An Island Fling: A Journey to the Western Isles

An Island Fling: A Journey to the Western Isles

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Callanish Stones, Lewis, Stornoway, Western Isles




Transmission 08/12/1995


24min 37sec




Betacam SP



Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

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Ivan Little explores the Western Isles of Scotland, travelling across the Outer Hebrides and meeting some of the inhabitants that hail from Ulster along the way. 

Full of Celtic charm, these islands are described as a place where the men and women speak and sing in "the ancient Gaelic tongue. Their songs are about the sea, the wind, the rain, about fishing, farming and the weaving of tweed." Little notes that, in places such as Stornaway, daily life isn't that different nowadays, though the use of technology withhin the local industries has evolved. An Ulster native jokingly states that life here, "makes Donegal look frenzied!"

However, despite the idyllic landscape, the Western Isles have faced recent uncertainty, mainly due to the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce, though Brian Stewart (Chief Executive Western Isles Council) remains hopeful about the future. Another problem which faces the islands is the lack of a university and employment opportunities. This means that young adults have no choice but to leave. It's a fact which postman John Gilespie, originally from Derry, acknowledges, stating that when his children leave home, he will return to Northern Ireland.

There is much debate among the locals and newcomers about the strict Sunday rules - playground swings tied so no one can go on them, all shops closed and some locals even refusing to put out the washing! Whilst some in the community are pushing to loosen such rules, Angus MacMillian, from the Tourist Board, proclaims that, "you don't go to Rome to change Rome". 


The Western Isles are composed of 15 inhabited islands, with Lewis and Harris being the largest with a population of 21,031 in 2011, though there are more than 50 uninhabited islands. Modern commercial activities centre on tourism, crofting, fishing and weaving, including the manufacture of Harris tweed. Some of the larger islands have development trusts that support the local economy and, in striking contrast to the 19th and 20th century domination by absentee landlords, more than two thirds of the Western Isles population now lives on community-owned estates.


A UTV Production

Written and Narrated by Ivan Little

Other Contributors:Caroline Mullan, David Tierney, Ali Aborak, Finlay MaCleod, Rev. Donald MacDonald, Karen Murray, Dave Tierney, Valerie MaCleod, Nuala MaGee, Eilidh Shaw, Malcolm MaClean, Christine Smith and Carolla Bell  




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