The Keose Glebe Buyout: A Personal Reflection

Dear Friends – Known and Unknown,

Greetings to you all on this significant day in the ongoing life of Keose Glebe.

I was deeply touched by the very kind Invitation you sent me, to be with you on this day and for this significant function.

Regrettably this date and your special function clashes with another urgent pastoral duty taking place here in Edinburgh on this same day.

I had promised a dear brother-officer, who had been badly wounded by the IRA and served with me at the Army Scottish Division Headquarters Edinburgh, that that I would be present with him at this special function.

Accordingly, I know you will understand how and why I cannot be with you today and take comfort from the fact that my brother Donalasdair will read my message to you all.

Now the village of Keose has undoubtedly changed a great deal from the village I grew up in.

As the famous poet Tennyson wrote, “The old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfils himself in many ways”. The settled pace of village life was virtually reflected in the settled pattern of the changing seasons.

Seven weeks of school holidays in summer were virtually guaranteed to produce a sustained period of sunshine just as the north – easterly winds in December brought copious supplies of drifting snow that poured through any orifice that was not carefully blocked against it.

When we went to Knockiandue School, we consolidated our acquaintance with the children of the adjacent village of Keose and met another species, the children from the village of Laxay.

In the rough and tumble of life at this two–teacher school, we learned at least the basic principles of socialising, the three R (s) so–called, the stories in the Royal Crown Readers and the existence of other countries and ways of life.

In my class I had the benefit and the stimulus of a girl from the Glebe – Joan Mackenzie or Shonag Bheag as she was fondly known. Shonag was much cleverer and certainly much more attractive than I was!

These were the war years. Able–bodied men and women served in the forces.

When they came home on leave, a visit from them was greatly welcomed mostly because they had survived the perils of enemy action but also because of the interest generated by their reports and stories.

Loch Erisort itself provided a relatively safe anchorage for HMS TITANIA, which trained the gallant men who served in the one–man and the two–man submarines or went on to take part in the Invasion of Norway.

Their presence brought much excitement to the village as did the various detachments from all three services in various parts of Lewis and of the Outer Hebrides.

Yet in spite of the consequent lack of man- power, life on the crofts at Keose Glebe attempted to follow a normal pattern. The advent of spring brought out the spades for the planting of potatoes.

Spades were soon cast aside by the advent of Department of Agriculture Tractors driven by such luminaries as Joe Black, Dan Curl and Geordie Thomson. Rough Diamonds they might have appeared, but they certainly could plough the main fields on the Glebe crofts in masterly fashion.

Peat banks were prepared for the two–man teams that soon cut the year’s supply of peat.

After the preliminary drying, the damp peats were lifted in such a manner as to allow the prevailing breezes to complete the drying process after which they were transported home by horse and cart or later by tractor and trailer.

Hay fields and corn fields were then cut by sharp scythes. The hay and the corn after being dried were then transported to be stored in barns or to be systematically arranged in stacks or in rigs to provide food for cattle or for sheep.

These in turn provided the domestic milk – supply along with the supply of wool, which could be sold, and a supply of meat, which was often salted in barrels as was the winter – supply of herring to preserve these items from a process of decay.

Even during the constraints of man–power during the war years, time was somehow found for the annual repair of the peat road from the boundary–fence of Keose Glebe to the site of the village peat banks.

Time was similarly found for the in-gathering of the village sheep for the purposes of shearing, of dipping, and of the necessary separation from their lambs.

Time was found in a few instances for the weaving of Harris Tweed on the early but progressive machine known as the Hattersley Loom.

Sunday was observed as a day of rest and for walking to the Churches at Kinloch, Laxay for the purposes of worship and renewal.

These patterns of life and work prevailed also in the post – war era when the Harris Tweed Industry, the Fishing industry, Hydro–electric projects and others developed.

One might very well ask what enabled the village of Keose Glebe to function in such an admirable manner particularly in those early days when crofting, in spite of the hard work involved, was still the accepted pattern of life and work.

I firmly believe this was due to the accepted discipline of the cooperative philosophy, which generally meant that one man from each household turned out on the agreed days to help the neighbours in their tasks as well as with the tasks that pertained to the needs of the village as a whole.

Reciprocity was without doubt the prevailing philosophy and proved its value. If at times disagreements occurred, the prevailing majority vote carried the day and became the accepted method of approach to any venture.

People recognized and generally valued the attractive lay–out of the village of Keose Glebe, the beauty of Loch Keose in a calm evening sun–lit setting, the enthusiastic chatter of the numerous flocks of birds which descended for their evening “Parliamentary–Session” in the trees at the Manse Garden, as well as their good fortune in the extensive moorland of Swordale for the common grazing of their sheep and cattle and the annual supply of their peat – fuel – and all that for a mere pepper – corn rental.

Now, without doubt the pattern of life and work in the village of Keose Glebe has changed and evolved to a pattern that is different from the one of my early days. However, I believe that certain factors have to be recognized on this day when ” the old order changeth yielding place to new”.

The relative ease of this Buyout is due largely to the noble and benevolent approach of the immediate past owners of this land.

Over the years this has been the generous pattern of their approach and has enabled this new day to dawn for “The Keose Glebe Estate Ltd.”

Finally whatever new approaches and developments will be planned and undertaken by the new

owners of the land, may they constantly be mindful of the fact identified and declared in the Old

Testament that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and that today their lines have truly fallen in pleasant places.

May God bless you all today and from this day on.

Rev. Angus Smith.
(Edinburgh)

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