Calum’s Road by Roger Hutchinson

Calum's Road cover

Calum’s Road by Roger Hutchinson is a fairly well known tale withing Scotland anyway as I recall Calum MacLeod being interviewed on TV years ago. Calum had been hoping for years that a road would be built linking his house in the north of the island of Raasay with the southern part, but the powers that were at that time in Inverness Council obviously had no intention of financing the project. Calum eventually set about building the road himself, no mean feat as he had to dig out trees, heather and massive rocks in what was a very rough and twisting terrain. The MacLeod house was the last one to still be inhabited in that area, all of the neighbours had moved away, but Calum owned his home so that wasn’t an option for him. Raasay is an island which is situated between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland.

Calum was undoubtedly a great character of determination with amazing strength and resilience. He was furious at the way people like himself were treated as he could see his own way of life and the Gaelic culture dying out. With the local school being closed down it meant that his daughter had to go away as a boarder with very little in the way of care being taken on by those in authority. It meant an end to family life.

I don’t think I enjoyed this one quite as much as others might have. It is very repetitive at times with the exact same long conversation appearing as many as three times for some peculiar reason. Although I can see that for Calum and his wife a good road surface was a boon, I can’t help thinking that yet another road can’t really be a plus for a place that sounds idyllic and until then unspoilt.

Towards the end of the book it’s mentioned that Calum said that the day before he had counted 17 cars in the car park, and that was something he seemed to be very proud of as those cars were only there because he had gone to the trouble of building the road. I couldn’t help feeling sad that yet another beautiful wilderess had been spoiled and polluted in the name of advancement.

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