Blog Post from May 2014: A few months ago Sue Visser, member of the Islay Genealogy List, notified me about a wee booklet she found in a library in Canada. This booklet was titled “Islay, A Project in Local History by the Isle of Islay Federation, Scottish Women’s Rural Institute” and was dated 1968. That’s almost 50 years old. We found out that this booklet was in fact a national competition to mark the Jubilee of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes and guess what, the Port Ellen chapter was selected for display in Edinburgh.
On a rainy day Sue photographed all 75 pages and sent them off to me to see if I could do anything with them. After scanning the pages I had to read everything, which was the nice bit. Then I had to correct hundreds and hundreds of errors which occurred during the scan process. I ended up with a lengthy document of well over 25,000 words, 40 pages, which I turned into seven different webpages – one main index page and six different pages for each of the chapters.
The booklet, as it was published in 1968, was written by five or six different women from the island. Each of them were member of the Isle of Islay Federation of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute, and each of them wrote about their own parish or institute, hence the six chapters. Sue read it and so did I and it’s just fascinating. I’ve never read such interesting accounts of Islay’s local history, combined with present day life on the island which was that of 1968 of course. Marvellous reading and it’s not only about the good life and other happy events on the island. There are also stories about murder, ghosts, haunted places, illicit distilling, people moving away, illness, unemployment etc etc. These things belong as much to Islay’s history as The Lords of the Isles, the Viking raids, the big earthquake of 740AD, the clearances, fairies, story telling, music, whisky, tourism and much more.
I’m thrilled to announce that the entire booklet is now available online on the Islay Info website. You can access all the individual chapters via the links below or you can start on the Local History Projects’ main page. Enjoy!
Intro Islay Federation Local History Project
1968: One of the projects which marked the Jubilee of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes was a nation-wide competition in local history. Each of the Islay Institutes took part. The essay on Port Ellen was selected for display at the S.W.R.I. Jubilee Exhibition in Edinburgh and the judges expressed the hope that all the Islay entries would be published.
Six Islay women participated in this project, each writing about their own “Institute” or parish. The result is one of the most fascinating booklets about Islay’s history and modern day life of the late 1960s, now almost 50 years ago. This is a must read for everyone interested in Islay, for locals and visitors, for birders and whisky enthusiasts, for walkers and climbers, for genealogists and tourists, for everyone!