Where else would you wish to be on a dreich day on a Sunday afternoon in Glasgow than at the Aye Write Festival listening to a talk about four tiny Scottish isles? Academic, John Hunter, promoting his title, The Small Isles, gave us an overview of precisely that focusing on Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna, displaying his evidential background as a forensic archaeologist.
John Hunter is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. As Commissioner of Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, he has undertaken extensive survey work in Scotland, with a particular focus on the Northern and Western Isles, which has prompted the publication of this book by Historic Environment Scotland.
He provided a presentation of the islands, delving deep into their history, yet offering a comprehensive and informative educational talk about historical landowners such as George Bulloughs. At one point in the afternoon he went as far as comparing Rum to North Korea and Canna to Danish Hygge, highlighting their vastly different approaches to the islands. Canna was rich with rabbits and soil for crops, whereas Rum was somewhat ruined by bachelor parties hosted by Bulloughs, who had stiletto marks on his piano, and who would encourage his builders to wear kilts whilst building. He also outlines how Eigg is very much a sustainable community, and altogether different from both Canna and Rum. They all have distinctive traits which render them alluring for very differing reasons.
Although he did not focus as much on Muck as the other Inner Hebrides, he was given an hour only to inform and inform he did. Academic in style, John Hunter did what he knew best, and educated his audience, using his extensive surveying work to invite us all to ponder on these isles of wonder.
The Small Isles was published by Historic Environment Scotland in June 2016.