Pabay: An Island Odyssey is the story of a small island, one mile across, situated between the island of Skye and the Scottish Mainland. It is written by Christopher A Whatley, a Professor of Scottish History at the University of Dundee and the nephew of the couple Len and Margaret who moved to Pabay in 1950 to farm the land and raise a family.
In the early days the weather conditions and lack of finance were two of the main factors against prosperity. Storms and gales frequently swept down the coast destroying everything in their path including Len’s boats which were a lifeline to the mainland. There is an entire chapter devoted to the plague of rabbits and the drastic action which had to take place in order for vegetation to survive. Various different aspects of farming were tried from sheep and cattle to a fairly successful business raising baby chicks and selling eggs. The couple stayed for twenty years before finally settling on the Isle of Skye where Len and his son Stuart started a pottery at Edinbane which still thrives today.
The history of the island unfolds over the centuries as the many different landowners fought against the elements and the political conditions of the times to make a successful business. Skye became a tourist destination during the Victorian era but the difficulty of guaranteed landing continued to isolate the smaller rocky coasted islands. However, both ornithologists and naturalists were continually drawn to the remote location. Famous geologist Hugh Miller, ardent Christian and founding father of the Free Church, was the most enthusistic promoter of the ‘fossil-mottled’ island as a geologists’ paradise.
Whatley aptly captures the climate and prevailing atmosphere that pervades the Scottish Hebrides. The number of small isles which are now left uninhabited prove the hard realities of trying to survive on a small island. This is a must read for anyone interested in planning to up-sticks and move to a remote location.