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Calum's Road by Roger Hutchinson
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Calum's Road

by Roger Hutchinson

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863214,439 (4.08)12
"For almost all his life, Calum MacLeod lived in the north of the Hebridean island of Raasay, where he worked as a crofter, postman and tender of the Rona lighthouse. Yet, due to clearance and neglect, the population of northern Raasay dwindled during his lifetime to just two people - Calum and his wife." "Calum had an idiosyncratic response to this decline. One spring morning, he took his homemade wheelbarrow, a pick, an axe and a shovel, trundled south from his crofthouse down a narrow, rutted bridle path, across rough hillsides, along the edge of hazardous cliff-faces, through patches of stunted hazel and birch and over quaking peat bogs. Then, alone in an empty landscape, he began to build a road. 'With a road,' his former neighbour Donald MacLeod said, 'he hoped new generations of people would return to the north end of Raasay.' It would become a romantic, quixotic venture; an obsessive work of art so perfect in every gradient, culvert and supporting wall that its creation occupied almost twenty years."--Book jacket.… (more)

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Hutchinson's paean to a remarkable individual and a disappearing (if not already gone) Hebridean way of life is presented in this gentle but not overly sentimental history. A simple story is presented, wrapped in considerable historical background. Hutchinson achieves a near perfect tonal balance as we follow Calum MacLeod in his work on the road and flashback to the historical events which led to Calum's decision to build it himself. Calum's achievement is amazing; the events surrounding it are maddening and heartbreaking. Hutchinson tells these intertwining stories with a skill that draws the reader in while staying out of the way.

An easy read requiring only a few hours, but one of those tales that stays inside of you long after you've put the book back on the shelf. Highly recommended.

Os. ( )
  Osbaldistone | Aug 28, 2010 |
True story of a man who built his own 1.75 mile road on Raasay; told the wider story of his crofting life & the community as it was cleared & dwindled. Informative and respectful, but not too sentimental. ( )
  Tifi | Jan 24, 2010 |
Roger Hutchinson's excellent account of the life of Calum Macleod. Calum, a resident of the now-abandoned village of Arnish on Raasay, built a road to his own township - with his own tools. It did not come in time to halt the depopulation of the north of the island. ( )
  adb42 | May 23, 2007 |
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