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The Changing Outer Hebrides, Galson and the meaning of Place: Frank Rennie



The Changing Outer Hebrides, Galson and the meaning of Place written by Frank Rennie.

Winner of the Highland Book Prize 2020.

This is a fascinating and intimate account of the inter-relationship between one small island village in the Hebrides and the wider world. From the formation of the bedrock 3 billion years ago to the predictable near-future, the layers of this unique landscape are explored. The social history of the people is closely interwoven with the natural environment in a journey of deep mapping to consider the meaning of special places. Through the Iron Age and the Clearances to the contemporary events of community land ownership, a portrayal is given that challenges the perception that this is a remote place, isolated at the edge, but instead is crucial to our contemporary relationship with the land.

“This is a book of deep and compelling beauty. Rennie has brought a lifetime of scholarship and personal experience to the task of describing and explaining a few square miles of North West Lewis and in so doing, opens the readers’ minds to an astonishing richness that can lie hidden and unknown to our careless feet and ignorant eyes. Full of love and a passionate attentiveness, this is a book to inspire, and urgently remind us of the power of a patient commitment to place. The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh wrote in his much-quoted essay, The Parish and the Universe that, ‘To be parochial a man needs the right kind of sensitive courage and the right kind of sensitive humility.’ Rennie has both, and this book has much to teach all of us. I hope through Rennie’s guidance many many readers come to know and love his home.”

– Madeleine Bunting, author of Love of Country, A Hebridean Journey

“This is a remarkable and intimate portrait of Galson crofting township in all its varied aspects, but encompassing not just the whole island of Lewis, but the Hebrides, the Highlands, and indeed beyond. Frank Rennie reveals a deep and diverse experience of his home turf (and its highly successful community buy-out) to weave an innovative, cohesive and thought-provoking narrative. It is thoroughly researched and delivers a unique, eloquent approach to local history, set in a wider context of a sense of place ‘from the landscape, on the landscape and in the landscape’. Amongst its academic, documentary and literary references are Horizons by Barry Lopez and Maps and Dreams by Hugh Brody. This book sits comfortably alongside both of these and many other such classics.”

– John A. Love, author and naturalist

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