Eriskay Where I Was Born

Eriskay Where I Was Born

by Angus Edward MacInnes


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Eriskay Where I Was Born by Angus Edward MacInnes

Angus Edward MacInnes, born at Haun, Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1925, returned in his imagination to the island of his birth to create what, since its first publication in 1997, has become a classic account of an almost forgotten way of life. His autobiography, told with the captivating rhythms and story-telling techniques of his native Gaelic, combines the author’s personal experiences with his observations of life around him. The result is a complete picture of Eriskay, from its topography to descriptions of the islanders’ dress, diet and schooling. The island’s traditions are brought vividly to life with amazing – but, the author insists, true – tales of ‘giants’, strong men, ghosts and the second sight.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780273815
Publisher: Birlinn, Limited
Publication date: 10/01/2017
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Amongst Angus Edward’s stories of his childhood and schooldays on Eriskay is a hilarious first-hand account of the aftermath of the sinking of the S.S. Politician, later immortalized in Whisky Galore. He went on to travel the world on the high seas as a radio officer during the Second World War – in the course of which he survived a torpedo attack – and later worked as a deep-sea fisherman. He saw out his career as a captain on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries on the Clyde.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Foreword Decker Forrest xi

Map of Eriskay xx-xxi

Chapter 1 1

Description of the island

The altar made from a lifeboat

The Stack Island pirate

The Haun

I am left with my grandparents

An Eriskay man in the Japanese navy

The Clearances

The kelp industry

Hardships of crofting


Doondy's box of bones

Ferrying horses

The Eriskay executioner

Peigi, the eye specialist

My first deep-sea voyage: to Barra

Family feuds caused by crofts

Searching the shore for loot



Chapter 2 42

Peat gathering

Children's chores

The stramash with Seonag and Màiri

The three trees


Diet: cormorants, eels, cudaigin, dogfish etc.

Trapping sea otters for pelts

Fanging the sheep



Haun Bay: a hive of activity

Grandpa, the surgeon

Different kinds of devilment

The Compulsory Education Officer


The fighting priest

The post

The Gobha's wake

Bootsie's coffin

My troublesome relations fighting and drinking

Chapter 3 77

Stories of the second sight

Hector and the popish cross

The woman of the ruins

The roaming of Alasdair Mac Mhaigh-stir Alasdair

'The Erislmy Love Lilt'

The mad bull

The big winter herring fishing of 1931

The curse of the crofts

Death of old Grandpa

Seumas Lachlainn's unlucky boat

The mischievous seer of Eriskay

The Gili Gili man meets his match

Eating Iain Mac Lachlainn

The fight over the stolen pants

Seonaidh the merchant

Chapter 4 118

The haaf fishing

Life on the Barra Head islands

Mixing of religions in the islands

Travelling to the east coast fishing

Boom-time for Eriskay

Drift-net and ring-net fishing

Stories of St Columba

I drink all my money, bar sixpence

Composing of songs

Ruairidh 'The Case' Campbell

Telling tales and playing pranks


Peadair 'Illeasbaigh's heart transplant

The iron man and the big beast from point

One-legged fishermen

Pelorus and the lobster

Chapter 5 170

Jimmy Boyle, the van and the flock of hens

Paisley Road, Glasgow: home from home for the seamen from our islands

Work on the rigging gangs

Sly grogs, speakeasies and the Lochboisdale Hotel

'Shipwrecked eggs and a mug of mud!'

Mallaig and the coming of the railway

A fishing boat with a bad name

Staying sober at sea

The great lines-a poverty-stricken time

On the fish van in Glasgow

A Saturday night in Stornoway

'Seeing the world' on the merchant ships

Chapter 6 201

Ships going down

The Sgoilear Bàn

Local boys made good

Fishing off Tiree and Coll


The Coach: Erislcay's Jonah

Mìcheal Nìll Eóin explains whaling to his mother

Mìcheal a' Dhròbhair and the rice pudding

Stories of giants people have seen

Eriskay's strongest man

Uncle Angus and the S.S. Politician

Uncle Iagan and Dòmhnall MacKinnon get paralytic

Fishing for whisky in the hold

The telephone

Rivalry between Barra and Eriskay

Chapter 7 235

Spring work

On the Atlantic convoys

The bright lights of New York

At St John's, Newfoundland

I join the Murena

We are torpedoed bid remain afloat

I try some soothing words of Gaelic on Jiff, the frightened dog

No wonder I was an alcoholic

I defend the honour of the ladies from Hell

Heroism and horrors of war

New Year's night customs

Drinking day and night in London docks

In the Pitcairn Islands with the descendants of the Bounty mutineers

Chapter 8 272

Jumping ship in New Zealand

I am carted to the calaboose in Buenos Aires

Long runs on the tramp steamers

Satie from Barra comes back from the dead

Smuggled kippers for breakfast

I am paid off having drunk my week's wages

I am shanghaied on a Geordie collier bound for Canada

Wishing myself on Eriskay

Amongst the Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia

Dr Kissling, a nice man of noble birth

Donald Ferguson, prince of finance

The sea: Eriskay's saviour

Four Songs of Eriskay and the Sea 303

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