Friday, 22 September 2017

Review: Island Years, Island Farm

Island Years, Island Farm Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fraser Darling was born in Chesterfield in northern England, the illegitimate son of Harriet Darling and Frank Moss. At the ages of 15 he ended up working on a farm and that led him to study agriculture. That led to a PhD at Edinburgh University and in time he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. At the end of the 1930’s when he was married with a young child he began his work on the Summer Isles studying gulls and grey seals as well as reclaiming land that could be used agricultural production on Tanera Mòr.

Slowly he fell in love with these bleak but beautiful islands. They are places of two seasons; a short but intense summer before a rapid switch to the winter sometime in October. They lived in a tent some on some of the islands, hunkering down as the storms swept in off the Atlantic even in the summer months. His careful observations of the wildlife and the work he carried out making a living on the islands enabled him to write a book on crofting and these two books, Island Years and Island Farm. It is a simple but tough life living as a crofter on the islands, some of the gales that he describes sound horrendous, even getting to the islands was not easy with strong swells and very few places to land. It was something that Fraser Darling relished though, he even made the commitment to buy land and settle and spent time restoring a quay and property to make life a little more comfortable.

His prose is not flowery, just solid and rational, but he still manages to fill your senses with the smell of the sea and sound of the waves. It was a uncompromising life there and whilst it wasn’t hand to mouth existence it was much made tougher when he broke his leg. This simpler time just prior to World War II, is brought vividly to life, a nature classic that made for enjoyable reading.

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