How Life in the Islands Could Be Improved and Prosperity Brought to Their People by Teresa MacCormick.

Teresa, of Class 2b, Iochdar Junior Secondary School, South Uist, won the Flora Macdonald Essay Prize with this essay.

Our grandparents often talk about the “good old days”. There were some “good days” and some “bad days” so I often wonder what was so good about them. A lot could be done to bring prosperity to the islands. Barra, a small island of the south of South Uist can be taken as a good example of new industry and rising prosperity. They have three industries at the moment, spectacle frame making, perfume making and a thermostat components factory which will open in July. The social service committee on Barra are also trying to interest the Norwegians in bringing a fish processing factory to the island.

Since it has been discovered that carageen is good for one’s stomach, a factory could easily be started for the drying, cutting and processing of it. More people would then be employed and this also would help to stop depopulation on the island. At the moment the lobster fishermen in the Uists and Barra are fighting to try to delay the Army firing missiles across their lobster grounds from ten thirty to one o’clock as proposed by Brigadier Winfidd. The fishermen claim that they would lose their livelihood. The lobster fishermen made £50,000 in 1968 alone.

The Army, who have been occupying the island for eleven years, have brought many people employment. Without them there would be very little work here. They employ drivers, cleaners, labourers, waiters, cooks and various other workers. Now they have bought more of the island and propose to start a £6,000,000 project here. People will be trained to work their equipment and special machinery. In the building up of this project, more people will be employed.

In Grimsay there is a large lobster factory which could be developed with more bi-products such as mussels, cockles and various other shellfish. In Lochboisdale there is a seaweed processing factory with its many other small by-products.

To keep the young people, not only must employment be provided for them but there must also be some form of entertainment. A youth club, dance halls, table tennis and many other facilities such as a swimming pool are required. There are enough facilities for the people in the way of travelling shops, libraries etc, but there am no tea-rooms, cafes or restaurants where travellers can get meals. There are very few hotels and no motels. There is also a fair trade in bed and breakfasts but this could be greatly increased. All the bread is brought from the mainland. A bakery could be opened on the island.

Harris is famous for its well-known tweed. It also has some small cottage industries. On Skye tweeds, tartans and other woollen goods are woven. Lewis has several industries including dairy farming, forestry, gardening and weaving. There are also industries on many other islands.

Tourism is another way of bringing work and prosperity to the islands. If this industry was developed on a large scale it would probably become the most profitable industry of all. No books, plans, maps or details of places of historical interest are available. A small tourist guide with maps should be made available to tourists. Copies could be sold to tourists at 3/- each. Advertising is another angle of tourism which should be promoted. We quite often see advertisements for foreign countries but not for the islands which are just as picturesque. Hotels, motels, bed and breakfast houses could be built to accommodate the tourists. More tea-rooms, coffee-houses and road-side restaurants could be started. Souvenirs, shell and other models could be made as there are plenty materials around the coastline. Antiques are another aspect of tourism. Many antiques are stored or thrown out, if these were gathered, cleaned and sold to tourists it would help the island prosperity. Pony trekking would be ideal for most islands as there are plenty of hills and places that would otherwise have to be visited on foot. Sailing and yachting would be attractions. Fishing is a common pastime but this could be an asset if tourists were able to hire boats and guides to show them the best fishing lochs. A group of holiday homes could be built and rented to holidaymakers. With this there could be a bowling alley, a roller skating rink and also a small theatre where the Pitlochry Festival Group could play annually. An exhibition of croft industries such as knitting, weaving spinning, sewing and farming methods would also be of interest to tourists.

Another useful attraction would be a small Gaelic College for teaching Gaelic and Highland dancing which could be run by teachers from different schools during their holidays. We therefore hope that the Highland Development Board whose work we are already becoming aware of will do all in their power to bring about some improvements and thus make our beautiful islands the envy of the industrial south.