Yesterday we left Stornoway and headed down to the Isle of Harris, which is actually the other end of the Isle of Lewis.
Andreas and Kosta got off the bus in the main port town, Tarbert, to find a B&B and then take a walk until dinnertime. I stayed on the bus for the village of Northton, where Bill Lawson has his Western Isles genealogy center.
Northton is a tiny village consisting of one main road running perpendicular to the highway with maybe twenty houses on it.
About halfway down the street is an honor system fresh farm shop:
another shop selling tweed items is all the way at the end of the road:
There is also a cafe that has a good reputation but it was closed yesterday for a private wedding.
The young man at the Seallam Visitor Centre connected me with Bill Lawson and his wife by phone (they live next door but were having an at-home day). I told them everything I know about my immigrant ancestor. They searched their database for me and were able to eliminate one more of the John Murdo MacIvers but alas, without least one more date or a relative’s name, there are still three candidates. I bought a couple of books about Stornoway, but that was all I could do, family history-wise, on this trip.
It was only 2:00, and the next bus back to Tarbert was at 5:00, so I decided to go for a walk out to a ruined late medieval chapel by the sea.
It was a beautiful walk, but I mistimed it slightly and missed my bus by 10 minutes. No matter, I could still get the last bus at 6:15 and be back in time for the 7:00 dinner I had arranged with Andreas and Kosta.
Well. I will skip the boring details, but it turns out I had actually missed the last bus. I was slightly panicked at that point. It was too far to walk to Tarbert, and there were no sort of public services in Northton, nor any hotels or lodging. I don’t have a phone that works here, and (rather surprisingly, since they are everywhere else in Scotland) there was no public phone box.
If you are going to be stranded, I highly recommend you do it in Scotland. This must be the friendliest, most helpful country in the world. I saw a woman and her daughter reading in their yard, and I asked them if there was any such thing as a taxi or car service. They were on holiday and didn’t know but they directed me to another house with locals in it.
The older gentleman there was very sympathetic and blamed the public transit cutbacks for my non-existent bus (generously disregarding my inability to read a bus schedule as the root of my problem). But, he said, wait a moment – and disappeared back into his house. A moment later he reappeared, announcing that my troubles were over – his daughter would drive me to Tarbert. So, with no other viable options, I accepted their kind offer.
I had a lovely chat with Becca in the car. It turns out she is a weaver of the famous Harris tweed, an occupation she can pursue from a shed at the back of her dad’s house. Working from home enables her to care for her disabled brother at the same time. What a lovely person. Scotland continues to amaze me.