I'm fascinated by this story about the National Trust for Scotland's attempt to repopulate Canna. Our family has very many memories, both happy and sad, of this beautiful island.
In 1992, we went on holiday there with another family from the Priory Church in South Queensferry. A small passenger ferry took us from Mallaig, and we were burdened with having to take everything we'd to eat and drink for the week we'd be there. We stayed in Tighard (pictured above). GadgetVicar Boy was but a baby then, and we lugged him around on our backs, as we explored the hills and shoreline. One day, I walked along the clifftop on the north side of the island, and was amazed to see a pair of sea eagles, soaring from below me. I spent an hour quietly marvelling at them.
There was much to explore, including a standing stone, signs of Viking remains, the remains of a nunnery, a prison, and even two churches (the 'rocket' church, so named because of its tower, and a Roman Catholic church on the tidal island of Sanday). We remember the rocks scrawled with messages from passing sailors, and the tumultuous seas on the way back around the Small Isles. We loved all of it!
Electricity was provided in the evenings by a generator, and life would definitely be hard for any family used to living in a town or city. There was a primary school, but the population was so small (20 or so?) that older pupils had to stay in Mallaig during the week. No telly was available then, but I imagine satellite TV and even broadband are available now. I gather that a new pier has been built, and that there is no shortage of people willing to go and live there.
A year or so after our holiday, Canna became part of our lives again, but in less happy circumstances. An archaeologist member of our congregation went there with a team to excavate. When he told me he was going, I was very excited for him and asked if the team needed a chaplain!
News came via the BBC News one Sunday teatime that one of the team on the island had been found dead in the sea. Somehow, instinctively, I knew it was him, and called his wife, who knew nothing about it. She called the island to find out what had happened and confirmed that it was her husband who had been found. I dashed frantically to their home and several hours later the police arrived to give the official news.
This proved to be one of the most difficult periods of ministry that I have ever experienced. They had two small children, and were key members of the church. We were all devastated for them.
A few months after the funeral, we went with this grieving family to stay on Canna again. We went out by boat to where the body was found, to pray and place a wreath in the water. The spot where my friend fell was the place from which I had watched the eagles flying.
Canna is a special place for us.