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Elegy for a vanishing world

There are anecdotes and extraordinary personalities on every page. Here is one snapshot of the community 60 years ago: young Donald was taking part in a poetry recitation competition in a Gaelic Eisteddfod and there was a rule that after you had ended the adjudicator would ask you a few simple questions to ascertain whether you had any clue as to what you had been reciting. Donald’s piece must have been a love poem and Bella Morrison asked him what the poet was writing about. He didn’t have the remotest idea, but digging deep into his Ness Gaelic he answered, ‘A chlig!’ Bella (who later married the Rev. Angus Finlayson) collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. It was totally colloquial Ness slang for something like ‘His bird!’ So Donald’s days of competitive recitations came to an end.

Geoff Thomas

By Donald Macleod
Acair Books (http://www.acairbooks.com)
268 pages. £10.00
ISBN 0 86152 320 2

This is about the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides during the 1940s and 1950s, though the author goes back and describes something of the historic momentum of religious and social influences which helped create the situation into which he was born.