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A photograph of Stewart Sinclair

Stewart Sinclair

It seemed that the island had shrunk

Born: 1944

Duration: 18m 48s

Type: Audio

Filesize: 12.5 Mb

Recorded: 9 January 2020

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About this recording

When Stewart Sinclair was 3 years old, his father decided to leave the lighthouse service and return to his native island of Stroma to fish and croft. Stewart has fond memories of family life and schooldays on the island, and recalls collecting water from the well and the arduous task of carrying the accumulator battery to the lighthouse to be recharged.

Weather conditions varied on the island and Stewart talks about the impact of the great hurricane of 1953. He also recalls a snowstorm when food parcels were delivered by helicopter.

Summer holidays were spent exploring the shoreline and learning about the wildlife of the island. He talks of catching lobsters, exploring rock pools and spending time with their faithful collie, Meg.

The situation of their home, Seaview cottage, provided a panoramic view of the Pentland Firth and Stewart vividly recalls the day in 1951 when the Scrabster to Stromness boat, St Ola made her maiden voyage from Aberdeen to Stromness. The islanders witnessed the boat being carried on the flood tide towards the Pentland Skerries before it limped into Scapa Flow on its journey to Stromness.

In 1955, his family joined the steady exodus from the island to the Mainland. His family settled in Keiss.

On his return journey to the island 5 years after his initial departure, Stewart claims, “I was astonished by the smallness of the place. It seemed that the island had shrunk”.


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