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Slates used to be the exercise books on which pupils practiced their letters, and now roof slates have provided the key to boosting a total re-imagining of the former Eriskay School.

The school, built in 1895 and closed in 2013, is currently under transformation to become the new cultural, community and heritage centre, Eilean na h-Òige, in a project co-ordinated by Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh (CEE, Eriskay Historical Society).

A ‘buy-a-slate’ appeal at has topped £11,800 towards work on the ambitious community hub project, and the appeal is due to close shortly.

It’s proved tremendously popular, with slates commemorating weddings and engagements, island emigrants, local businesses and visitors all donated at £20 apiece.

And it’s meant that work on the roof, which halted in October 2022 due to a major structural issue, has restarted and is now moving on apace.

As a result of the new roofing going on, around 6,000 historic Ballachulish slates and 250 purple Welsh slates from the old school roof are now stripped, redressed and ready to be installed elsewhere.

Yesterday (Monday 27 March) the old slates were offered locally to anyone looking for a genuine historic roofing material, with enquiries and offers welcome at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Ballachulish slates have their own story to tell, coming from Lochaber’s famous quarry when it was at the height of production in the last quarter of the 19th century.

When Eriskay school’s historic building opened in 1895, Ballachulish slates were roofing Scotland, with 600 quarry workers producing up to 26 million slates a year. 

Eriskay school closed voluntarily in 2013, the few remaining pupils transferring to Daliburgh School in South Uist. The buildings fell into disrepair until hard work and dedication by CEE volunteers raised the funding to demolish the old corrugated room and canteen.

The plan is for a museum and gallery space, office accommodation, library, outdoor play area, tearoom and other spaces, with energy conservation at the top of the agenda.

A spokesperson for CEE said: “The old Eriskay School provides the perfect base for the historical society to celebrate heritage and culture and gives us the opportunity to rescue this historic and significant building for the community.”

Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh and Comann Each nan Eilean – the Eriskay Pony Society – are to be based in the new centre and visitors will be inspired by Eriskay’s stories, heritage and nature.

The CEE said: “Our aim is to keep the old school as the main focus and to combine it with new community buildings for visitors to Eriskay and the islanders alike.

“We will also work with Comann Each nan Eilean-The Eriskay Pony Society to create a base where this rare breed of native pony can finally have a home to educate people on how important this pony was to the survival of the islanders.”

The pictures show work in progress during March, one of the donated roof slates for the new roof and some of the Ballachulish slates looking for somewhere to call home (all Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh).