Hebridean seafaring men of the world
WE LIVE on a shrinking planet and are increasingly connected constantly to the ways of life, politics, opinions, customs, crimes and what is being eaten for breakfast in any corner of the globe that can access the internet.
This sudden disappearance of geographical barriers is one of the biggest cultural changes the world has ever seen.
However, for far longer than Facebook has been dominating our days, the West Coast of Scotland – and particularly the Islands of the Hebrides – have been in close and continual contact with countries across the world.
This was, of course, not via mass media communications but through the thousands of seamen who left their island homes to travel the oceans aboard the ships of the merchant navy.
This meant that, while the Scottish islands were geographically isolated, they were in many ways better connected to the wider world than most urban centres. The sheer numbers of men travelling the globe relative to the total populations of their islands was huge.
A friend of mine from Barra told me that when his father left school in the late 1950s, of 43 boys in his class, 40 went to sea. This was typical throughout the Hebrides at the time and the outward-looking and non-parochial attitude of the people in these parts is largely down to this.
My father spent 15 years at sea, and the stories he used to tell relating to this time and his worldly-wise attitude that resulted from it had a lasting effect on me.
The below lyrics are from a MacPhail/ Robertson song that was inspired by these stories and these seafaring men of the world.