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The Natives Issue

Island Life

When I was young, twenty years ago, families up here were strong. They were very old fashioned and they all worked together to work things out. Families today don’t seem to be the same.
J'
Κείμενο John 'Stu' Sinclair
1.1.06

Photo by Neil Thomson

When I was young, twenty years ago, families up here were strong. They were very old fashioned and they all worked together to work things out. Families today don’t seem to be the same. If a young kid says, “I want a holiday from work” the parents say, “Okay.” Back when I was 15 and working as a fisherman, I would ask my parents for a holiday and they would say, “What on earth d’ya want a holiday for?” I was fishing but I didn’t want to do it. The only reason I was doing it was to work with my twin brother on the fishing boat. I didn’t want to do it but back in those days you had to go along with whatever the family wanted so I had to do it. One day, when I was 15 years old, I decided to jump out of my bedroom window and get the ferry out of here because I wanted to escape. When my mother found out I’d got out of the bedroom window and was waiting by the ferry to catch it to the mainland, she called the priest and tried to get him to stop me doing it. The priest came round to the pier. He said to me: “Okay, Stu, y’know yourself I can’t stop you. I said, “I know that father.” He invited me up to his house for a cup of tea or coffee but I said, “No father, I’m waiting here for that ferry.” “Stu”, he says, “I’m not going to stop you. But come up and have a cup of tea. From my window you can see this ferry so you’re not going to miss it.” So I decided to go upstairs with the father and he goes up to his bedroom, takes out a bag of clothes and hands me £100 and some socks and good jumpers. It was nice gear like. “Here Stu”, he says, “you’re going to need this. You can pay us back whenever.” I’d never been to the mainland before y’see. So I got the ferry to the mainland. When I got there it was not too bad because there were some more people my age who were there. I stayed there for two months and I called back home and the family were crying down the phone. That’s unusual up here because people here don’t show their emotions. Well, they do a bit nowadays but still not as much as the mainland people. If you do show emotions up here people think, “He’s fucking soft.” So I stayed away from Barra for 25 years. But I got sick of the ratrace. You do have to keep up with people on the mainland. I didn’t like it so I came back here and now I’m happy. What I learned is that I prefer island life. It’s got peace and quiet. No pressure, no nothing. It costs you nothing to live here. It’s so peaceful. You don’t have to rush to do nothing. You get up in the morning and you decide what you want to do. The best thing about the mainland was broadening my mind to a different world but at the end of the day it totally weakens your mind. Here you’ve got none of that. I lived and learned. JOHN ‘STU’ SINCLAIR