In the early 1990s, the Isle of Harris bore witness to what was to become one of Scotland's longest-running and most expensive legal disputes.
The great mountain of Roineabhal near the south-east village of Lingerbay was chosen as the site of a 'super quarry', with the excavation of millions of tonnes of local rock planned.
The land was to be mined over 60 years for road-building materials and a scar left in the side of the mountain six times the height of the cliffs of Dover and 2km in length.
Needless to say, the project was controversial and was to be challenged and debated intensely over the coming decade, dividing the opinions of many within our community.
Grave concerns about the natural environment opposed the promise of new jobs and income. But, after many years of public enquiries and revised proposals, the project was finally shelved in 2004.
Local crofter Norman Macleod was quoted at the time as saying…
"They would have blasted all that rock and taken it away in ships…the maximum amount of jobs would be around 20 while 100 would be lost in fishing and fish-farming."
Some ten years later, as we were building our distillery, we found ourselves in Lingerbay sourcing a much smaller quantity of the beautiful Anorthosite found there.
We used this wonderful, ancient white and grey stone as fireside flooring and as a table plinth in our Flavour Room paired with oak wood and Harris Tweed.
We're pleased to deepen our relationship with this indigenous igneous rock this month as we put a beautiful and unique piece of jewellery on display in the distillery's public entrance space.
Created by Scottish-American jewellery designer Maeve Gillies, 'The Superquarry Squash Blossom Necklace' is a one of a kind piece that reinterprets a traditional Native American adornment.
Maeve chose to create the piece to relay Alastair Macintosh's story of Mi'kMaq Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle's role in the Harris superquarry saga, and her husband is also of Native American lineage.
She tells us…
"We are raising our Scottish/Native American daughters to know their indigenous roots on both sides of the Atlantic, and I loved how this brought the two worlds together so meaningfully. The more I learned of the quarry story, the more I was moved by Stone Eagle's bravery and courage to travel to the island to help fight for this land."
Author Alastair Macintosh, whose book 'Soil and Soul' explores the conflicts between community and corporate power, said recently…
"This is a profoundly important piece of art. Ms Gillies has handled the sensitivities around the superquarry and Stone Eagle with great sensitivity. It speaks not just to what happened with the quarry or of Chief Stone Eagle. It speaks to the light and dark in every one of us."
The necklace will be on show here at the distillery until Friday 22nd October, when there will be a morning gathering by the fire with Maeve and Alastair to discuss "Thirty years of Dark and Light" and what it means for us all today.
We hope you can visit us to see the necklace in person over the coming weeks, and hopefully the closing talk will be available to stream online if anyone further afield is interested in learning more.