Monday, June 20, 2011

A Little Snippet of Gigha, Willie McSporran, and a memory of Vie Tulloch

Here's a little snippet of the wilderness at the north end of the Isle of Gigha - we were there last weekend, staying with our friends Willie and Ann McSporran for a couple of nights. If you listen carefully, you can just catch the plaintive note of the oystercatcher down on the shore. The weather was wet and windy when we arrived and stayed showery all weekend, but it didn't matter too much. We still made our usual pilgimage the length of the island, and also visited the grave of another old friend, woodcarver Vie Tulloch, who died earlier this year. I left a little posy of wild flowers there, which seemed a suitable offering.
Vie was a wonderful, vibrant, astringent personality, and what she didn't know about the flora and fauna of this little island wasn't worth knowing. We miss her still, miss those lovely long lunches down at her tiny cottage at Gallochoille, her seashore garden, her gorgeous dog - a whippet - (I vividly remember him stealing and eating a half pound pack of butter, which didn't seem to phase her at all!) her spinning wheel, her fabulous paintings, and her even more wonderful carvings. The cottage was simply furnished, tumbledown, by no means luxurious, and yet it seemed to suit Vie to a tee. She always reminded me of the Lady Artist, in Marie Hedderwick's Katie Morag books.
She was still carving well into her eighties, and she and my woodcarver husband, Alan, used to enjoy talking about the intricacies of the craft. Her eyesight and strength were gradually failing - but you would never have known it. Her mind was sharp, and you would still arrive to find her yomping over the heather with some seashore find to show you. She once astonished us by producing a collection of the wings of the birds of Gigha, garnered from the seashore over the years - wings and dried bones which she would examine in order to lend accuracy to her amazing wooden sculptures - I later used the scene in a novel called The Curiosity Cabinet.
Vie had lived on Gigha for many years and she will be sadly missed on the island. Never afraid to speak her mind, she had many loyal friends, was present at every community occasion, every celebration, dancing, laughing, always forthright but never intentionally unkind.
Meanwhile, last weekend, we had time to listen to the incomparable storytelling of the redoubtable Willie McSporran MBE, (below) many of whose accounts of life on the island in the old days, I have included in another book, a piece of non-fiction this time, God's Islanders, my history of the people of Gigha. There is nobody who can relate a story quite like Willie McSporran - long may he continue to tell them!

1 comment:

Ewan said...

Hello Catherine

I came across your blog by accident and of course recognise you from Scottish Review. I was sorry to learn that Vi Tulloch had died. She used to come to the sailing club at Loch Earn around 1964 and as youngsters we were amazed at her fitness and a bit in awe of her. I saw her in the distance in June 2010 when on Gigha but felt a bit shy about approaching her after so many years.

By the way I have a blog of my own,

Best wishes