Old characters

Someone on the UK Climbing forum has started a thread about old characters they used to see around their village or town. Lewis had more than its fair share of the weird and wonderful.

One individual in particular used to be a family friend and due to far too many drugs and a mental breakdown ended up being a tad 'eccentric'. I remember taking my wife on a tour of the West coast of the Island and telling her about 'Kenny Leather' (he used to run the leather shop 'L for Leather' just off North Beach Street in Stornoway) she refused to believe the rumours that he'd set up his own golf course on the grounds of his old crofthouse in Shawbost. I proved her wrong when we walked past his house and the man himself was on his Sit On Lawnmower giving the green a fresh mow. Granted it wasn't the most traditional of courses, more a pitch and putt, but it was undeniably somewhere you could get a wee round in!

 You can still see the old 'L for Leather' shop sign on the gable end of his house. I couldn't find any photos of the course.

Another character was 'Domhnall Ban' (Fair Donald) who used to live in a Black House down the road from me in South Dell, Lewis. A born and bred Niseach he'd been in the Second World War and would head out Guga hunting every year. This was in the early Eighties, he had no electricity or gas in his 'Taigh Dubh' and I think his only running water was from a stand pipe by the back door. He wore the uniform of your average elderly Leodhasach - an orange boiler suit with a tweed suit jacket.

He probably saved my life! I think I was about 8 and I had been playing in the ruins of an old house in the village. In amongst the rubble I found a large bullet shape metal object with a brass cap at the top. It had arabic writing on the brass section. I thought it was very cool and rolled it the half mile down to my house in the village. Intrigued I decided I was going to take it apart to see what was in it. I was eight, it was treasure! I spent a happy half hour attempting to twist the brass top off, when that didn't work I took a screwdriver to it and tried to prise it off. Still no joy so I bashed it with a hammer a few times. Nuthin' doing! Getting bored I kicked it down the road to my friend Robin's house to see if he could help.

As I was making my way down the road Domhnall intercepted me and asked 'De a seo a bhalach?' (whats this young man?). 'I found it, its mine' was my cheeky reply. He bent down to inspect the rusty and now slightly dented object by my feet, 'Mo Dhia!' he exclaimed and looked up at me, his eyes were now bug eyed and he'd gone very pale. "Where did you find it"? So I explained where I got it and helpfully told him how my investigation as to it's nature had gone.

'Amadan! It's a bomb!'

He hid it in the hatch of his black house and called the police. The bomb squad later disposed of it on Barvas beach, apparently it made quite a big bang.

It's a true story! It was in the local newsletter which if I recall rightly used to be called the Ness News? I think I've still got a copy of it kicking it about somewhere.


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