the end of the road
« The End of The Road » features a remote house and croft known to locals as Struthers. Two brothers lived there all their lives until their passing in the 1980s. Roddie, a much-travelled merchant seaman, who worked for a short time for Gavin Maxwell on his shark hunting venture in the 1940s and Willie, a shepherd. The pair of them were born storytellers, with a mischievous sense of humour, loved and respected by their friends and neighbours in Uist and Glasgow. Willie especially, kept their boats ('look after your boat and the boat will look after you') 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 to East Gerinish replaced the old turf and stone footpath from Lochcarnan harbour, it 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 )