Scalpay: land of the free takeover


In honour of the recent community take over of the island, I’ve dug out a few photos I shot in Scalpay last year. In November 2012, the residents of Scalpay voted to take over the running of their island. The then owner, English businessman Fred Taylor, had offered inhabitants the island for free. When put to the vote, 197 voted for the takeover, eight against. The island’s population is around 300.

In 1997 a bridge replaced the small ferry that had previously been the only way to access the island. Scalpay’s oldest resident, 103 year old Mrs Kirsty Morrison, led the first drive across the completed bridge. An official opening ceremony took place in 1998, with Prime Minister Tony Blair cutting the ribbon.

Having crossed the bridge, heading towards Outend, I spied this house overlooking the road:

Results of the community buyout vote were broadcast live on Scalpay TV:



In the years between the the bridge being built and the community takeover last year, population continued to decline, the primary school closed for good and the community shop ceased trading in 2007. It’s hoped the fortunes of the island will improve now the community has control of its own destiny. Scalpay community shop reopened last year and there are various plans and schemes afoot to help the islanders generate income.

scalpay, night, stars, gable end

Still Standing




6 thoughts on “Scalpay: land of the free takeover”

    • Karen, it’s a 6 minute exposure, taken around 1am on November 1st 2012, a couple of nights after the full moon.
      Other tech info:
      Camera: Canon 5D
      ISO: 100
      Lens: 14mm prime
      Aperture: f5.6

      Enjoy your trip to the islands ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Hi John

    Love the effect of the long exposure on the clouds, it’s similar to one of my other favourites, the 10 stop ND Filter shot of St Clements where the clouds look like they are radiating from the subject. By the way John,with your specialising in night shots I wondered if you had heard about the two comets that are due to show this year. Comet Pan-Starrs is due in the western sky during the midde of March and Comet Ison is due in November. From what I can gather I don’t think Pan Starrs is going to be much to write home about as it will only just show above the western horizon shortly after sunset. Comet Ison however has the potential to be much brighter (so long as it doesn’t break up as it passes close to the sun).

    • Mike, thanks for the heads-up. I wasn’t aware of either of those comets. It’d be nice to capture one or both in a night shot… with an interesting piece of Hebridean detritus in the foreground to give some perspective ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Unbeknown to me (at the time), I captured Jupiter on camera back in September 2010 while shooting an abandoned house in Manish, Harris: http://bit.ly/15xEkxX
      It wasn’t until I looked at the image on screen I noticed an especially bright object in the night sky. Turns out Jupiter was the closest it’d been to Earth since 1963.

  2. That was bright!looks like a flying saucer attack coming over the Minch!The abandoned houses like the one in the shot remind me very much of when I used to go to Ireland in the late 70’s & early 80’s. It seemed like nothing there ever got demolished, buildings were just left to gradually rejoin the landscape. I must admit, I quite like ‘the let it be’ approach. Demolishing somebody’s old home seems a bit too much like disrespecting a memory. In a way, I think that’s part of the appeal of your photos of these old homes John. Each one holds such a poignant echo of its past residents. The ‘just popped out for 10 years’ look compells you to ask youself who lived there, why did they leave and why did they never return??

  3. Mike,
    You pretty much sum up my feelings about these old properties. I might have to steal your โ€˜just popped out for 10 yearsโ€™ line for future use ๐Ÿ˜‰

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *