View from The Edge: Cath Macdonald


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The rain was lashing down as I drove the 40 miles to Stornoway to meet my sister who was arriving on the plane from Glasgow at 4pm.

She and her family had come to spend Christmas with us in past years, but this time she was coming on her own for New Year, as Christmas had been spent with family and in-laws at their home in Largs.

The roads were flooded. It was dark and the effect of the crosswinds hitting the car could be felt in certain areas.

Fortunately the plane arrived on time. Due to the extreme weather, the plan to have a meal in Stornoway before heading home was dropped as
it made sense to get across the Clisham hills and home as soon as possible in case the wind should strengthen.

Last year about this time I wrote of Christmases of old in the Western Isles. How things have changed!

New Year customs have definitely changed. We no longer have first footing on New Year’s Eve, nor the Callainn, of which my grandfather used to
tell us.

I wrote in that column of the Sunday School treat held in the home of our missionary when we were children. These mission houses are long gone in our area, but Christmas celebration for Sunday School continues.

In our church the Sunday School Christmas Family Service was held on the morning of December 22 with a warm welcome to all to join.

The Sunday School members took part in the service by leading prayers, singing  and readings of Christmas Bible stories.

The Christmas Carol Service took place on Christmas Eve at 7pm in the church. It was attended by young and old, with some parents bringing their very young children with them.

After the service, mince pies, tea and coffee  were served in a room beside the church called the MacRae Centre, and named after a former minister of our church. Here, people met and mingled for some time in a most warm and friendly ambience.

The following Sunday we were, as usual, invited to go for tea or coffee after the service. Here my sister met up with some friends and former class mates.

The fact that first footing has stopped here does not mean  that people do not call on neighbours and friends at this time of year.

As usual my sister visited our neighbours, which included a visit to our local care home, Harris House, to see a lady she was accustomed to visiting and is now a resident there.

The staff were very warm, welcoming and helpful, and we were offered tea or coffee. As well as visiting the lady who had been a neighbour, we also met others who had been known to us, including some of their visitors.

It was uplifting  to have visited a comfortable care home, where people are happy and very well looked after by a wonderful staff.

We also visited a lady who lives on her own in a very remote area. As usual we had a most interesting visit as we sat and chatted. She has carers coming in daily and many others call on her. She is up to date on all the local news and is an excellent source of information on local genealogy and history.

On New Year’s Eve, on BBC Alba, there was the live Hogmanay Ceilidh at 11.30pm to which we had looked forward to, but before that there was an excellent programme about Callainn (Hogmanay) nights of the past, presented by Singer and Lochaber Times columnist Robert Robertson with wit and humour. It was repeated on New Year’s Day and I hope it will be repeated again.

There was also an interesting programme about the Park Bar in Glasgow, and its draw for Gaels of all ages.

So,  no first footing, but plenty of people to see, events to enjoy, and good late night entertainment on BBC Alba and other programmes.

Seasonal good wishes to all the readers.