Calanas, this year’s history exhibition in Scalpay, turns the spotlight on the homespun wool industry when it opens on Tuesday July 10.

During the Second World War herring fishing, on which the island depended, went into decline.

This was due in part to the lack of crews and also to a change in fishing methods.

To meet this challenge the islanders turned from the sea to sheep for their livelihood.  

What a beautiful sight greeted visitors to the island back in those days. Author and Isle of Soay owner Gavin Maxwell visited Scalpay in 1952 and describes it so well in his book “Harpoon at a Venture”

”Swathes of brilliantly dyed wool drying in the sun, and on the hillsides one may see hundreds of yards of bright woven tweed stretched like rainbow pathways.

“The scents are of wool and wool dye, mingling with the smell of the sea and the heather and peat smoke. Here the old women do not drag their spinning wheels from the house for the attraction of the tourists; they sit here naturally in the sun, with a shy and perhaps suspicious glance for the stranger.”

Calanas, working with wool, tells the story of Scalpay’s homespun industry in pictures, interviews, articles, artefacts and music.

Everyone is welcome to come along and visit the exhibition over the summer. You can take your time over a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy some home baking while you look at the photograph collection, too.

Comunn Eachdraidh Scalpaigh: Calanas – Wool Work. The exhibition starts at the Scalpay Community Centre on Tuesday, 10 July and runs until 30 August. It is open three days a week – Tuesday through Thursday – from 11am to 4pm.