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Tuesday, July 14, 2020 ARCHIVES  |  SEARCH  |  POST ADS  |  ADVERTISE  |  SUBSCRIBE   |  LOGIN   |  CONTACT US

Where there’s muck...

Gordon Boyle

There has been a lot of controversy in Scotland, Norway and Ireland in recent years about the environmental damage fish farming is responsible for in coastal waters.

I recently read that the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in Scotland is now locating farms further offshore close to islands in the west of Scotland.

This move will decrease the environmental impact due to being further out into the Atlantic Ocean where there are greater currents and tidal movements.

One of the beneficiaries of this change in strategy is the Island of Muck, one of the islands that are part of the Inner Hebrides.

The island supports a small community who until the recent establishment of fish farming made their living from farming and tourism.

The island has been owned by the MacEwan family since the latter part of the nineteenth century and today the island is managed and maintained by Lawrence MacEwan.

I had the privilege of knowing Lawrence many years ago when I used to visit my family on the mainland close to the island.

My cousin Ewan had a livestock transport business and he helped Lawrence get his livestock to market.

Lawrence would travel across to the mainland in his boat Wave with the sheep and cattle for sale in the auctions held in Fort William more than 50 miles away.

Lawrence was reputed to be the strongest man in the Inner Hebrides and manhandling sheep and cattle on and off his boat not only needed great strength but also quick reactions in order not to have any livestock fall overboard.

He would in his youth put any manual labourer to shame with his work ethic and hard graft.

Today the Island of Muck is a very different place and was the last place in the UK to have access to electricity when it was finally connected in 2013.

Before then power was from a generator that came on for a few hours twice daily.

It has always been a struggle to keep the island school open and Lawrence has always worked hard to attract families with young children to the island.

On occasions the community has advertised for new residents and shortlisted candidates are chosen by a vote of the islanders.

Lawrence has many roles to perform in addition to his day to day farming responsibilities.

He is also the coastguard, special constable (there was one tiny crime on the island in all his years of service), gravedigger, forester, Muck ambassador and temporary custodian of this small piece of island paradise.

There is a lovely graveyard at Port Mor on the island which has no wall or fence protecting the graves from the grazing livestock. Lawrence was quoted as saying “you know how I love cows, I have spent my entire life here and my hope is to die here, and I would like the cows to walk all over my grave”.

We hear daily about the nasty and horrible people who inhabit our world and I hope, like me, Lawrence is someone who gives us all hope there are wonderful people out there quietly going about their business. If you are ever in Scotland I’m sure Lawrence would make you very welcome if you were to visit.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at

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