The Islands Book Trust planned a boat trip to the island of Scarp last September. But, unfortunately, that trip had to be cancelled due to unfavourable weather conditions. Now they plan to try again on 12 May.

They say: “We have organised a number of boat trips to Scarp in recent years and they have always been very popular. Hopefully, those of you who were unable to get to Scarp last year will join us this year, along with others who are interested in the island.”

Booking ahead is essential – www.islandsbooktrust.org/pages/events

Scarp has been uninhabited since the last resident family left in December 1971. The population had been gradually decreasing since 1881, when the population peaked at 213 people. The island was then considered to be over populated. In 1883, Scarp crofter/fisherman Norman Macdonald told the Napier Commission of Inquiry:

“The number of people has greatly increased. About 200 souls live on the island today. There are 40 families. This increase, along with the consequent overcrowding on one another, the scantiness of the land and its inability to sustain the people, have mostly led to the present poor circumstances. After all is said and done, unless the people of Scarp can get additional lands, there is no possible means of support for them.”

Shortly after that a number of Scarp families were provided with crofts on ‘mainland’ Harris, thus beginning the gradual exodus from the island. As the population declined, the situation became increasingly difficult for those who remained. Most of the work - lobster fishing, securing peat, Spring planting, Autumn harvesting, sheep and cattle management - required many able-bodied men and women. The absence of a sheltered harbour was always a hindrance. The situation was eased slightly when a jetty was built on Scarp in the 1930’s; however, a jetty was not built at Hushinish until the 1950’s. James Shaw Grant wrote in the Stornoway Gazette in 1959:

“Hushinish pier was not built when there was a living community on Scarp with the vitality to survive. It was built by a procrastinating government just in time to make it easier for the last survivors to get out.”

The Islands Book Trust was formed in 2002 with two main aims:

  • To further understanding of the history of Scottish islands in their wider Celtic and Nordic context.
  • To generate economic, social, and cultural benefits for local communities in the islands.

The Islands Book Trust publishes books on Scottish culture, history and Gaelic among other subjects for the full range please visit our website www.islandsbooktrust.org