A Tale of Four Parts ….
Aird Uig was first settled in 1825 by crofters evicted from a nearby township of Carnish. The crofters chose Aird because of its remoteness and, paradoxically, because it was very difficult land and therefore of no interest to landowners at the time. The Carnish folk transported themselves and their few belongings by boat. They scaled the rugged cliffs to the west of Aird, and started to build.
The ruins of walls, fanks, lazy beds, the rusted remains of the winch on the stony, stormy beach, are testament to the endeavour of these resilient, determined, and capable people. The village became a very strong and close community of ten crofts. Everyone worked for everyone: tasks were shared, so were the fruits of labour whether a peat stack or a basket of fresh fish. The men met in the “village parliament” to decide the day’s work, share stories and humour, and discuss the merits of different varieties of potato.
125 years after the first settlers, the Ministry of Defence identified land on the Gallan Head, just to the north of Aird Uig, as a suitable site for a communications and surveillance centre. An RAF camp was built as if an extension to the old village, and was home to servicemen for over 20 years. The camp created employment and introduced currency to the village. The RAF was very good to the village and there was much disappointment when the camp closed in 1974. The impact of closure was as sudden as it was profound.
The camp was sold to private hands in 1975 but fell into disuse and dereliction. A turning point came in the 1980s with the development of some of the camp buildings and the sale of other buildings to private individuals. The progress attracted people from the mainland. Aird became the largest township in Uig, helping to support and sustain local services. Like a very large wave, the influx created a surge of energy which benefitted Uig in many ways.
Eventually and as with any wave, the energy diminished to almost nothing. Children born and bred here are moving on. Although the operational part of RAF Aird Uig remained in use for much of this period, it closed all activities in 2010. The wonderful people of the old village have all left us.
It is as if the wave reached its highest ever point and now is intent on returning its energy to the sea. When the MOD announced in 2014 their intent to sell the land all around Aird Uig on the open market, the wave might have sucked the life out of the village altogether.
… but that’s the thing about unusually big waves. Sooner or later there is another. In fact, there can be found places where large waves just keep coming; the energy endures. We have the opportunity to sustain and protect this remarkable place. We have been able to grasp and hold on to the souls and the spirit of this place before the wave took them from us.
We are now the custodians; it falls on us to keep the magic for those that follow.