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Family Life in the 50's & 60's

By Norah MacDonald - Added 18/04/2014

Audio of Norah MacDonald of Bayhead, Miabhag telling about family life and how her parents made their living when she was in school in the 50s and 60s. Dur: 3.10

Many of the people in Miabhag in the 50s and 60s provided for their families by growing crops and fishing. Some wove Harris Tweed, like Norah's mother, Mary Ann, who still used the old type of hand loom. She would send samples of her tweed to textile retailers e.g. Highland Home Industries and if they liked her patterns she would get an order from them. They also took knitwear and she would knit Harris wool stockings to send to them.

Her father, Alan, spent some time working on the road which was then being built round the Bays. It was built in stages and while they were waiting for more funding he would go away to sea, which is what he did for most of his working life. Before the war and also when he married and had a young family he was away at sea a lot abroad. He was in the merchant navy during the war and one time he was shipwrecked near Islay, on the Rhinns of Islay, an area which has claimed numerous shipwrecks. The crew escaped safely and a Lewisman who was a head teacher at a nearby school took them to the schoolhouse for shelter till they managed to get transport off the island.

Alan was on the MacBrayne ships on the Clyde until the ferry MV Hebrides came to the Harris, Uig, Lochmaddy run in 1964. He was glad to be working close to home as the ferry berthed in Harris every second night when they first started.

When Norah left home to go away to school in Inverness it was about the same time as tourists started discovering the islands, no doubt helped by the introduction of the new ferry. Her mother saw this as a way of supplementing the family income and started providing a Bed and Breakfast service. At first she could only provide off-peak accommodation as the family, who were still at school or university had first claim on their bedrooms during summer holidays!

The following link takes you to the Tobar an Dualchais website where you can listen to Ina MacLeod from Scadabay tell Ishbel MacLennan for BBC Radio nan Gaidheal’s Dealan-dè how she started her Bed and Breakfast business in the 1970s and about the “Crofting Life” holidays that were being offered at the time of the interview in 1989.