A veteran teacher who retired as Head of English at The Nicolson Institute a couple of years ago has set up a business selling hampers offering a taste of the Hebrides.
Over the years, as friends and family moved away from the island, Liz Sutherland let them know how much she was thinking about them and missing them by sending them gift hampers of local items. That is where the idea for Hebridean Hamper business originated.
She explains that she herself is just about local ... well, nearly. Her father’s family came originally from Lewis and, after holidaying here for years, her mum and dad brought them to live on the island in 1973.
“I was cross to start with then I got used to it, and then I grew to absolutely love it. We lived in Breanish, Uig, and travelled to school weekly on an excellent bus service that went into Stornoway on a Monday morning and returned home again on a Friday evening, an epic bus journey that stopped in every village in Uig.”
Once the children left home, her hard-working crofting and crafting parents moved to Melbost, Point. They ran successful local businesses for many years, for instance, Breanish Pottery and Breanish Tweed.
Liz recalls: “After leaving The Nicolson Institute in 1975, I worked and studied abroad, on mainland Scotland and in England, until eventually moving home with my own two children in 1989 to live in Stornoway. I worked at Lewis Offshore for a few years and then in various admin and educational roles for the local authority over the last 30-plus years. I was at Lews Castle School for 11 years." Liz was in the Education Department for six years, and, most recently, at The Nicolson Institute for 14 years.
“I retired from teaching two years ago. I was the head of the English Department at the Nicolson from 2008 to 2020 but still do a little supply cover occasionally. Now I hope to do all of my fabulous suppliers proud and represent their hard work and skill by sharing a taste of the Hebrides with as many Hebrideans, here and away, and visitors as possible.”
Some hamper contents from publicity photo taken at Mealasta
Liz paid trbute to her children, daughter Sophie and son Daniel, who, despite busy lives and families of their own, have encouraged and helped her to set up the business.
She had some advice on setting up my business from Business Gateway but hasn't applied for any funding from anywhere so far.
“We are still negotiating with producers, including another in Uist and at least one in Barra, to be able to offer their goods and truly represent artisan food products from across the whole of the Outer Hebrides in our hampers. Since starting this, I have been amazed at the range and extremely high quality of local food products, and meeting all the producers individually has been extremely interesting and enjoyable.
“Who knew that you could buy delicious Hebridean salami in Stornoway, gorgeous chocolate handmade in Harris, and exquisite freshly-ground coffee roasted in Uist?
"It has been a real treat to develop the list of suppliers and their products.”
Latest additions to her suppliers include the Hebridean Kitchen at Claddach Kirkibost, in North Uist, who make strawberry preserve and sweet chilli jam and exquisite shortcake, and SkyDancer Coffee Roasters in Lochboisdale, who produce ground coffee.
This article was updated on 26th September to correct a misspelling of Sutherland