The Isle of Harris can be more than a little romantic. Maybe it’s the windswept, wide-open spaces, or simply the lilt of the lyrical Gaelic language, but this place is never slow to quicken the heart.
So, last week, we were delighted to see our first, and so far only, distillery romance reach the end of its first chapter as Shona Maclennan and John Sutton made their vows of marriage here in the island.
Regular readers of this Journal and our social media will recognise Shona as our distillery’s assistant storyteller, and John formerly of our warehouse team has been a familiar face in many of our Journals too.
They first met back in September 2015 as we opened our distillery doors to the public for the first time, Shona working in the Canteen and John in the Shop, meaning their paths were to cross daily.
These paths soon saw them sharing a love of the outdoors as they embarked on out-of-work island adventures together, to beautiful places like Cravadale, Scalpay, St Kilda and Scarp.
The island soon worked its magic, as it is wont to do, and soon John and Shona were inseparable.
On November 18th, 2018, John casually suggested an evening walk along Scarista beach to round off their Sunday, as Shona takes up the story…
“We headed out to catch the sunset and I took an Isle of Harris Gin bottle with me because I wanted to get some photographs for the distillery Facebook page. I spent ages taking pictures before John said let’s walk on a little more…”
“When we got further up the beach, a campfire had been set up. In the summer of 2017, we had toasted marshmallows here and always said that we would do it again someday. So we did! Then he handed me his phone to watch a video he’d made of the years we’d spent together and when it ended I turned around to see him holding a ring, placed in a shell we had found on the beach months before.”
As the sun set to the west of Harris and fairy lights twinkled in the marram grass around them, Shona said a resounding “Yes!" to his proposal and plans were soon being made to be joined in matrimony in April 2020.
But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and who could have predicted the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis which swept the world last spring? As Shona explains…
“Lockdown was announced just 3 weeks before we were due to marry. We started to realise some of our guests wouldn’t be making it, especially those from Canada and America. Soon, it was clear that to go ahead would mean it would only be us and our witnesses.”
And so, the wedding was put on hold.
However, hopes arose again earlier this month as social-distancing restrictions began to ease, and Shona and John seized on the opportunity to tie the knot once and for all on July 16th.
“We originally planned to marry on Seilebost beach but the Outer Hebridean weather was not in our favour with winds gusting and rain lashing down. So, we decided at 10 am that morning that we would have the ceremony in the marquee in our garden!”
Such typical summer weather still made for some fantastic photography afterward as the couple and their families headed to the beach following a break in the clouds, with their young dog Benji, kitted out in a kilt of his own, playing alongside.
Never a couple to stand still, John and Shona are making more new plans for the future. John is now embarking on an exciting new career in the local ambulance service while Shona continues to grow in her role with us here in the distillery storytelling team.
We’ve told many distillery tales over the last few years but some just seem to write themselves. As this happy couple begins building a life here in their Harris home, we sincerely wish the new Mr. and Mrs. Sutton every good fortune as they turn a fresh page in their own ongoing story.