The Isle of Harris encompasses an area of around 840 square miles, surrounded on three sides by the sea and bounded to the north, just over the high Clisham hills, by the neighboring Isle of Lewis.
Although quite large for a Scottish island, we have one of the lowest population densities in the UK with an unenviable (or enviable, depending on your personal preference), statistic of just over two human beings to be found per square mile.
But despite the apparent sparsity of souls, life here continues to be centered around connections to each other and the seemingly simple but often complex concept of community.
It’s a word we often use in our storytelling, referring not to a physical place but rather to the unspoken relationship between those who live their lives with a rare sense of togetherness.
Community is first and foremost about people and the bonds forged between them. It is a hard-to-explain feeling of trust and belonging, a quiet collective agreement to take care of each other when needed.
Here in Harris, a long history of working with one another to meet common goals has laid the bedrock for this and the challenges of geography and climate continue to provide the catalyst for its continuance today.
The age-old island traditions of crofting, fishing, weaving and peat-cutting all exemplified the benefits of mutual cooperation and many hands making light work.
Similarly, a shared culture expressed through the Gaelic language, religion, music and song has tied the people of Harris together into a wider, extended family as tough times here were faced together.
Today, despite sea-changes in lifestyles and technology, the value of community still endures and islanders remain woven together regardless of whether or not this was their first home.
Our Canteen Manager Kate Preston tells us…
“The community raises our children here, there is always someone looking out for your kids and willing to help if they are in trouble. Coming from South Africa this has been a very different experience!”
Local events and gatherings are always well supported, particularly when funds for a good cause are to be raised. Businesses generously donate goods for raffles and fees are waived as people give freely of their time and efforts. Marie Morrison our tour guide agrees…
“We always feel it when there are local events on. There is always a good show of people all willing to support local charities and give so generously."
In Harris, a helping hand is never far away, whether it’s looking after the young or old, getting a broken down car back on the road, or during hard times. Shona Macleod from the guest team tells us…
“You really don’t realise how many people know who you are or how much they care about you and your family until something difficult happens.”
Community can also be found in less obvious ways, through long conversations traded in local shops, the always-open doors of neighbours, or the friendly wave of bus drivers passing by on an otherwise empty road.
Here at the distillery, we try to foster these same values of togetherness in our working lives, always being prepared to pitch-in and provide extra help to our colleagues as and when needed.
Similarly, we're keen to share the distillery spaces, providing a social hub for people to meet and hold events as well as supporting and participating in local endeavours and enterprises.
As we continue to tell our island story we hope we can also help make you feel part of our plans too. Just as here in Harris, despite our distances there is much we all have in common and can connect to.
So, as we join together on-line through Journals like this one, here’s to the sharing the very best of community spirit with one another.