Everyone employed here at the distillery lives on the Island, with some having moved here to live and we’re particularly pleased to say that some have moved back to the Island where they were brought up. A significant number are also 25 or under.
In 2018 Scotland celebrates the Year of Young People, showcasing their talents and contributions, and introducing new ways for them to stand out. So we were delighted to be approached by our very own Alastair McGowan who has worked with us over the summer as a distillery tour guide, suggesting he write a guest blog post for us as he leaves the island and heads off to study journalism down in Glasgow.
At the age of four I moved from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, to the peaceful tranquilly of the Isle of Raasay. Going from the largest city in Scotland to an island with a population less than 200, certainly does have its adjustment period. That being said, I adored growing up in Raasay, it is a beautiful island and was a paradise for an adventurous child like myself. With so much freedom my friends and I were more reminiscent of the lost boys, rather than the wild gaggle of tick and midge victims that we truly were. But before I knew it I was nineteen and preparing myself to head back to Glasgow to study journalism.
I will miss living here of course, the island has a mysterious ability of, unbeknown to you tying chains around your heart. Anchoring you to the island to the point that when you decide to leave you can find it close to unbearable. There is just such a great sense of unbridled nature on the island. You can roam the heather filled hills, swim in the lochs and just stare at the indescribably beautiful views that are showcased to you on Raasay. At times you can almost forget there is a world of urban metropolises outside the nature filled bubble of Raasay.
Although, most of the time growing up I never really saw myself living in Raasay my entire life, as much as I had fallen in love with the island, there never seemed to be enough going on to keep me there. Mine is a story like so many. The curse of the islands, the young go off to study or work and so rarely come back. As while filled to bursting with beautiful sites and a rich culture, the islands are sorely lacking in opportunity.
However as Dylan put it, the times they are a changing. Raasay these days certainly seems to have more of a spring in its step. And the main cause of this spring comes from something that’s as Scottish as a highland cow wearing a kilt: whisky.
The Raasay distillery is something that just seemed to come out of the blue. When I heard that they were building a distillery I was equal parts surprised and intrigued. I now can’t imagine the place without it, and it is not because it employs me and many of the local population, it is simply because it has become as much a part of the island as the heather on the hills. It brings so much potential and opportunity to Raasay.
While working as a tour guide one thing I talk about a lot is the history of Raasay, and that history is one of sorrow and pain that you can still see the effects of today. The island has a troubled past with landlords who didn’t care about the people or land, it’s something I won’t delve into much as when I begin I won’t know when to stop. But one thing that I always feel I have to tell my tours, is that while yes Raasay has faced many hardships, it is because of opportunities like the distillery now that allow the island to flourish and come into its own.
I really don’t know what is in store for my future, whether I will come back to Raasay, or find myself writing God knows what in God knows where. One thing that I do know is that I will miss this island, this island where I’ve scraped my knees time and time again, this place where I’ve laughed, cried, and gazed out to sea, this place where I grew up and that will always be in the back of my mind. This place where I am confident will go with the momentum that has taken grip of island and go onto become a place that is as rich in opportunity, as it is in beauty.
So goodbye for now Raasay, I know that as hard as it will to be away, I’ll be glad in the knowledge that there is change all around in Raasay, and it is a change that I truly believe is for the better.
You can find more of Alastair’s work on his website at www.thetravellingscotsman.blog