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Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling

Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling


Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling, is a memoir telling the tale of a brave move from England, via Edinburgh to an abandoned croft on the Hebridean island of Tanera Mòr in 1937.

Unhappily land-locked in his early adult life, Frank Fraser Darling’s fortunes changed when he began visiting Scotland’s west coast in the 1930s. Surviving treacherous boat journeys, a broken leg, and hell-bent storms, he made temporary homes with his family on some of the remotest Hebridean islands so he could study the habits of grey seals and seabirds.

Too old for active service, able at last to combine his passion for wild places and his work as a naturalist, he turned his back on the mainland when the Second World War broke. The family finally settled on an abandoned croft in the Summer Isles, on Tanera Mòr, and started farming the barren land. They repaired a ruined herring fishery and its stone quay. They fertilised the ground with seaweed, cut peat for the fires, planted a garden behind sheltered walls. Slowly, they brought life back to the island.

Originally published in 1940s, and republished by Little Toller, Island Years, Island Farm spoke to me as part of the daydream so many of us often have about setting up on a far-flung island, of a gentle but incredibly important way of life tied to the land, governed by and at the mercy of the changing seasons and elements.

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