Breakish as realised by Ian MacRae, Mrs L365’s father, in 1977. This was created in aid of the campaign for an improved road through Breakish. The council wanted the big one within the dotted lines and the village didn’t. The village won. Let that be a lesson to any one taking Breakish on. We live at the far end of the middle road where it joins with the left or top road.
It’s still two weeks till Easter, but we had our first one a couple of weeks ago. The bell rang, the Assistants leapt to their feet (shouldn’t that be paws?) barking furiously. In an effort to stop our children from answering the door and letting the Assistants out to happily assault whoever was standing at our front door I yelled “I’ll get it!” and raced to the front of the stampede. I opened the door to a middle aged man who was smiling sheepishly. Behind him in a car were three more nervous and expectant people. The looks on their faces lead me to believe that a lot was riding on the outcome of the question the man was about to ask.
In halting and fractured English he asked directions to a bed and breakfast in our village. He told me the number of the B & B. I had no idea where it was. He then had a spirited attempt at saying its name, which was in Gaelic. I recognised the name and broke into a large reassuring smile. “Ah, yes! I know where that is. It’s at the far end.” I said, pointing to the other end of the village. The man looked relieved, he had probably been driving up and down the main road looking for the house with increasing despair. I gave directions in as few words as possible and placed a little dot on his road atlas to mark the B & B. He turned to the car with a large grin and the faces within broke into grins too. They drove off happy in the knowledge that they won’t be sleeping in the hire car after all.
Once Easter and the holiday season comes around we can expect many more of these occurrences. Due to the situation of our house, by a junction with the main road onto the island, we are ideally placed for lost tourists to pull in, look at their maps or sat-navs and conclude they are hopelessly lost. Then they ring our bell.
Actually that reminds me. When you are in Skye switch off your sat-nav, it’s a menace. Get a road map or OS map out and do your navigation old school. The problem with a sat-nav is post codes. You key the destination in by its post code. Our entire village has one postcode. Vast areas of the Highlands can share a postcode. Our village consists of three parallel roads as you can see from the painting. The sat nav wants you to go to the lowest road when you input the postcode and will tell you there are many bisecting roads down to it. It will assure you there is a road every fifty yards off the middle road and send you down a croft entry which is a muddy track between fields only used by dog walkers and sheep. Except for when satellite navigation dependant drivers don’t question what they are being told. The lorry driver that religiously followed his instructions was most put out when the track he was on became narrower and narrower and bouncier and bouncier until he was wedged between fences and could go no further. He found out it was very boggy too as his 10 tonne lorry began to sink. His eyes will have informed him that where he was being told to drive down was a gap between fields with knee high vegetation and a one person wide path meandering through it. His sat-nav said it was a road…who did he follow?
Somebody actually believed their sat-nav when it told them to take their 10 tonne lorry down here
To be honest any form of navigation is a fraught undertaking in our village. We live in Lower Breakish but some people below us are in Upper Breakish. On the other side of the main road there is number one Upper Breakish, next door on the far side from us is 40 Lower Breakish and next to that the houses are Scullamus numbers, except for the other Lower Breakish houses amongst the Scullamus houses. On the other side of number one Upper Breakish is, ehhm, number one Upper Breakish. Have you waved goodbye to logic yet?
The Committee Road in all its glory
The reason for this apparently random numbering is that the numbers belong to the crofts the houses reside on. The crofts were here long before there were any roads. Indeed all the fictitious roads the sat-navs are determined to send you down are entries to crofts. Our house is on croft 34 but so are two other houses so technically our address is ⅓ of 34. Ah, but which third?
Mrs L365’s cousin lives at the other end of the middle road which is named the Committee Road (so called as its placement was decided by a committee of local worthies). If I was giving directions by house number I would tell someone that they were looking for ½ of 14 Upper Breakish which is the one after ½ of 12 and across from 3 Ashaig (I’m presuming 13 doesn’t have a house on it yet). Luckily the far side is the unexpectedly consecutive number 15 Upper Breakish. However! There is another Half of 14 on the main road (obviously, since if there is one half there has to be another somewhere or arithmetic would be wrong and we can’t have that). They both have signs on their gates proclaiming themselves half of 14. So if someone is looking for the address half of 14 then you have to ask which one and you get a slightly blank, slightly confused look back. I would at this point ask for the householders name which is an error on my part as I am rubbish at remembering names and would be of no assistance.
You can’t have a story about rural roads without a passing place sign, can you?
Crofts sometimes have names too. Usually inherited from houses on them. The problem here is that since the crofts can be on both sides of roads then houses can be built on what seems like two separate pieces of land that are actually that was once one croft. Then someone who owns a house on one part of the croft builds another house elsewhere on the croft that has access from a different road and moves the house name from the old one to the new. The old house then reverts to the croft number that has been redundant for years, possibly generations, or a new name, or even worse the two houses share the same name, as with Half of 14, causing chaos and confusion in giving directions.In fact because a croft could have been crossed by three roads there is the opportunity to have four houses. No, hold on.. one house on the shore, then the lower, Lower Breakish road cuts across so the could be a house on the upper side of the shore road then the croft continues up to the Committee road and there could be a house on either side of it. So that’s 4 hoses on a croft. without the main body of the croft being intruded upon. Then the croft carries on changing it’s name from Lower Breakish to Upper Breakish and it will have been given a different number and the whole process starts again.
People like me, who come from regimented and logical, big city suburbs cannot get a grip on this haphazard illogical naming and numbering that seems second nature to those who have been immersed in it for years.
It gets worse. When I ask Mrs L365 where somewhere is she will say,
“Och, yes. That’s (insert name of someone who died or moved away 25 years ago) house”
I have no idea who she is talking about. I only moved here in 2010 ago and as I said I am rotten with names. Even though it was passed on to his son 60 years ago a croft will still be known to locals as Angus’s/Duncan’s/Callum’s croft and if someone on holiday from Belgium comes looking for 51 Upper Breakish when it is universally known as Archie’s Place then he’s had it. Don’t get me started on nicknames. They are weird and arcane hereabouts and I can’t figure out the lack of imagination that goes into naming a child compared to the bizarre lengths people will go to when conjuring up nicknames.
Can you imagine this is a road? Some sat-navs do
I cannot compute such chaos and will probably never manage so I am taking this opportunity to apologise in advance to all the poor lost souls from France and Spain and Canada and India and America and Germany and the Netherlands and the many other countries that send visitor to our island and then turn up at my door asking where their bed for the night is as I am as lost as they are.