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Children of the Black House
In Stock

History, Local History, Social History
Publication Date
01 January 2003
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
Age Range
19th century

Children of the Black House

by Calum Ferguson - Find out more about the author

Calum Ferguson employs an unusual narrative technique, drawing on his mother Mairead’s reminiscences, and presenting her experiences and conversation in the first person. Mairead herself was most at home speaking Gaelic, though she never learned to read or write in that language, but only in English, the compulsory language at school.

This is a fascinating account of a culture in transition; it records and preserves for twenty-first-century readers traditions and ways of life which have now gone for ever. In the early years of the twentieth century many crofting families in Lewis lived in great poverty. This book describes that life: the limited diet, the seasonal round of work, the hardship, but also the richness of the culture, the storytelling, music-making, dancing, and the sincere religious faith that sustained the islanders through their trials.

Mairead lived through the two world wars, which profoundly altered Hebridean life. Agricultural methods were modernised; radio and television brought the wider world to the islands; the Gaelic tongue was threatened with extinction.

This remarkable memoir is a treasury of personal recollections, traditional tales, songs, and contains a wealth of detail about everyday life on Lewis through those years. It is illustrated throughout with photographs of Mairead, her family and friends.

Born in Point, Lewis and educated at the Nicolson Institute and Aberdeen University, Calum Ferguson has a had a varied career as a teacher and broadcaster, including a period at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities, where he was Director of Audio Visual Services. He now lives in Stornoway. He is the author of a number of books in Gaelic and English including Hiort - A Gaelic History of St Kilda, widely recognised to be one of the finest written. He is a keen musician and a noted local historian.