from am Bac that was there went past them, and they were teasing my grandfather because they had passed him. Shortly after that she went down. I don’t know how many of them were lost, but the man that owned her was saved, and one or two others. My grandfather was hurt, dragging one man out of the sea. The boat was so big and the steering gear hit him in the chest.

Two of my mother’s people were lost on the Iolaire, two brothers, and the man next door, I don’t think it was even six weeks after he got married that he was lost. There was one family here, they were living in the Gleann, the husband was drowned, his wife’s father was drowned, his brother was drowned, and her son-in-law was drowned.  They were only married six weeks. Red’s son was lost. They had a gig, and his sister was over to meet him. Another lad up the road was lost. There wasn’t a house from here up to the Carnan that didn’t lose someone in the war. My father’s brother was lost at the Somme. My mother’s only brother was lost with the Camerons in France – he was only twenty-one. Two of my brothers used to go rock-fishing with the old man next door. My father would be at Yarmouth or at Stornoway. They came home in the pitch dark will all those cuddies, and we always complained about herring – nothing but herring! My grandmother said – the day will come when you have plenty of money, and no herring to buy with it. It is here today. As the tinker said, “Changed days in Tolastadh – remember when you cried after me, ‘Donald, Donald, do you have a bowl to sell?’” I came home just now after buying a piece of fish, and it cost £5. I told him, “My father wouldn’t have paid that for a cran of herring”.

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