Mingulay marks 100 years since abandonment

Mingulay Bay beach.
Mingulay Bay beach.

A series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the abandonment of Mingulay take place this coming weekend.

The Island Books Trust and the National Trust for Scotland have joined forces to commemorate the decision of the island’s community to abandon human habitation. The Reflections on Mingulay events take place at Castlebay Hall on Barra on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 June.

The programme includes a day trip to the island which has been in the care of conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland since 2000 and a series of talks and lectures about Mingulay’s past, culture and future. While the boat trip is fully booked, there are still spaces available for the talks and all are welcome.

Susan Bain, Western Isles Property Manager for the National Trust for Scotland said:

“Nowadays we know Mingulay as a beautiful, haunting place, a haven for wildlife. However, it’s important to remember that the island once supported a hard-working and determined community, making a living in tough circumstances, which is now no more.

“As a conservation charity, we don’t just want to look after the natural heritage of this place, but also to play our part, along with the community in remembering the cultural heritage of Mingulay, a culture which ended with the community’s decision to leave the island one century ago.”

Susan will be presenting a talk on Mingulay’s future as part of the event.

John Randall, Chair of The Islands Book Trust said: “This year sees the centenary of the abandonment of Mingulay as a permanent human settlement. The Islands Book Trust believes it is important to mark this anniversary and celebrate the once rich history and culture of the island. We are delighted to be working alongside the National Trust for Scotland to organise this conference, which will feature outstanding speakers including Ben Buxton, author of the book ‘Mingulay’, David Powell from Tasglann nan Eilean Siar, and Calum Macneil from Barra. In addition we will be launching a new booklet, ‘A Window into Life on Mingulay; Extracts from the School Log Book, 1875 – 1910’, and to commemorate the whole event we are also organising a new limited edition set of stamps and a postal cover, and the re-lettering of the headstone at Cuithir, Barra, of John Finlayson, the Mingulay teacher who figures prominently in the booklet.”

Located 12 miles south of Barra, Mingulay was inhabited for thousands of years. The residents of the islands subsisted through a combination of fishing, fowling, weaving and crofting.

Life on Mingulay was challenging, not just due to the remoteness of the island, but the lack of a sheltered landing place for boats.