The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith

The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith was first published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her Hebridean series. These books are comic novels set in the village of Bruach where ‘Miss Peckwit’ has gone to recover from an illness, she had been a teacher in the north of England. Life on a remote and primitive Scottish island is very different from what she has been used to. There’s no indoor plumbing, actually no plumbing at all, no running water just a well and the toilet is a shed with a big bucket – if you have a man strong enough to lug it out. Lillian makes do with two earth sheds which she takes turns at using and seems to think that’s hygienic enough.

By this time Lillian has been well and truly accepted by the locals and is even speaking some Gaelic. The books are stories of her encounters with her neighbours who all seem to be eccentric. There’s Kirsty who treats her poor brother like a slave and she steals her neighbour’s crops with no conscience involved, her neighbour ends up having to move.

More and more tourists are arriving, despite the midges and they are turning out to be good business opportunities for the locals. Quite a lot of this book deals with the things that the islanders get up to in order to get money, including the government assistance which they all seem to be on, there’s also an awful lot of boozing going on. I had a feeling that life on the island was beginning to lose its charm for Beckwith and indeed at the end of the book she has packed up and the villagers are seeing her off at the station. She did write some more Hebridean books in later years though.

It was a wee bit of a Miss Buncle situation – if you’re familiar with that D.E. Stevenson book you’ll know that Miss Buncle wrote a book about life in her own village which became very successful. The trouble was that all of the characters were far too recognisable and none of them was happy at being put in her book!

This book is a good light read, a glimpse back to the days before everyone on the islands had all mod cons. By the time I went to Skye for the first time in 1970 the locals even had freezers which I was very impressed with as we only had a small fridge with ice box at home. Our old friends who had gone back to live on Skye again after a five year sojourn in Glasgow had a freezer in their living room, it was one of those sliding lid ones and thinking about it I think it actually said ‘Wall’s ice cream’ on it! Anyway, I still have a few of these Beckwith books to read so I’ll continue with the series at some point in the future.

6 thoughts on “The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith

  1. I loved that book and its sequels, having read them many years ago (I still have them on my bookshelves). Thanks for this reminder. I think I’ll put them on my “summer” reading list, the one where I “binge read” outside on my chaise longue with an iced tea in my hand.

    • aline soules,
      Your binge reading plan sounds perfect. I’ll be reading some more of her books this summer too, possibly not outside!! I felt that she was a wee bit grumpy in this book and there were some deaths in it so it wasn’t quite as uplifting as I had hoped.

  2. I am truly amazed to see that my library system has the first book in this series. I have a backlog at the moment but it sounds like something I would enjoy. I do love in Miss Buncle when her neighbors start recognizing themselves.

    • Constance,
      I think that Beckwith was quite unpopular in the end and she left Scotland to go back to England, she got lots of material for more books though while she was on – I think it was Skye – although the island isn’t named. I hope you enjoy the book if you get around to reading it.

  3. I love the Miss Buncle books, and this book sounds very enjoyable as well. I would also be interested in reading about life in that part of Scotland. The cover is probably enough to grab my attention and make me interested in reading.

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