Calum's way

Craig Pusey
Self-made Scottish road
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' There are no tourists today, 'says the ferryman at the pier on the Isle of Skye. He turns his red face into the leaden sky, over which large clouds are chasing. 'Too rainy.' So he stands there in his short-sleeved blue shirt in the light drizzle at 12 ° C. It's August in Scotland, it's summer on Raasay, this 20 km long island in the Hebrides, whose green hills seem close enough to touch. The crossing takes 20 minutes and our 50-year-old Land Rover Series II trudges on board. We are actually the only passengers. What should you do here, on this little pile of earth on the edge of the world? This is what many of the already few inhabitants of Raasay thought 100, 80, 50 years ago. Nobody could get rich here, but happy. Cattle breeding, vegetables, peat - they had lived in peace for a long time until land reforms came. The south of the island, blessed with fertile land, fell into the hands of several changing large landowners. Leases for good land were not renewed, and the farmers were given expensive land in the north of the island. Because in the south the new masters raised game for hunting and sheep for big money. One of them, Rainey by name, had a wall built.

Weather chaos and rural exodus

The north of Raasay, that was 'a shovel of sand over rocks', complained the resettled tenant farmers in Arnish and Torran. The result of their hard work in this rough corner of Scotland, where sun, rain, wind and snow can alternate in one day, was barely enough to sustain life. The harbor was only accessible by a small footpath that wound through the hills. A road up there would be important, as important as the fairer distribution of the land on the island. And lease conditions that leave room for life. This is how they argued for decades, wrote petitions and made applications. Nothing. One after the other gave up, left their homeland, left Raasay in order to look for happiness or at least a livelihood elsewhere.

Book, shovel, wheelbarrow

What was the cause, what was Effect? A road wasn't worth it, decided the administrations on Skye and beyond. They shied away from the costs of building and maintaining the road, which would have to be built through very rough terrain. Hardly anyone lives up there anymore. They didn't even want to put electricity to the north, which began somewhere above the black ruins of Brochel Castle. The Land Rover took us over a single-laneRoad with many alternative bays carried north from the port. Sometimes we actually managed 50 km /h, shook and shook. The heating roars to the full and wrestles a draw from the wind, which is licking from the rear into the driver's cab because of the rolled up tarpaulin. A rusted wheelbarrow by the side of the road, a broken spade under the sign.

Here Calum MacLeod, then over 50 years old, sometime in the 1960s - he didn't know exactly anymore - did the thing himself taken in hand. That means: the three kilometer long connecting road to his place of residence Arnish began, which the authorities did not want to build.

Slowly but steadily

Previously, the leaseholder, who had a part-time job as Mailman and a part-time lighthouse keeper on the northern island of Rona, carefully studied a textbook on road construction. Then he knew how to do it. The edges of the narrow footpath widened. Weeded heather. Felling trees, sawing them up and carrying them home, where he had started that morning with a cart, shovel, hammer, hoe and provisions. Then the animals are taken care of for a short time, after work.

The road starts up a hill in a right-hand bend. The Land Rover hums up the slope, on the first few meters of Calum’s Road the split patters under the car like shotgun pellets. Hardly once does it go straight for 500 meters. We drive past steep slopes under which the sea lies, past moorland, rock walls and green areas with gray rocks protruding from them.

Controlled blasting

Many of them Calum is crushed with a hammer in order to use it for the substructure or to smooth the actual roadway. Some he simply disposed of. Leveraged up again and again. Rolled, balanced. Until he could tip it down the slope into the sea. 'It is estimated that the largest boulder he moved weighed nine tons,' says Roger Hutchinson, who wrote Calum MacLeod's story in A Road in Scotland. When the stories about this madman, who is building a street on Raasay alone, got louder and louder, the authorities at least sent two men with knowledge of explosives. Every now and then they came and - boom - cleared the thick boulders out of the way with dynamite. Calum then processed them, dug and smoothed, cleared and lined the next few meters of his street. Weeks, months, years. In storms, in cold weather, in wet weather. Until, sometime in the 1970s, he created this turning area above his house. Done.

A hero without a driver's license

Only he and his wife Lexi, who suffered from rheumatism and osteoarthritis, lived there, and from then on he could bring her to the doctor more comfortably. The street was celebrated with the purchase of a Land Rover. And nobody cared that Calum didn't have a driver's license. Calum MacLeod, born on 15.November 1911 and died January 26, 1988, was a holder of the British Empire Medal since 1983 and is buried on Raasay. At the turning point, which hikers like to use as a parking lot, we meet Tessa and Jessica, teachers from Yorkshire. Yes, you know Calum's story, he is a hero.

A road as a lifeline

What are you doing here? We ask during small talk in the rain. Vacation with fishing, hiking, gin and whiskey in Jessica's parents' holiday home down in the south, they answer with a laugh. Later the wet wind blows us into Roger Hutchinson's good room. The chronicler of Calum MacLeod has settled down here in the south in a crouched house, is one of about 170 island residents.

Bitter, isn't it? The road was ready, but everyone was gone by now, we say. No, replies Hutchinson: Calum went his own way, he was happy. His road should bring life back to the north. And now a family is building a house up there. That would please him. The fireplace crackles, it storms in front of the small windows. August on Raasay. The ferry is coming soon.


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