light years don fitzpatrick light years don fitzpatrick

about : the end of the road

« The End of The Road » Ceann an Rathaid features a remote croft and house known to locals as 'Struthers'. Two brothers, Roddie, a much-travelled merchant seaman and Willie, a shepherd, lived there all their lives until their passing in the 1980s. The pair of them were born storytellers, with a mischievous sense of humour, greatly respected by their friends and neighbours in Uist and Glasgow. Willie especially, kept their boats, the house and their byre in immaculate condition, with only those possessions necessary for life as a shepherd and crofter, his few indulgences — a dram or two with friends, a battery powered 'wireless' for the shipping forecast and lots of wide-ranging reading material. I spent many happy hours in their company, sometimes staying 'till long after dark when Willie would guide me over to our own house to make sure I didn't get lost and perish on the moor! 

In the 1960s a single track road, replacing the old turf and stone footpath from Loch Carnan harbour, was planned to go all the way to their croft, but was eventually stopped one mile short. It made little difference to Roddie and Willie; hardy Uist men, they knew the moor so well that they often took an unmarked shortcut home in all weathers, even in the dark, with only an old bicycle lamp for guidance.
          Sadly, since their passing, the old house and croft have been neglected and it's sad to see it in such a state, despoiled by intruders who have no respect for the spirit of a place. The old path remains, hard to make out and difficult to follow, the last section all but invisible, gently returning to the moor from which it came. When I go there now, I don't think of the house as abandoned, I feel a sense of absence or loss and I'm reminded of words by the late Alasdair MacLean, poet and writer, a Gael from Ardnamurchan:

          As for ghosts
             they will not be those of popular fiction
                     but intermingled and contiguous with the air
                            You will be all right if you don't stay too long
                                     or breathe too deeply

                               Rules for Visiting a Deserted House, The Wilderness Poems