Book tells of author’s jour­ney to iso­la­tion

The Oban Times - - News -

ONE OF Soay’s three in­hab­i­tants has writ­ten a book doc­u­ment­ing three decades of is­land life.

Is­land on the Edge: A Life on Soay by Anne Cho­lawo, due to be pub­lished in Au­gust, de­scribes the his­tory of Soay and its unique wildlife.

As well as telling the author’s own story, it fea­tures the is­land’s off­beat and colour­ful char­ac­ters in­clud­ing the cel­e­brated writer, nat­u­ral­ist and bask­ing shark hunter Gavin Maxwell.

‘Anne Cho­lawo was a typ­i­cal 1980s ca­reer girl work­ing in a busy Lon­don ad­ver­tis­ing agency when, hol­i­day­ing in the He­brides for the first time in 1989, she no­ticed an advert for a prop­erty on the isle of Soay – ac­cess by cour­tesy of fish­ing boat,’ ex­plained the book’s pub­lisher, Bir­linn.

‘She had never heard of Soay be­fore, let alone vis­ited it, but an in­ex­pli­ca­ble im­pulse drew her there. Within 10 min­utes of step­ping off that fish­ing boat, she had fallen un­der the spell of the is­land nestling un­der the ma­jes­tic pro­tec­tion of Skye’s Cuillin moun­tains. A few months later she had moved there to live. She is still there.

‘When she ar­rived on Soay there were only 17 in­hab­i­tants. To­day, in­clud­ing Anne and her hus­band Robert, only three re­main.

‘This book is a first-per­son ac­count of her ex­tra­or­di­nary tran­si­tion from a hec­tic ur­ban life to one of iso­lated self- suf­fi­ciency.’

Her pi­ano was air­lifted onto the is­land by a Sea King he­li­copter cour­tesy of the Royal Marines Com­mando on sum­mer ex­er­cises and this was the fate­ful event that in­tro­duced her to her hus­band.

She also re­ceived fish­ing lessons from leg­endary He­bridean sharker Tex Ged­des and be­came a stal­wart of the is­land’s sheep chase: the pe­ri­odic round-up of the roam­ing herd and its sub­se­quent ceilidh. Bir­linn con­tin­ued: ‘Cho­lawo has ex­pe­ri­enced and recorded Soay’s story dur­ing decades that saw the ebb and flow of pop­u­la­tions and en­ter­prises trans­form life on Scot­land’s is­lands.’

Anne Cho­lawo has writ­ten a book about Soay.

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