Story book of a Hebridean Childhood published in Japan

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A book describing growing up in Uist has caught the imagination of a Japanese illustrator and has been published thousands of miles away.

‘Cocoa and Crabs’ is the childhood story of Flora MacDonald and recounts life growing up on Benbecula in the 40s. After finding success at home following publication by the Island Book Trust the memoir has now brought the island way of life to a new audience.

The unique collaboration came about when Machiko Terada Schlumpf, from Japan, stayed in Flora’s Bed and Breakfast in Uist.

Flora explained: “Machiko, who bought the book at my B&B, must have been inspired to paint the images from the writing. She probably found similarities with her own island Japan at least through the fishing. It was certainly a great surprise to hear about her proposal.

“I have not been to Japan but I can imagine that there are similarities with Uist. World cultures are similar.”

Flora, who has since publishing ‘Cocoa and Crabs’ has subsequently gone on to record the rest of her life story, wrote the book as a tribute to her parents.

After leaving the islands ages 18, she studied and worked in Glasgow until returning to Benbecula 12 years ago. “The love of the place, my roots, called me back,” she said.

The book was also published and recorded in Gaelic, something that was particularly significant for the author. “I wrote the Gaelic version when I returned to Uist and felt a great affinity to my father and his forebears,” Flora said. “I wanted it to be published in Gaelic and the publishers also wanted the story in Gaelic. I recorded two accompanying CD’s in Gaelic for the benefit of my generation who could not read or write their own language.”

The journey didn’t end there though. After being published in Japan the illustrations were flown to Basle in Switzerland to featured in an art exhibition.

There may be more travelling in store for the memoir as Flora is keen to see it published in other countries, particularly Canada, America and Australia where there are many Gaelic learners.