LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Isolation Shepherd

5-star

Iain R. Thomson

A true insight into a real life.

From the moment Iain Thomson, together with his wife, toddler daughter, and days-old son, arrived in a boat in a storm at the far end of Strathfarrar – one of Scotland’s most remote glens – they must have known life was going to be hard.

For the next four years, and with their nearest neighbours nearly a mile (and a boat ride) away, Thomson worked the land as a shepherd, dealing with all the glen could throw at him. He details the many tasks required of his work, the loch and its diverse moods (including the need to haul the boats out in freezing weather to stop them being crushed by the ice), and the camaraderie and resourcefulness of the community. That is, until the dam-builders move in, the Thomsons have to move out, their house is blown up, and the glen is flooded for a hydroelectric plant.

Thomson’s understanding of his environment shines through his writing, and – while we hear of the struggles he endures – the unexpected benefits of living in such a place (e.g. his eyesight improves from spending so long focussing in the distance) are a delight to read. Although he doesn’t say a great deal about how things were for his wife, managing two children in such extreme conditions (and for the most part alone), but it’s clear he loves his way of life, which makes it all the more poignant when it’s all taken away.

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